First Pan-Canadian Study on Responsible Food Consumption: Ready Citizens, Interested Merchants...and Governments That Have to Catch Up



    MONTREAL, June 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Equiterre today published a first
pan-Canadian study on factors leading Canadian consumers to choose responsible
products in the food sector. The results, obtained from a literature review,
interviews with Canadian merchants, and a national survey conducted by Léger
Marketing with 1,662 respondents, show that the consumption of organic, fair
trade, and local foods is impeded by uncertainties concerning designations and
identification of origin, restricted availability, and a general lack of
knowledge about these products.
    The study shows that Canadians are eager to know more about fair trade,
organic, and local products and that, despite an increasing awareness, a lack
of information is in part responsible for the still marginal status of those
products. For example, regarding fair trade products, respondents affirmed
wanting to know more about fair trade regulations (44%), certification (42%),
and benefits for society (36%). Moreover, 63% of respondents who buy little or
not at all organic products, reported wanting to know more about the benefits
of organic products.
    The majority of the 1,662 interviewed persons are of the opinion that the
terms "organic" (86%) and "fair trade" (61%) as well as origin labelling (81%)
should be subject to mandatory certification. Among the cases causing
confusion are the brands "Canada Fancy," "Canada No. 1," and "Product of
Canada": Only 51% of the final value of these products have to be generated in
Canada; and those 51% do not even have to apply to the product as such. As
well, the terms "organic" and "fair trade" are authenticated by a bewildering
number of certification marks or by no public authority. A vast majority of
respondents would rather buy locally (77% ) and are even ready to pay a higher
price (72%). However, they also mention difficulties in identifying the origin
of the foods they consume. Equiterre is thus urging for prompt legislation to
regulate product names and other information listed on food packaging to be
implemented throughout Canada.
    "The study demonstrates that Canadians are ready to consume responsible
foods, particularly local products. In addition to the perception that organic
products are expensive, and that fair trade and organic products are less
accessible, the main remaining obstacle is not a lack of willingness on the
part of consumers but the confusing legal framework and the lack of
intervention by the government to promote those products," explains Frédéric
Paré, coordinator of the ecological agriculture program with Equiterre.
    "The study shows that it's high time for a good housecleaning in regard
to names and certifications and that Canadians are ready to go further. We are
expecting governments to assume their responsibilities in accelerating
responsible food consumption. Everybody is waiting for it," summarized
Frédéric Paré.

    For a greater accessibility of products

    Following the conclusions of this first pan-Canadian study on the theme
of responsible food consumption, Equiterre is asking governments to quickly
implement measures that eliminate the obstacles to responsible consumption and
that promote organic, local, and fair trade food products. For this, Equiterre
is asking governments to assist merchants in adopting internal sustainable
development policies and purchasing policies in favour of organic, local, and
fair trade products.
    In regard to organic food, Equiterre also recommends that the government
ensures a sufficient supply of local organic food, to exempt producers from
certification fees, and to improve the training offered to producers.
    Among the propositions made by Equiterre to promote local food is the
idea of supporting solidarity-based marketing networks that are likely to
ensure the consumption of food made in Canada by Canadians, such as public
markets and community-supported agriculture. Moreover, Equiterre advocates
adding "food sovereignty" as a permanent government indicator to the
"agricultural and social success" indexes to be monitored continually for
Canada and for each province. The development and deployment of means for
measuring the impact of such an indicator (e.g. net farming revenues in the
context of local marketing) should also be ensured. Finally, Equiterre
recommends promoting responsible consumption at the World Trade Organization
(WTO) at an international level in order to advance the concepts of
agricultural exceptionalism and food sovereignty as well as the means of
supply management.

    Awareness-raising for organic, fair trade, and local foods

    Equiterre also recommends that the government, in collaboration with
civil society organizations, launches a vast information campaign on organic,
fair trade, and local products and participates actively in communications
efforts proposed by civil society organizations.
    Finally, voluntary accreditation programs for retail stores that have
made exceptional efforts in selling responsible foods should be set up by
civil society.
    The study conducted by Equiterre "What You Can Do - Responsible
Consumption" was performed in Canada in 2006-2007. It includes a survey
conducted by Léger Marketing with 1,662 Canadians. In addition, a series of
telephone interviews held with Canadian merchants. The complete study is
available on the Equiterre website at www.equiterre.org.

    To download the study :
    http://www.equiterre.qc.ca/agriculture/informer.phpNo.publ_autres




For further information:

For further information: Amélie Ferland, Equiterre, (514) 973-2000,
aferland@equiterre.qc.ca

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