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Food News 2011

Food News 2011

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Foodstock: An Event in Support of the Movement to Stop the Mega-Quarry, October 16, 2011, Honeywood, Ontario

During the week leading up to Foodstock, I'll admit that my resolve to attend was wavering. 20,000 people, really?? Would it be a freezing cold mudbath? Would there be a hopeless snarl of cars trying to get in? Should I just send along a donation and spend a cozy Sunday at home? Curiosity, concern for the cause, and a sense that something really big might be happening with this event won out, so Sunday morning my husband Jim and I picked up Dufferin bakers Leslie, Heidrun and Jenny and headed up the side roads. The trip went smoothly until a few kilometres from the hosting farms, at which point we slowed to about walking pace for nearly an hour.

Cars lined the roads as far as the eye could see

Uh oh. A few cars bailed out, likely containing drivers caught by chance and wondering what on earth was going on. Then we climbed the last hill onto a broad plain and saw inching lines of attendees converging from every direction. Wow, much more inspiring than your average traffic jam! When we made it to a parking field that still had room, swarms of smiling volunteers directed us in.

posted on August 27, 2011

As Farmers' Markets Go Mainstream, Some Fear a Glut

Published: August 20, 2011
Source: The New York Times

FLORENCE, Mass. - John Spineti started selling plump tomatoes and shiny squash at farmers' markets in the early 1970s and saw his profits boom as markets became more popular. But just as farmers' markets have become mainstream, Mr. Spineti said business has gone bust. Farmers in pockets of the country say the number of farmers' markets has outstripped demand, a consequence of a clamor for markets that are closer to customers and communities that want multiple markets.


on June 20, 2011

Here's a really informative video with farmers:

What can you do to stop it? Write letters of objection to the province of Ontario. Please demand an Environmental Assessment. Ask others to join you. The deadline is July 11, 2011. You can write to these MPPs to voice your views: Premier Dalton McGuinty Dufferin MPP John Wilkinson, Minister of the Enviroment Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources
Here's a link to a recent article from the Orangeville paper that gives some sense of recent developments:
and here's a website with lots more detail:

posted on May 28, 2011

Local-loving chef changing U of T's eating habits

Published: May. 13, 2011
Source: Globe and Mail

“From his post as director of food services at the University of Toronto's St. George campus, one innovative, local-loving chef is upsetting the status quo.

Jaco Lokker, who also oversees Chestnut Residence, is in charge of feeding more than 1,000 students three (or four or five, depending on appetites) meals a day for 32 weeks of the year. Under the constraints of the student meal plan, that means putting out 13,000 plates of food a week at a cost of about $3 each. That hasn't stopped him from converting 65 per cent of the food that passed through his kitchen last year to local fare and bringing farmers into cafeterias to trumpet it. That's more than a million dollars' worth of Ontario food, including all-organic Harmony milk, potatoes and Norfolk county apples.”


posted on April 25, 2011

Agriculture and the Election: Questions from the Organic Council of Ontario

Future of Farming in Canada:
1. How does your party’s platform address the shrinking number and growing size of farms in Canada?
2. Canada doesn’t have a national food policy. Is a National Food Policy a priority for your party?
3. Protecting farmland from development pressures has never been more important than today… what steps will your party take to both protect farmland and the ability for people to farm that land?
4. ON farmers have had to contend with free and open trade with the US without the benefit of a US-style Farm Bill for support. It leaves Ontario farmers at the mercy of the subsidized competition to the South. Does your party support either a) creating a similar Farm Bill or b) challenging the US Farm Bill at the WTO?

Climate Change:
1. It has been suggested that “real”, economically viable farms must be at least $250,000 in sales annually- yet many organic farms are more profitable with smaller gross income than that- what approaches to agriculture are supported by your party’s platform?
2. Organic agriculture provides 30-50% greater water retention in soil, reduces on-farm energy use between 20-60%, does not rely on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. What would your party do to support greater adoption of organic farming as a climate change mitigation strategy?
3. Seeds are a big issue for agriculture. Our pride and joy internationally is Canola- bred through public research dollars. Traditional seed breeding in the face of climate change is ever more important. Today, we have no national seed bank, and our traditional breeding programs have been gutted in favour of funding trans-gene research. Do you support increasing public investment in a seed bank and in seed stock development?

Organic Regulation:
1. Canada adopted our Organic Standards in 2009- yet today we have no secure funding for maintenance and upkeep of this federal standard, nor any funding for the work of the committees that do the interpretation work. Without funding, our internationally recognized standard is at risk: what would your party do to ensure long term, stable funding for maintenance and upkeep of our hard won organic standards?
2. While we’ve had an organic standard nationally since 2009, there has been no promotional or educational campaign from the federal government to promote the logo or educate Canadians on what the logo means. Would your party invest in this promotion?

