Symposium 2019

Perspectives on Sustainable Diets

Sustainable Agriculture: The Canadian Context

Symposium Presentation

Canada accounts for about 1.6% of global GHG with 0.001% of this arising from the Canadian dairy industry. The Canadian dairy production’s GHG emissions per L of milk (0.94 kg CO2eq) ranks among the most efficient in the world. Canadian dairy cows continue to become increasingly efficient at milk production. In five years, a litre of milk in Canada has lowered the carbon footprint by 7.3%, the water footprint by 5.6% and land use by 10.9%. Continued improvements in genetics, precision agriculture, nutrigenomics and environment stewardship will undoubtedly accelerate these improvements in efficiency in the future.

Cattle are unique in their ability to convert forages into high quality milk and meat protein. At the same time, forages and grasslands retain vast quantities of carbon within soils, enhance water quality, prevent erosion, sustain wetlands and contribute to biodiversity. Cattle also play an integral role in nutrient recycling through the production of manure which delivers nutrients and carbon that improve soil health and productivity.

Climate change is being driven primarily as a result of the use of fossil fuels by humanity. Liberation of carbon from ancient stores is what has contributed to the global increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Food production is essential to humanity and is not a practice that can be eliminated as a means of reducing global GHG emissions. However, improved efficiencies in agriculture are clearly obtainable, but these efficiencies must be identified through an appreciation of the inevitable sustainability trade-offs that occur in both natural and agricultural ecosystems.