I completely agree with you, Mr. Lamarche. That is why I am here today.
People have done a lot of work and research on nutrition, food and food processing. Those people are agri-food industry stakeholders and farmers. Institutes for research on agriculture have conducted clear research. There has been a tremendous amount of research on food. Unfortunately, from what I see, the Standing Committee on Health has planned two meetings to discuss Canada's Food Guide. However, there aren't any witnesses from the agri-food industry or the agricultural sector. To me, that's unbelievable.
The Conservative Party of Canada is very close to the rural world, and it believes that food should come from Canada's regions. We think that those people have a say in this study. We would have really liked to hear their testimony and their explanations on how they process food and what the level of research on food processing is. We would have liked to know where we are headed. I think all those people want what is best for Canadians.
For example, we talked about juice. Is it a matter of quantity or is juice itself bad? People could have come to explain what stage the research in this area is at. That is why, Mr. Chair, I will move the following motion:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Health extend its study on Canada's Food Guide, and hear specifically from agriculture and agri-food stakeholders; and that the Committee report its findings to the House prior to the release of Part 1 of the new dietary guidance policy report.
Mr. Chair, I will let you distribute the motion. If I may, I will explain why I have put it forward.
I hope the witnesses understand that I have to make this extremely important presentation. It is not only for agriculture and agri-food sectors, but also for Canadians who expect the next food guide to contain all the information and take into account all the scientific data at their disposal, including data from the very sector that ensures that we have food to put on our plate and eat every week. Perhaps we could learn from those companies what efforts are being made in this direction.
Mr. Chair, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, of which I am a member, has studied the food policy. A report was tabled last week in the House of Commons. I would like to talk to you about an element of that report that seems very relevant to me. By the way, the report was adopted unanimously by the committee members. The Liberals, the New Democrats and the Conservatives agreed on the entire report and on some of the recommendations.
The recommendation I want to discuss is about building bridges between producers and consumers. In food policy, it is important for people to know what they are eating, where it comes from and why they are eating it. In our study, witnesses pointed out that there was a great divide between producers and consumers because consumers are often unaware of how food is produced. We believe that public confidence is one of the priority principles of the agriculture and agri-food sector. In the report, we highlight the fact that farmers are proactive in this area. They organize visits to their farms and invite Canadians to meet with them to better understand how they produce food. The executive director of the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibits said that agricultural fairs are the ideal meeting place for the agricultural community and people from the city who want to know and understand where their food comes from. That is crucial.
You were talking about the Mediterranean diet earlier. I have visited Mediterranean countries, where I saw that people eat a lot of cheese. If there is one place where people eat a lot of cheese, it is around the Mediterranean. However, I did not see many obesity problems in the places I visited over there.
People don't have to go very far, since producers are close to markets. Consumers can talk to producers daily. That closeness to producers does not exist here, and I think it would be important to create it.
According to a number of witnesses who have participated in our study, education is key in food policy to building those kinds of relationships between producers and consumers. According to some, the food policy can provide an opportunity to refute various myths on modern agriculture and promote the sector as a producer of food in a responsible and environmental friendly way that also focuses on animal welfare.
I have actually been told that those concerns were taken into account when the food guide was developed. The guide is about the health Canadians, but it wants to take their impact on the environment into account. So it would be important for producers to come tell the committee members how hard they have been working, for years, to minimize the impact of their production on the environment.
Allow me to read a quote:
If designed and implemented properly, Canada's food policy has an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Canadian public and modern Canadian agriculture. As an industry, we understand that building public trust is very important, and that we need to reconnect with consumers and the public. This initiative has the potential to bring the public and farmers and ranchers together to find shared values in Canada's food and agricultural systems.
That statement was made by Dan Darling, President of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.
Why don't the members of this committee want Mr. Darling to come talk to them about the efforts those people are making to build bridges with Canadians and to understand their tendencies?
Canadians want to eat better, and ranchers know that. If they want to continue to sell their products, they have to adapt. I would have liked for the committee members to take a few minutes to hear from the representatives of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.
The food guide also talks about labelling. That is causing a lot of concern in the industry among retailers and dairy producers because they don't know what will be put forward. However, Mr. Arango told us earlier that people wanted very specific facts and figures to know what they are eating. I think that all producers and other stakeholders from the agri-food sector agree on that. They want to avoid disincentives that may lead to people being just as afraid of consuming a food product as of buying a cleaning product. This is a source of concern. I believe that those people would have wanted to come share their position on labelling.
Mr. Arango's foundation is working very hard with retailers to find a balance. That would make it possible to provide people with information on what they are eating and to prevent heart disease. Unfortunately, this committee does not seem to be interested in people from the agri-food industry explaining to them the consequences poor labelling may have on consumer choice. I would have liked those people to come explain to you that consumers' choices that are meant to be informed are not really informed
Mr. Lamarche, who is a research chair in nutrition at the Université Laval, told us earlier that, if we were not careful, some products would not be labelled correctly and they could be more harmful to health than some labelled products because they contain natural sugar. So that is a major issue.
I think it would be important for the committee and you, Mr. Chair, to give those people an opportunity to share their opinion on those issues.
The recommendation of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food reads as follows:
The Committee recommends that the new food guide be informed by the food policy and include peer-reviewed, scientific evidence and that the Government work with the agriculture and agri-food sector to endure alignment and competitiveness for domestic industries.
It's simple. Another House of Commons committee, made up of Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats adopted this recommendation unanimously. No one was against it. All the Liberals accepted it. The report was tabled and has been well received.
Since the food guide is related to health, I sincerely believe that its consideration is the responsibility of the Standing Committee on Health, which could follow up on that recommendation with the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
As I already said, I am moving this motion today to give producers, ranchers and dairy farmers an opportunity to be heard.