Posts Tagged ‘food production’

The Good News

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Canadian Organic Growers is a wonderful resource for both serious growers and home gardeners as well as anyone interested in what is happening in the global world of agriculture.  The organization publishes a quarterly magazine, has local chapters all across Canada, hosts conferences and events such as Seedy Saturdays, has a lending library that is free to members, and also publishes a monthly e-newsletter.  I like the e-newsletter because if often gives one a quick but informative overview of what is happening with food and farming around the world.  For this blog, I thought I would summarize the good news.

  • The Canadian Wheat Board announces $200,000 in funding for organic sector development
  • Canada has said that any products derived from cloned foods can not be called organic under our new standards and logo (to me the overall news is awful)
  • A U.S. survey in 2008 reports that organic food sales are up 10%
  • Dannon is eliminating the rBST growth hormone from its dairy operations.  General Mills has done the same thing.
  • The Philippine army is launching an organic agricultural project to help less privileged residents in their area.
  • A 2008 report from the United Nations says that “organic agriculture is particularly well suited for smallholder farmers, who comprise the majority of Africa’s poor”.  Good news
  • A United Nations 2008 assessment of world hunger has concluded that ‘Genetically modified crops have very little potential to alleviate poverty and hunger’.  This is in direct contrast to claims coming from GM companies, but supports the continued development of organic food production.
  • Britons continue to support organic and ethical foods despite the downturn in the economy
  • 250 pesticides will be removed form store shelves in Ontario by the end of this month under the new Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act.  Quebec is the only other province to have a similar ban, with P.E.I. and New Brunswick considering one.
  • The amount of land globally in certified organic production grew from 30.7 million hectares to 32.2 million hectares in 2007, with strong growth in Latin America and Africa.

Not to put a damper on life, but this seems important.

According to the Environmental Health News (01/06/09) antibiotics are showing up in vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and lettuce.  These vegetables are absorbing the antibiotics when grown in soil fertilised with livestock manure in which the animals have been fed antibiotics.  Approximately 70% of all antibiotics and related drugs produced in the United States are fed to cattle, pigs, and poultry.  You are not protected by eating commercially grown organic vegetables, because these too are fertilized with commercial manures. North American organic standards recommend the use of organic manure, but it is not mandatory.  This is because there is not enough organic manure to meet the needs of organic production.  For those of you with your own gardens, I would recommend sticking with manures from animals that are primarily grass fed – I use horse manure that I collect from local stables and commercially bagged sheep manure, both of which are widely available.

Food and the World We Live In

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Someone once said that you could solve 95% of the world’s problems if you addressed the issues surrounding food.  As I thought about this statement, I began to see all of the aspects of our life that food touches.  I thought about greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation and pollution, waste issues, obesity, stress, degenerative diseases, poverty and loss of access to land and water in developing countries, genetically modified organisms, corporate control  – the list just kept on getting bigger.  Food really does influence so much and the ways in which we set up our systems of food production governs much of the way that our society, and the societies that we trade with, function.  So, it would follow that if we changed our relationship with food, we could begin to reshape our society and address the problems that we face.

Having worked and raised a family, part of the time as a single parent, I believe that most of us have some pretty finite financial and time limitations on our lives.  I would love to write letters to my MP’s, attend political rallies, and install some sort of renewable energy system on my house.  But I know that these things are just not realistic, at least not right now.  What I do believe I can do is to make choices about the foods that I eat, how they are grown, where they are grown, and how they are packaged.  This for me has been my constant activism, along with volunteer work in my community.  It feels doable and affordable and important because I very much believe in the power of the consumer.  It has been our choices and our lack of understanding of their implications that has created today’s food systems and the products that we see in our stores.  Our conscious choices can demand a different kind of food system – one that is ecological, that supports the local community, that does not impoverish others, and that is within our control. 

There are so many reasons to buy local foods and to eat seasonally. Local food initiatives are growing by leaps and bounds – many of them are exciting and offer positive hope for real change. The Ontario government is investing 12.5 million dollars in its Pick Ontario Freshness campaign and Quebec’s Put Quebec on Your Plate initiative has 14 million dollars in funding.

The Canadian Co-operative Organization (www.coopscanada.coop) published a report on Local Food Initiatives in Canada in June of 2008. This report can be found at www.ccednet-rcdec.ca. The report stresses that local foods contribute to the local economy, allow for a financially viable agricultural sector, increase our ability to be self sufficient, provide quality food at affordable prices, and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food that has travelled thousands of kilometers. Farmer’s co-operatives have always been an important part of the Canadian agricultural landscape and increasingly farmers and retailers are coming together to support each other and provide quality local foods to consumers. The following excerpt about a really successful co-operative initiative is taken from this report:

The Really Local Harvest Co-op, an innovative farmer-run co-operative in New Brunswick is regaining control of the food system and finding the fun in farming. A small group of farmers had had it with the old way of doing things. They were working all the time, not making any money, and most of the food they were growing was being shipped out of province.

“We felt that we didn’t have a choice about creating the Co-op. You either work for northing or you create your own system”. Donald Daigle, President Really Local Harvest Co-operative.

The farmers went to the town of Dieppe with a plan to create a farmers’ market in 2004. Now on a typical sunny summer day, some 10,000 people visit the Dieppe Farmers’ Market to get a taste of locally grown foods like goat’s cheese, cranberries, vegetables, and other local products. The farmers have gone from nearly ‘losing their shirts’ according to Daigle, to leading the charge to revitalize their community. Within a few short years, the co-op has built a three million dollar local enterprise with numerous positive economic spin-offs for the community.

The co-op does not plan to stop there. Soon they will be unveiling an ambitious plan for an agro-tourism venture that will have visitors pondering the wonders of the apple and taking rides on a wagon powered by buffalo, all the while enjoying the food bounty of New Brunswick.