1. When the election was called, the Standing Committee on Agriculture was about to vote on a GE Alfalfa moratorium: what is your party’s position on a GE Alfalfa Moratorium?
2. Depending on the study, between 75 and 85% of Canadians want GMO foods labeled: what is your party’s position on GMO labeling and why?
3. Organic farming techniques are increasingly being adopted or, more rightly, returned to the broader farming landscape. Would your party support permanent funding for public research on organic agricultural techniques?

Farm and Food Infrastructure: 1. Local food is not a trend: it is a shift, says Sandy Houston of the Metcalf Foundation. Yet to have local food year round, Canada needs to heavily invest in and update our processing sector, as well as our post-harvest handling and storage infrastructure. What is your party`s policy on supporting investment in food processing?
2. Abattoirs are closing in Ontario at an alarming rate. The regulations in place favour consolidation, not diversity, in processing. Yet these regulations did not prevent the Maple Leaf deaths . Other jurisdictions have regulations for micro and small scale processing that is scale appropriate. What is your party’s position on appropriate regulations for local, sustainably produced processed food?

posted on April 20, 2011

Organic Farmers Sue, Seek Protection From Monsanto

By:' Carey Gillam
Published: 30-Mar-11
Source: Reuters

A consortium of U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers filed suit against global seed giant Monsanto Co. on Tuesday, in a move to protect themselves from what they see as a growing threat in the company's arsenal of genetically modified crops.

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed the suit on behalf of more than 50 organizations challenging the chemical giant's patents on its genetically modified seeds. The group is seeking a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing the farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto's patented biotech seed germplasm. Monsanto is known for its zealous defense of its patents on a range of genetically altered crops. Its patented "Roundup Ready" soybeans, corn and cotton are favorites of U.S. farmers because of their ability to withstand herbicide treatments.

posted on March 30, 2011


Ottawa, March 30, 2011 Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Canada’s largest organic farming organization has joined 59 other farming associations, seed companies and farmers in a legal action against Monsanto to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on transgenic (genetically modified) seed.

In a law suit filed Tuesday, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a Manhattan-based public interest law association, asks the court to consider whether Monsanto has the right to sue farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's genetically modified seed lands on their farm. Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director, said “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer whose land is contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
One of the goals of the suit is to demonstrate that the biotechnology patents issued to Monsanto, the manufacturer of DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs and a host of other toxins, are not in the public interest. In 1817, U.S. Justice Story wrote that to be patentable, an invention must not be “injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society,” and “a new invention to poison people ... is not a patentable invention.”

COG member and organic farmer Arnold Taylor said “I’m thrilled that Canadian Organic Growers and other farm organizations are not afraid to stand up to the most dominant chemical company on the planet to defend the rights of farmers. Genetically modified seeds threaten the diversity of our seed supply, farmers’ rights to save seed and jeopardize the livelihoods of farmers who could lose access to international markets.”

According to Laura Telford, National Director of Canadian Organic Growers, “Organic standards place the responsibility to produce crops free of genetic contamination on the shoulders of organic farmers. Farmers are required to take appropriate measures to ensure that their crops are not subject to contamination from neighbouring fields. With the proliferation of patents for new transgenic crops from Monsanto, including most recently, a patent for Roundup Ready herbicide tolerant alfalfa, farmers’ ability to grow organic crops is becoming increasingly difficult”.

The full legal complaint is available at:

For more information, contact: Laura Telford, National Director,Canadian Organic Growers

613 216-0742

613 298-8848 (cell)

Dan Ravicher

Executive Director

Public Patent Foundation

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

55 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10003

212 461-1902

posted on March 25, 2011

Food safety: More on those cutting boards

By: Kathleen Purvis
Published: March 24, 2011
Source: I’ll Bite

Dean Cliver never expected to become famous as the man who saved wooden cutting boards. But that's science for you - you never know where it's going to take you.

Working on this week's story about kitchen cleaning gave me an excuse to call lots of scientists. I always love those guys: People who spend their lives studying very small things that make you very sick are always a blast. Seriously. For instance, Doug Powell of Kansas State University founded a Web site called The Barf Blog . It's fascinating reading, if you have a strong stomach.

Powell kept telling me the trick to understanding how to keep your kitchen safe is "be the bug -- think like the bug." Hard to do for the average person, but a fun game for a rainy Saturday night.

I also talked to Cliver, a microbiologist at the University of California-Davis who is a legend in the food-safety world. Cliver is 76, but he's still studying the involvement of viruses in foodborne illness.

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