Ralph Martin has done important research into organic cropping systems as the founding director of the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro. Now he’s taking on a much bigger challenge, as the first chair of Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph. It’s a new position, some are calling him a sustainable food guru, but the way the position is being funded is an important benchmark too: 3 Million Dollars from Loblaws Cos. Ltd, the country’s biggest food retailer.
It’s an indication of the on-going cuts in public spending on agriculture research. Private companies have supported university research in technology, health and pharmaceuticals before, but this is the first time a private company has backed research and policy development in food production.
Ralph Martin is quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying “Loblaw stepping up to the plate on this issue … sends a signal to the government that the private sector really is interested in developing policies for the benefit of all in the long run.”
Ralph Martin has taken on a huge challenge: the food system now makes fresh nutritious meals more expensive than highly processed food, leading to poorer health for most Canadians.
Loblaws is also funding a three year project to develop a national food strategy with the Conference Board of Canada.