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Canadians concerned about global food crisis

According to a study by two University of Guelph professors, a majority of Canadians are concerned about reports of a looming global food crisis, as well as its impact on food prices.


July 4, 2008
By University of Guelph

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July 04, 2008 


Guelph, ON -A majority of Canadians are concerned about the impact the global food price crisis is having locally and around the world, and believe Canada should take action, according to a new survey by University of Guelph researchers.


Professors Spencer Henson and John Cranfield surveyed some 1,350 people in recent weeks. They asked what role Canada has played in stimulating food price increases, whether it has affected them personally and what the country should be doing to alleviate the negative impacts.

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"The results provide some of the first indications of the extent to which Canadians are aware of the global food price crisis and their concerns about impacts on themselves and others," said Henson.


Results show that most Canadians are aware of the food price crisis, with 75 per cent indicating some concern. Consumers are worried about the impact the rising price of food is having on Canadians with lower incomes, on farmers and on those living in developing countries.


"There was far less concern about the impact of increases in food prices on themselves," said Cranfield. "This is reflected in the fact that only 17 per cent of people indicate having made changes to the food their family eats as a direct result of increases in food prices during the last month."


Those consumers who had made changes reported consuming less meat and more locally produced fruits and vegetables, he said.


Survey responses also suggest that Canadian consumers are aware of the reasons behind the recent escalation in global food prices. The issues most cited were increases in global oil prices, production of biofuels and climate change.


And about 64 per cent believe Canada has at least some responsibility in the food price crisis, said Henson.


"The results of the survey suggest that Canadians consider Canada to have an important role to play in helping developing countries overcome the negative impacts of the global food price crisis," he said.


When asked what Canada should be doing to help developing countries, the most
frequent answers were to increase foreign food aid, transfer technology, revise biofuel policies and provide agricultural education to boost farm productivity in developing countries.


The survey is one of the first to be produced as part of the Guelph Food Panel project, the first large-scale panel of consumers dedicated to food research. Developed by Henson, Cranfield and Prof. Oliver Masakure, the panel allows the researchers to survey participants within 24-hour's notice and to assess any changes in their responses over time.


"There is no other instrument like this in Canada," said Cranfield. "We can see how people's concerns and perceptions about food and their consumption patterns change over time. We can also get immediate consumer response to issues surrounding food."