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( CLICK HERE for Jennifer's Biography)
Recent mergers among some of the world’s largest agrifood companies underline the extent to which just a handful of giant firms have come to dominate the global food system. As the power of transnational agrifood corporations has grown, debates have intensified over what it means for efforts to promote more just and sustainable food systems around the world. This lecture explores how corporate power in the global food system is being expressed in new ways, its implications for world food security and sustainability, and the politics of efforts to resist it.
Speaker: Dean Stanford Blade, University of Alberta
( CLICK HERE for Stan's Biography)
Speaker: Dr. Catherine Chan, University of Alberta
( CLICK HERE for Catherine's Biography)
Food choices made by an individual or family, by the manager of a school cafeteria, or buyers for grocery store chains are influenced by multiple factors that are much more complicated than the foods’ nutritional value and whether it tastes good. Factors such as ethnicity and culture, family preferences and lifestyle, ease of preparation, cost, local and global production patterns all impact food purchases and consumption. Government and global policies have overarching influence. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide has changed over time to reflect new nutrition knowledge but also the dynamic food environment in which we live. What principles have guided the newest version of Canada’s Food Guide and how does that translate into recommendations? In this presentation, the food environment will be defined in terms of a 4-A Framework (adequacy, acceptability, availability and accessibility) and Canada’s Food Guide. Implications for health and risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes will be examined.
( CLICK HERE for David's Biography.)
Alberta wetland policy development has been dynamic over the past 25 years. From no policy, to good policy, to somewhere in-between, a broad swath of issues and many stakeholders have driven the conversation. In 2011 I presented the AIA Green Paper, Alberta’s Keystone Ecosystem at a Crossroads: Wetlands, Land Use, and Policy on Alberta’s wetlands. Seven years later I reflect on the evolution of the policy, instruments, tools, and the state of Alberta’s wetlands. Resource development continues to grow, seemingly in lock-step with environmental awareness, and policy has oscillated between the two; is Alberta meeting the grade in balancing these two aims? The province has made progress in several areas, including mapping and classifying wetlands, developing the ABWRET assessment tool, valuation, and accrediting wetland workers. Mitigation guidelines have been refined and peatlands have been incorporated into the system. How efficacious has the policy been? Threats to mineral wetlands in the province’s White Area have been lessened to some degree, but peatlands in the Green Area remain under pressure and there are many unknowns with respect to reclamation and restoration. Carbon is increasingly becoming an issue on the international stage but what is its relationship to wetland policy? Given the significant functions and values inherent in wetlands, continued refinement of policy is critical to maintaining one of Alberta’s most important ecosystems.
Speaker: Dr. William Shotyk, University of Alberta
Speaker: Dr. William Shotyk, University of Alberta
( CLICK HERE for William's biography)
There have been concerns regarding environmental contamination by potentially toxic “heavy metals” from mining and upgrading of the Athabasca Bituminous Sands (ABS). In fact, few trace elements are found primarily in the organic fraction (Mo, Ni, Re, V and Se): virtually all of the other elements of environmental relevance (Ag, As, Be, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Sb, Tl and Zn) are found almost exclusively in the mineral fraction. Snow, moss, peat, surface water, groundwater and selected country foods (berries and fish) were analyzed using ICP-MS in the metal-free, ultraclean, SWAMP lab. Our analyses, combined with a critical review of the literature, leads us to three main findings. First, the extent of environmental contamination by trace elements is limited, mainly because of their low abundance in the resource itself. Second, atmospheric dispersion of trace elements is largely governed by the emissions and transport of mineral dusts, as these are the principle hosts of most elements; this footprint is limited to the zone (< 50 km) surrounding the open pit mines. Third, dissolved concentrations of trace elements in surface waters, upstream and downstream of industry, are extremely low (ie at natural background levels), mainly because the silicate minerals which host them have limited solubility at ambient pH (ca. 8). The absence of environmental contamination by potentially toxic heavy metals (Ag, Cd, Pb, Sb, Tl) in this region is mainly because they occur in the mineral fraction of the ABS which limits their dispersion and probably restricts their accessibility to biota.
( CLICK HERE for Anne's Biography)
Photo to come.
In our 2016 Green Paper “Land and People: An Outlook of Opportunity or Inevitable Decline” we pondered the ancient connections of land and people, our agricultural roots and the paths we followed in agriculture and energy development. We discussed numerous sustainable land use challenges and opportunities to ensure the future of the land and its people, including appropriate metrics, social licence, regulatory mechanisms, trade offs and reconnecting with nature. We ended by discussing what to do and who should do it. This presentation, three years later, will focus on what has changed since 2016, whether we did what we needed to do, and what new challenges have arisen with their various perspectives.
