“…Agriculture policy in Manitoba has historically focused on large-scale export commodity production. However, the growing popular interest in local, sustainable food is prompting the province to take a second look at supporting local food systems to improve economy, health and food security.
The message coming from the grassroots is clear: farmers, fishers, processors and citizens are demanding a say in policy-making and have formed a coalition under the banner of FEAST (Farmers and Eaters Sharing the Table) to encourage the Province to support local sustainable food.
Currently the province is in the process of reformulating food safety regulations and undergoing an industry consultation process. This marks a step in the right direction, however it is important that the grassroots voices have a prominent place at the table and that the limitations of narrow ‘consultation’ processes are identified.
The province has stated they are moving towards “outcome-based regulations” that would allow different food safety processes, so long as an operator can prove a safe outcome. In principle, this should work in favor of small-scale producers and processors whose artisanal processes can result in safe outcomes without investing in the more expensive equipment and processes that larger plants require.
One of the main concerns is that the onus to prove safety is put onto the farmers/processors, yet decisions around whether the processes are safe (or not) are subjective and open to interpretation. To develop vibrant local food systems in the province, then we need to create a regulatory environment that provides safe food and is flexible enough to support these emerging business models. This type of regulatory framework has existed in European countries for years….”