2020 Edition

Sustainable Food Futures

The 2020 symposium was our 10th anniversary centered on Sustainable Food Futures.

We are proud to announce that the 2020 McGill Sustainability Research Symposium has been certified as a Gold McGill Sustainable Event by the McGill Office of Sustainability. To achieve this certification, we implemented actions such as serving all vegan and vegetarian food, providing gender neutral bathrooms, and holding our event at a barrier free facility.

The 2020 Organizing Team

  • Rachel Kendall – Lead
  • Rikke Plougmann – Co-lead
  • Abdulrazzak Tamim – Communications
  • Lauren Jelinek – Social Media
  • Oi Yin Lai – Finance
  • Kaitlyn Law – Logistics
  • Konstantina Chalastara – Sustainability and General Support


Lucy Jarosz

University of Washington

Placing alternative food networks
Alternative food networks are often defined in opposition to, and in contrast to, industrialized, globalized and corporatized food systems. Rather than defining alternative food networks only in terms of categories or as objects, I conceptualize food networks as dynamic processes operating across geographic scale and history and embedded in particular landscapes that encompass both the city and the countryside in order to better understand their relationships to material, cultural, political, economic and ecological processes. Examples come from two case studies of alternative food networks in Washington State and Quebec.

Lucy Jarosz is Professor Emerita in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is interested in the political economy of hunger and food, agrarian change and the development of food networks. She has worked in Madagascar, South Africa, the Pacific Northwest and Italy. She is currently studying women’s roles within food networks in the case of Quebec in the 1930s-40s.

Ned Bell

Ocean Wise & Chefs for Oceans

A Chef’s Perspective on the Future of Food Lakes, Oceans, Rivers & Soil Biography
Ned Bell is a chef advocate, keynote speaker, educator and founder of Chefs for Oceans. Bell’s interests and talents have led him to his current roles as Ocean Wise Executive Chef, Culinary Director of The Vancouver Club, Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Chef Ambassador for International Year of the Salmon and author of best seller – Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast.
Bell most recently joined the table at the United Nations headquarters in New York to engage his Chefs for Oceans platform in awareness initiatives leading up to him cooking for the UN’s General Assembly in New York this September. Bell’s also on the ticket as a lead presenter at the UN’s Oceans Conference in Portugal in 2020.
As Executive Chef for Vancouver-based, global program, Ocean Wise, Bell makes an impact through education, advocacy and culinary experiences with his peers across North America. Ned founded Chefs for Oceans in 2014 to raise awareness and advocate for responsible seafood choices and the importance of supporting healthy oceans, lakes and rivers. He launched this commitment with an 8,700km bike ride across Canada, staging dozens of awareness building events along the way. Bell’s commitment to seafood stewardship has skyrocketed ever since.
Website: https://www.nedbell.com/ Instagram: @nedbell

Mary Ruth McDonald

University of Guelph

Sustainable production of vegetables and other crops: current state and future directions
Advances in integrated pest management (IPM) have made major contributions to sustainable crop production, especially for low acreage, high value vegetable crops. The IPM program for onions in Ontario resulted in a reduction of up to 7 fungicide and 5 insecticide applications in 2019, because the weather was not conducive for onion downy mildew or onion thrips. Other pests and diseases are more of a challenge to control, such as Stemphlium leaf blight, some nematodes, and soilborne diseases, and further research is needed. The future of sustainable production of vegetables and field crops is very promising. There will be more tools to assist in adaptation to climate change and changing pest complexes. Plant breeding is providing many crops with resistance to insect pests and diseases, and that are better equipped to compete with weeds and resist stresses. Breeding will be faster and more targeted. Biological controls are improving. A number of changes are anticipated that will allow for more landscape diversity that will enhance natural biological controls, including the adoption of smaller, self driven farm equipment and greater use of drones and robotics for precision agriculture. These changes will contribute to greater sustainability in agriculture.

Dr. Mary Ruth McDonald is a professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph. Her research and outreach activities have focused on integrated pest management and sustainable vegetable production for her entire career, and she also collaborates on projects on disease management in canola and some other field crops. The main objective is to maintain or increase crop quality and yields while reducing or replacing fungicides and insecticides. She also conducts research on adaptation to climate change and nutrient management of phosphorous and nitrogen. Dr. McDonald was the invited keynote speaker on ‘The future of crop protection’ for the Swedish Society of Plant Protection and has been a keynote speaker at several other conferences around the world. Prof. McDonald has received national and international awards for excellence in research, extension, and integrated pest management.

