Wendy Elliott column
When I go to a farm market to buy fruit, I’ll buy raspberries or peaches or strawberries. But if I’m after apples, I think seriously about the variety and what they are wanted for. Now I’m going to start pondering other varietals.
After all, consumers can purchase strawberries now well into August with a longer season. From the good folks at Keddy’s, I learned recently that they have different names and properties, just like apples.
There’s a ‘Wendy’ strawberry to boot. Born and bred locally, it was introduced commercially in 2006 due to research by Dr. Andrew Jamieson, who works for the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Kentville.
‘Wendy’ is supposed to be good for baking, jamming or saucing. I understand he named Wendy after a sister-in-law who died. Dr. Jamieson also has done work on varieties called Stolo, Valley, Sunset and Laurel.
It was only after hearing Av Singh speak recently on genetically modified (GM) food that I began to really appreciate local food research that gels with our climate and soils. We are so lucky to have expert staff working out of the centre on the hill. Being forced to accept food pushed on us by mega corporations is a scary thought.
When Dr. Singh indicated that 80 per cent of the corn grown in this province is GM, I shuddered, feeling about the same about fracking as I do genetic modification. Corn is in everything processed these days.
Yet mere consumers can have an effect. Last month, the biotechnology giant Monsanto started to scrap plans to win approval to grow new types of genetically modified crops in the European Union.
While Monsanto’s GM crops and agro-chemicals are in wide use in the US and in other parts of the world, Europeans won’t go there. Why are they so enlightened? Partially because the battle began earlier across the pond.
A French court decided recently that Monsanto was guilty of chemically poisoning a French farmer. The grain grower, Paul Francois, says he developed neurological problems, such as memory loss and headaches, after being exposed to the company’s weedkiller Lasso in 2004. That ruling in Lyon came down to labeling.
In another blow to Monsanto, which created DDT and Agent Orange, the state of Vermont recently passed a new GMO labeling bill. We weren’t so lucky last year, when the chemical giants coughed up a whopping $45 million to kill a ballot initiative that would have labelled GMO products just in California. Some 82 per cent of Americans have said they want to know if they are buying GM foods. Consumers deserve to know what they are eating.
Yet in late April, federal agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, allowed the first-ever GM alfalfa variety to be registered in Canada, despite opposition across the nation. This means seed companies could put GM alfalfa on the market at any time. The company Forage Genetics International has put Monsanto’s GM herbicide tolerant Roundup Ready trait into alfalfa and says it wants to introduce it in Eastern Canada.
Meanwhile, two farmers have formally asked the Ontario government to carry out an environmental assessment of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa before the seed is sold in the province. Recently, they launched an application under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, which was the first ever request relating to the issue of GM crops. Neither farmer feels like the federal government is listening.
On July 15, protestors stood outside a Canadian Seed Trade Association meeting to denounce the
release of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Eastern Canada. They asked the Quebec government to stop GM alfalfa in order to protect farmers and our food system from contamination.
Stories are going around the globe these days about the plight of farmers in India, beguiled by the promise of great profits, who borrowed money to buy GM seeds. If their harvests fail, many are left with crushing debts and commit suicide.
In fact, Britain’s Prince Charles has set up charity, the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, to address the plight of these farm families, as many as 1,000 a month. As a result of horrifying practices that go on in Third World countries and elsewhere, I think we’re reaching a tipping point against GM food. With a flood of consumer awareness, demand should force the food industry to at least begin labeling these chemicals.
An anti-GM rally is already planned for October in Halifax. People from the Valley will be there.