The 5 Billion Dollar Cheeseburger

by Dog mom on October 6, 2017 - 5:55pm


Canada’s agricultural food system has some serious underlying issues, all which greatly affect our environment, planet, and the species that inhabit it. McNeilly speaks to the impact our diets have on various environmental issues, and the ways organic farming can attempt to alleviate them in her National Post article How organic farming will save us all – if we can throw away our antiquated notions of what it means. Our food system relies heavily on monoculture where industrial farms grow thousands of acres of the same crop, most of which is then fed to livestock to eventually be eaten by humans. 33 percent of all cropland is used for livestock feed production (McNeilly, 2017). Also, this system is both heavily subsidised by our government and supported by discourse. Government expenditures that manage cash crop production and distribution were estimated to be $5.3 billion from 2015 to 2016 (McNeilly, 2017). This is concerning as small-scale organic farms can generate about $40,000 gross sales per acre, where as “cash-crops” only generate an average of $300 (McNeilly, 2017).

What's more alarming is the impact conventional farming has on the soil and land itself, often times depleting nutrients and destroying topsoil. Studies have found evidence of widespread mineral nutrient depletion in today’s conventional soils due to monoculture farming, and  discovered that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the fruits and vegetables available today (McNeilly, 2017). McNeilly claims that a shift towards smaller, diverse organic farming can help protect our soil, can be more profitable, and is the best way to feed our growing population.

I agree with the arguments this article proposes. With a rapidly growing population and rapidly depleted soils we must move towards a more organic system to sustain our agriculture. Although a question to raise is, how did our agricultural system end up this way?  Power is a commanding force that shapes resource management and distribution. Both material and discursive power shape how agriculture is funded and managed. The allocation of subsidies, which are heavily favoured towards monocrops, is an example of material power. The government uses the force of policy to allocate these funds.

A less obvious result of this power structure is the Canadian Food Guide. The Canadian Food Guide is produced by the Federal Government, and what our population is referred to when thinking about their diet. The Food Guide promotes the consumption of grains, meat, and dairy, all products of monocrops. This is an example of material power because it is a product of policy, but also discursive because it is a form of advertisement. The government uses this to advertise their agricultural products and shape people’s ideas of what they should be eating. The Food Guide also excludes all information about organic production, therefore restricting its promotion. If the public is left to their own devices to learn about un-sustainable farming methods, how can we expect them to know better?

While this article provides a good solution to help motivate a more sustainable food  system and farmland protection, it does not recognize the power in state management. It is up to the Canadian Government to fund and promote organic practices in order to make organic food more affordable and visible to the Canadian people.

McNeilly, C. (2017, January 06). How organic farming will save us all – if we can throw away our antiquated notions of what it means. Retrieved October 06, 2017, from