Nova Scotia

How green is your grocery list? N.S. MP proposes environmental labels on products

A member of Parliament from Nova Scotia wants food products in Canada labelled so consumers can clearly see their impact on the environment.

Jaime Battiste's private member's motion passed in the House this week

MP Jaime Battiste says he wants to make it easier for Canadians to make green choices about what food they buy. (Shutterstock)

A member of Parliament from Nova Scotia wants food products in Canada labelled so consumers can clearly see their impact on the environment.

Jaime Battiste's private member's motion calling for a green grading system passed in the House of Commons this week.

"My hope and my dream is that within, you know, the next few years, we'll be able to pick up two products at the local Walmart and Costco and we'll be able to make a choice of two products based on not only their cost, but on what the impact is on our environment," Battiste, the MP for Sydney-Victoria, told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday.

Even though we're in the middle of a pandemic, the next crisis is climate change, Battiste said.

The House standing committee on environment and sustainable development will now study what food labels could look like under a green grading system, among other things. Battiste said he imagines the information being displayed in a similar way to nutritional information, with products getting a grade such as A, B or C.

"When we're looking at environment labelling, we're not looking at our personal health, but our environmental health," he said, "which I think is interconnected in a lot of ways."

The House of Commons has passed a private member's motion on environmental labeling. Jaime Battiste, MP for Sydney-Victoria, put forward the bill and tells us why it's needed. 8:12

Battiste said some restaurants already include information about carbon footprint on their menus.

He'd like the labels to be on Canadian-made food products as well as those from other countries, but said that will be looked at further in the study. The committee will talk with farmers, environmentalists and industry experts, he said.

The grading system would take into consideration things like greenhouse gas emissions, the waste created, water used and distance travelled.

The committee will also have to determine if the grading is voluntary or if companies that don't comply should face fines, Battiste said.

"I think we have to hear from the experts and hear from the industries and hear from the farmers and hear from everyone before you can really make judgments like that," he said.

As far as he knows, no other country has created a similar green labelling system.

Jaime Battiste, the MP for Sydney-Victoria, put forward a private member's motion that was passed by the House on Feb. 24. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

"There are so many different labels on so many different foods, but if we had one consistent one that was used across Canada, kind of like a nutritional facts, it's pretty consistent," he said.

"This is the opportunity that we have to make a difference in our day-to-day lives to ensure that we're doing our best to protect our planet."

Not all MPs have the chance to put forward a private member's motion. Battiste said he was thrilled when his motion, which is called M-35 Environment Grading Label, passed this week.

"I don't know if I'll ever get this opportunity again and I wanted to be able to look [my son] in the eyes when he's older and said when I had an opportunity to make a difference, I did what I could to make sure that the future generations and the next seven generations had a fighting chance," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning


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