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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Not milk? Agribusiness and Canada's food guide Beynon-MacKinnon, Zoe

Abstract

Food and Agriculture are two of the most direct factors in human and environment health. However, the global industrial food system benefits large agribusinesses, and skews the state – industry power dynamic in the favour of economic growth, not human or environmental wellbeing. Traditionally, agribusiness exercises power in three key ways – media and outreach, market power, and lobbying – impacting agricultural, food and nutrition policy. Therefore, in cases where federal policy changes, it can generally be understood as a response to a shift in one or more of these three factors. In early 2019 Health Canada released Canada’s Food Guide, the newest edition in over 70 years of nutrition advising. However, unlike prior versions which prioritized industry over nutrition, this new food guide is a more accurate reflection of both nutrition and environmental research. Most remarkable in this change, is that the power and interest of agribusiness in Canada does not appear to have changed considerably in order to initiate these changes. As such, five additional factors that collectively minimized the power given to agribusiness are explored - increased awareness of nutritional information, the rise of vegans and vegetarians, demographic and political economy trends, social pressure and bureaucratic changes, and consideration of diet co-benefits and costs. I conclude by highlighting that regardless of the reasons behind the changes to Canada’s Food Guide, without changes to agriculture policy to meaningfully increase the accessibility of the recommended food, the new recommendations are unlikely to impact Canadian eating habits.

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