David Burton

Dalhousie University

Soil Health: Our Climate Change Solution
As we search for solutions to reduce our impact on the climate, we should not forget the soil under our feet. Sustainable soil management is tied to the achievement of most of the sustainable development goals identified by the United Nations. Soil health emphasizes the role of soil in providing multiple ecosystem services. In this talk I will introduce the concept of soil health as a new paradigm in soil management and discuss the ways in which the management of soil health can not only contribute healthy food and clean water, but can also play a central role in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the resiliency of soils to a changing climate change.

Dr. David Burton is a Soil Scientist and Professor in the Department of Plant, Food, and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University. Dr. Burton’s research examines the role of the soil environment in influencing the nature and extent of microbial metabolism in soil. His focus has been on processes in the cycling of nitrogen in soils and their implications for soil fertility and environmental impact. His current research programs involve an examination of the production and consumption of greenhouse gases in natural and agricultural landscapes, the development of tools for the measurement of soil nitrogen supply to plants, influence of climate on soil biological processes, and the assessment of the quality of the soil biological environment and its influence on soil health. Over the past decade his work has focused on potato production in Atlantic Canada. It is the aim of this work to better understand the factors that control soil microbial processes and to use this information to developing sustainable land management systems in a changing climate. He was awarded a Dalhousie University Research Professorship in recognition of his research accomplishments. Dr. Burton teaches courses in Introductory Soil Science, Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management, Soil Microbiology and Air, Climate, and Climate Change. He has been working on the development of blended learning and on-line learning
approaches. In terms of service, Dr. Burton, is a Past President of the Canadian Society of Soil Science, serves as an Associate Editor of Canadian Journal of Soil Science, and is part of Fertilizer Canada’s 4R advisory panel. He has served as chair of a number of national advisory panels with respect to nutrient management and agricultural responses to climate change. He is currently a member of Équiterre’s advisory committee on Improving Climate Resilience and Climate Mitigation in Agriculture.

Saji George

McGill University

Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture: Understanding the Pillars of Sustainability
Generally, Agri-food industry is operating under constrains of low margin of profit, regulatory oversight and strong societal perceptions. Consequently, long term sustainability of any new technological intervention is determined by how it respond to obligations of economic, environmental and societal pressures pertinent to Agri-food industry. While, nanotechnology is widely accepted as a transformative technology capable of addressing global challenges in food safety and security the rapid market penetration of nanotechnology incorporated Agri-food products with considerable uncertainties regarding their short and long term impact to human and environmental health, has sparked outcry from general public and experts. Evidently, developing and implementing sustainable nanotechnology solutions demands the advancement of knowledge frontiers in technology as well as in addressing social and regulatory issues. Greener methods of nanomaterials synthesize and/or identifying low cost nanomaterials (preferably of natural chemistry) with scale up capabilities along with understanding and responding to societal concerns on nanomaterials applications in food are warranted for addressing the stake-holder values on environmental, economic and societal pillars of sustainability. By taking examples from our own research, I will elaborate a general frame work for developing sustainable nanotechnology for food and agriculture applications.

Dr Saji George is an Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Nanotechnology for Food and Agriculture. Previously, Dr George was spearheading Centre for Sustainable Nanotechnology at Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore from where he completed several research projects addressing the health risks of nanomaterials and environmental contaminants. His research is aimed at understanding the relationship between nanomaterial properties and their hazardous and beneficial biological outcomes with the ultimate goal of developing sustainable nanotechnology applications for current and future challenges in food safety and security. He has authored >50 peer reviewed articles, five patents and >20 invited talks. He has been serving as reviewer and editorial board member for many leading journals in the field of nanotechnology (nano-bio interactions). His excellences in teaching and research have been recognized by Ministry of Education, Singapore through the best mentor award and PS21 ExCEL Gold/Silver Awards in 2015 and 2016.


Our goals:

To educate on the topic of, and create a dialog around, sustainability among McGill faculty, students and the broader McGill community
To highlight sustainability in the specific topic of food and agriculture
To foster an environment where students can engage with each other and experts on the topic of ‘sustainable food futures’
To encourage interdisciplinary discussions on sustainability between people with different perspectives

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