Grains, oilseeds not included in Greens’ plans for biofuel

(Natt Boonyatecha/iStock/Getty Images)

The federal Green Party’s plan to move Canada to zero emissions by 2050 supports the near-term use of plant-based biofuels — “but not from food that could otherwise feed Canadians.”

Ahead of Monday’s federal election, the party released a climate action plan dubbed “Mission: Possible” that would ban the use of internal combustion engines in commuter vehicles including cars, buses and trains by 2030, in favour of electric power.

But while researchers “focus on developing better storage devices and new and more robust electric motors, some heavy-duty industrial machinery — fishing, mining and forestry equipment, for example — will need to rely on biofuels,” the party said in a release. Fuel switching to biodiesel “will be required for agricultural, fishing and forestry equipment.”

The party emphasized it supports creation of biofuels from “waste plant matter from forests and agriculture” and would promote development of “local, small-scale biodiesel production, primarily relying on used vegetable fat from restaurants across Canada with wood and agricultural waste.”

“Food should power people, not vehicles,” party leader Elizabeth May said in a release. “Producing biofuels from waste is efficient and relatively clean, but producing them from crops that could feed Canadians is immoral.

“To create and operate new, renewable industries, we will rely on some heavy equipment that, for the moment, relies on liquid fuel and combustion. We can use biofuel as a less environmentally harmful alternative, but we cannot grow crops for fuel while Canadians go hungry.”

The party didn’t offer up specific numbers on Canada’s current use of crops in biofuels, but a 2018 National Research Council review of biofuel policy in Canada — citing Statistics Canada and U.S. Department of Agriculture data — estimated that in 2016, about 24.6 per cent of Canada’s grain corn, 5.2 per cent of its soybeans, three per cent of its wheat and 2.8 per cent of its canola production went to use as ethanol and biodiesel feedstock.

Rebuilding soils

Agriculture policies in the Greens’ broader pre-election platform for 2019 focus on Canada becoming a “world leader in reversing climate change through regenerative agriculture practices.”

The party said it would implement national standards for reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizers in crop agriculture as well as “reducing erosion and rebuilding soils to retain carbon, and transitioning away from industrial livestock production.”

As well, it would ban neonicotinoid pesticides and “support farmers in shifting to alternatives.” The Greens would also ban all “forestry and cosmetic” uses of glyphosate herbicides “as well as their use as a pre-harvest desiccant.”

It also pledged to put up $2.5 million per year for a land and quota trust program and farming apprenticeship programs “to expand local small-scale agriculture and help new farmers get started.”

The party also said it would adopt animal welfare legislation “to prevent inhumane treatment of farm animals including in intensive factory farming operations. This will set minimum standards of treatment and have a timetable for phasing out intensive factory farming and other inhumane animal husbandry practices.”

The Greens also propose setting a target to replace a third of Canada’s food imports with domestic production, increasing regional food self-reliance, including through rooftop and community gardens, urban food production systems, re-establishing infrastructure for local food production in canneries, slaughterhouses and other value-added food processing and “protect(ing) supply management systems while allowing production for local markets outside this system.”


While pre-election polls point to the Greens capturing less than 10 per cent of the popular vote, any gains they make in seat count in the House of Commons might add weight to their policy preferences in a minority government scenario.

However, an analysis Friday of the various parties’ platform planks relating to agriculture, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions said “many statements in the (Greens’ platform) indicate that the party is out of touch with the realities of modern agriculture.”

The commissions said the party ignores the “improvements and voluntary adoption of technology (which have) contributed to an increase in the environmental sustainability of modern crop production practices (and) disregards the economic value” of ag production for export.

The commissions said their analysis found the Conservative platform “responsive to what may be considered some of the key priorities for farmers” while the Liberals’ platform speaks mainly to “initiatives that have been started and will continue on if the Liberals should re-form government.”

The New Democrats’ platform, meanwhile,”lacks a clear direction for ensuring the economic sustainability of the agricultural industry in the longer term” but the commissions noted it was “the only platform to explicitly mention action on mental health issues as related to agriculture.” –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

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