DISCLAIMER: (February 1, 2019) The views expressed in the translated editorial are solely the opinions of the Journal de Montréal and its editors.
Today, the French language populist newspaper Le Journal de Montreal published an article that states that it is “no coincidence” that Health Canada featured dried beans so prominently in the new Canada Food Guide; ‘certainly they are good for health’, but there is also an ‘obvious economic benefit and benefit to local agricultural interests'.
[translation] “This is not well known, but Canada is the major supplier of legumes (pulses) on the planet. Between 35% and 40% of world production comes from here, essentially from the prairie provinces. Quebec is participating by growing dry beans.”
Economic and Local Interest
The article states that in addition to the health benefits there are two reasons why legumes (pulses) feature so prominently in the new Canada Food Guide;
I – Economic interests – the first “because”
The Journal de Montreal article states that one of the additional reasons legumes (pulses) were highlighted in the new Canada Food Guide was because Agriculture Canada had forecast a 20% decrease in production of legumes during 2019. The reason for this decrease production is outlined below.
II – benefit to local agriculture – the second “because”
The article also states that growing legumes benefits local agricultural interests because;
“legumes contain bacteria that allow them to transfer nitrogen from the air to the ground and this nitrogen is needed for growth of vegetables.”
This means that by growing legumes one season, the soil becomes enriched with nitrogen which helps the growing of other food crops the following growing season.
BACKGROUND TO THE FIRST “because”
Last March, the CBC reported that India, a top importer of Canadian chickpeas and lentils imposed a huge tariff on legumes which resulted in Canadian producers facing duties of 33% on lentils and 50% on desi chickpeas. The type that Canada produces are kabuli chickpeas, which have a slightly lower tariff of 40% . These tariffs resulted in a decreased demand for Canadian legumes (pulses), as well as a price decline.
CBC also reported  that India’s imposed tariffs on pulses has sent “a huge ripple effect through the whole industry” as dried beans are a 1.1 billion dollar industry in Saskatchewan alone and India is it’s biggest customer.
“Farmers are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for help to make sure that business continues and to consider the importance of agriculture in Canada”.
New Canada Food Guide – free of influence?
The article in Le Journal de Montreal raises the question as to how much of the prominent inclusion of legumes (pulses) in the new Canada Food Guide has to do with their reported health benefits and how much may have been driven by industry or lobby groups influence on various levels of government due to decreased demand and resulting falling production.
UPDATE:(February 3, 2019): While it is evident from the CBC report above that the pulse industry was exerting pressure on various levels of the Federal government to address decreased demand for its product, decreased legume production would have been factored into the design of the new Canada Food Guide as both (1) the role of legumes and plant-based dietary patterns on health and (2) food availability of legumes in light of decreased production would have necessarily been evaluated i.e. two of the four of the direct influences involved Dietary Guidance design. [see “Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance: Summary of results and implications for Canada’s Food Guide, 2015” – available here) which on page 2 refers to the longer document “Colapinto CK, Ellis A, Faloon-Drew K, Lowell H Developing an evidence review cycle model for Canadian dietary guidance. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2016;48:77-83)” that has Figure 2, below. This figure indicates that Food Availability of the Food Supply is one of the four direct influences in the development of Dietary Guidance. While decreased legume production (i.e. food availability) would have been factored into the decision for Canadians to include more legumes in their diet for health benefits on the new Canada Food Guide, I can find no evidence that legume’s benefit to agriculture was ever evaluated. Some thoughts… I think it is important to know what is said in the populist press about important issues such as this because a large segment of the population relies on such sources, as well as the internet for their news. Often times such stories are based on truth but leave what isn’t said up to the audience (readers or listeners). Knowing the facts behind the story enables us to tease out conjecture from fact.
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- Le Journal de Montreal – 29 January 2019 0600 https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2019/01/29/des-arguments-de-pois?
- CBC News – Pulse industry worries about precedent as India slaps 60% tariff on chickpeas – March 02, 2018 3:50 PM CT https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/india-chickpea-tariff-pulse-industry-1.4559947
- CBC News – Prairie farmers want Canada’s trade dispute with India ‘straightened out’ – February 25, 2018 4:00 AM CT