There’s a food war looming on the horizon, and whether you like it or not, you are right in the middle of it.
It is as much a political battle as it is pro-business, and the only losers are going to be you and me, the consumer.
In order to provide you with a little context, here’s a recap of noteworthy events involving this struggle:
• April 2012: the Conservative government cuts $56 million from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency budget, resulting in the lay-off of more than 100 food inspectors. It also announces at this time that it will no longer verify claims on food labels, leaving this up to the consumer.
• January 2014: A Burnaby wholesale bakery is caught selling bread labelled organic, but made with non-organic flour over a period of three years. It was also found using canola oil (instead of the stated olive) in other products.
Despite recommended charges and statements by inspectors that “all the organic claims on his packaging was false,” the owner received no penalties and neither vendors nor consumers were informed of this fraud (except through news media).
• January 2014: 45.8 per cent of all organic produce sold in Canada is found to show trace elements of pesticide contamination, with 1.8 per cent of these exceeding the federal allowable limits.
• January 2014: the Conservative government quietly lifts the moratorium on fish farming in British Columbia (11 pending projects), with no public consultation, despite the dire warnings of the Cohen report and federal scientists, whose findings are being gagged when they put a negative light (that wild stocks are at risk) on this controversial practice.
These news reports clearly indicate two things: that you cannot trust food labels (or the companies to self-police); and that the current federal government has clearly stepped away from its responsibility of ensuring our food safety, in favour of more commercially-minded enterprises.
The false science that implies that genetically modified crops and farmed fish are the only viable means of feeding an ever-increasing global population is also clearly negated by the facts. It takes between 2.5 to three kilograms of wild fish (made into meal and oil) to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon, and currently a third of the global fish harvest goes into fishmeal production.
Farmed fish are also fed meat by-products, such as feather meal, and they cannot produce their own omega-3 fatty acids, as these are obtained naturally through the food chain (or from fish meal).
Genetically modified crops have encountered their own problems with the pollen from GMO corn, found to be poisonous to butterflies. Both GMO soy and canola cause severe allergic reactions in some people, while yields of Bt GMO cotton are steadily declining and some GMO crops were recently found to have a hidden viral gene that may not be safe for human consumption.
So what is one to do given the overwhelming lack of proper oversight in regards to the food we all consume?
You can start by growing some of your own produce and, thankfully, we have several seed companies (such as West Coast Seeds, Salt Spring Seeds and Stellar Seeds) that are committed to providing you with organic, non-GMO products.
Even if you only have a small space or large container in your garden or patio, you can still grow lettuce, radishes, green onions and more.
By way of example, my daughter harvests purple carrots, parsnips, peas, mustard greens and herbs from her tiny townhouse backyard.
Lastly, you should contact your local MP and politely inform him of your displeasure with the current government’s misplaced priorities.