Speaker: Dr. Bill Deen, University of Guelph
( CLICK HERE for Bill's Biography)
In temperate production regions, crop rotation diversity is declining. Before 1950, complex crop rotations provided such benefits as weed, pest and insect management, nutrient supply and labour distribution. More recently however, technological advancements in nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, plant genetics and equipment have reduced the apparent need for crop rotation complexity in favour of more “simple” rotations. These simple rotations have the perception as the “most profitable” when intensively managed and may consist of only two crops or continuous planting of one crop. Long-term rotation trials have, however, demonstrated that simple rotations are associated with reduced yields and resiliency of a system, along with negative environmental impacts such as reduced soil organic matter, reduced nutrient use efficiency and increased nutrient loss to air and water. The costs of these negative impacts are often not borne by the producer but by other segments of society. Future effects of a changing climate, emerging biomass industries, and intensification of production systems could increase the overall costs associated with simple rotations, thereby compromising long-term profitability and leading to the need for development of more rotation diversity with associated environmental benefits.
Speaker: Dr. Karin Wittenberg, University of Manitoba
( CLICK HERE for Karin's Biography)
Speaker: Dr. Brian Amiro, University of Manitoba
( CLICK HERE for Brian's Biography)
Our 2014 Green Paper “Moving Toward Prairie Agriculture 2050” presented perspectives from 23 professionals on specific topics that considered the potential future climate in the year 2050. These topics included water quantity, crop breeding, insects, weeds, disease, food processing, and transportation, for example. Our approach was to engage a range of experts regarding their thoughts on our future agricultural challenges and opportunities, with the purpose of creating a dialogue based on what we know now, and evolving as we learn more. Such a discussion was aimed at helping prepare us to better adapt to an uncertain future.
Through these discussions, we contemplated a different Prairie climate, but also considered many potential changes in our technological and social environment. Over the past five years, our future climate outlook has not changed much, and we still consider inter-annual variability as an important risk for Prairie agriculture. For example, an increase in soybean acreage in the eastern Prairies over the last decade has been slightly tempered by recent dry periods. On the social, policy, and trade side, many of the issues have been ongoing. For example, international trade protectionism is affecting markets for agricultural exports, and there are still issues with transportation during high yield years. The potential impact of carbon pricing policies (a consequence of efforts to slow global warming) is not yet clear for Prairie agriculture. Perhaps the most important question is: what have we done to make Prairie agriculture more resilient and prepared to adapt over the next 3 decades? Speaker: Dr. Lianne Lefsrud, University of Alberta
( CLICK HERE for Lianne's Biography)
This presentation presents the findings of a survey of climate change beliefs and adoption of climate mitigative practices among beef and grain producers in Alberta, Canada. Despite low levels of agreement that climate change is caused primarily by humans, respondents indicate a high level of adoption of several agricultural practices with climate mitigative benefits. Respondents’ motivations for adoption of climate mitigative practices include expected private economic benefits, improvements in soil quality, and biodiversity, among other things. The strongest predictor of mitigative practice adoption is a learning orientation, defined as valuing improvement, research, learning, and innovation. followed by a conservation orientation that values land stewardship. Other significant predictors include farm size and presence of livestock.
Speaker: Dr. Ian Urquhart, University of Alberta
( CLICK HERE for Ian's Biography)
The phrase an “albatross around one’s neck” refers to the plight of the narrator in Samuel Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It identifies a problem, burden, or circumstance that prevents a person from succeeding or making progress. For Alberta, has politics become such an obstacle to Albertans’ abilities to address well the environmental and agricultural challenges we face? Is political innovation/change as important to our future success as the latest scientific insights and technological developments?
Speaker: Dr. Robert Lackey, Oregon State University
( CLICK HERE for Robert's Biography)
Most people expect that scientific information provided by interest and advocacy groups is infused with policy preferences, and for many people, the same skepticism exists for media-provided science. Increasingly, however, public skepticism has extended to scientists themselves (i.e., the prevalence of “advocacy masquerading as science”). Even some experienced managers and policy makers (i.e., knowledgeable “consumers of science”) fail to recognize policy bias when it is presented under the guise of scientific information. For example, a policy bias toward “natural” or “pristine” ecosystems (i.e., those ecosystems unaffected by humans) is a common misuse of science in policy and management. Using such “science” (i.e., normative science) in policy deliberations is not only a misuse of science, it is insidious because the consumer of the information is often unaware of the hidden policy slant. Public confidence that scientific information is technically accurate, policy relevant, and politically unbiased is central to informed resolution of natural resource policy and management issues that are often contentious, divisive, and litigious. Science must remain a cornerstone of such public policy and management decisions, but I offer cautionary guidance to scientists: become involved with policy issues, but play the proper role.