Tuesday, 23 December 2008
The results are staggering....
Sunday, 14 December 2008
(Credit: LM Glasfiber)
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Clothianidin is a member of the chemical family, neonicitanoids, used, among other things, to treat canola seed to ward off flea beetles. Another "family member," imadacloprid, has been used in Canada for more than 25 years.
In 2004, the PMRA and its American counterpart, the Environmental Protection Agency, jointly reviewed data on clothianidin. In addition to their conclusion of high toxicity, they found that other studies, which found the product had "no significant impact," had been "deficient in design."
Despite all of this, a PMRA regulatory officer, Iulia Popa, insists in email exchanges with this writer, beginning last September, there had been "rigorous pre-market evaluation processes. The current scientific consensus is that residues of neonicitanoids do not pose a serious threat to honey bees or other pollinators."
Addressing this apparent contradiction, Ms. Popa explains, the PMRA also considered the amount of chemical the bees are subjected to. If used in spray form, concentrations might be a problem. But, "as a seed treatment (the registered use in Canada), concentrations are not likely to cause acute mortality or other short-term effects."
But the 2004 report sounds another cautionary note. "Questions remain about the possibility of long-term effects on honey bee colonies. A chronic, multigenerational field study has been requested to clarify this risk."
In recent years, honeybees have been vanishing in huge numbers, around the world.
Authorities have dubbed this phenomenon, "Colony Collapse Disorder." They paint CCD as an extremely complex problem, because it may be caused by mites, parasites, viruses, malnutrition, stress, pesticides, lack of biodiversity, or a combination of some or all of these.
Scientists and researchers far and wide have gone into overdrive, trying to solve the “mystery.” But, of all the many studies into this, those that do not implicate pesticides are rare. Last spring, Germany's Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food, suspended use of neonicitanoids, until further notice. The move followed a huge die-off of honeybees in Germany where clothianidin had been sprayed. Up to two-thirds of the colonies in one region were lost. Tests showed the chemical present in the bodies of many dead bees.
France, Italy and Slovenia have now imposed suspensions similar to Germany's.
In North America, however, it's a starkly different story.
South of the border, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorized the use of neonicitanoids about four years ago. This fall, a major U.S. environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, took the EPA to court to force it to publicly release studies, which may shed more light on their effects on honeybees.
But some of those studies are already on the Agency's website. They are similar to the ones referred to earlier, but go into more detail. One reads, "Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis. It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other non-target pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen. “In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal &/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen."
Despite all of this, the EPA insists there's still not enough evidence to ban these products. In a news release this summer, entitled "EPA Acts to Protect Bees," it claims the incident in Germany doesn't fit the profile of Colony Collapse Disorder. For example, in typical cases of CCD, bees just disappear. In the German case, the bodies were found. The EPA also notes that the formulation in question did not contain a polymer coating, which keeps the chemical stuck to the seed.
The Agency promises, if more information comes to light, to "examine our practices with respect to label requirements for seed treatment pesticides,"
Meanwhile, the internet is full of articles by credible scientists, implicating these products in the deaths of honeybees. For example, in the spring of last year, an article called "Requiem for the Honeybee" appeared online with the subtitle, "Neonicotinoid insecticides are harmful to the honeybee!" It goes on to say, flatly, widespread applications of the neonicotinoids are "highly toxic to insects including bees at very low concentrations."
The author, Prof. Joe Cummins, is a geneticist at the University of Western Ontario and an adviser to the international, non-profit, "Institute of Science in Society."
Unlike the EPA, which believes the chemicals have not played a role in CCD, Cummins writes,"A team of scientist led by the National Institute of Beekeeping in Bologna, Italy, found that pollen obtained from seeds dressed with imidacloprid contains significant levels of the insesticide, and suggested that the polluted pollen was one of the main causes of honeybee colony collapse."
Not only does the PMRA continue to license the chemicals in question, it approved a similar product "Movento" (another Bayer product) just this summer. It is suspected of having the same effects! For example, the headline in the October 9th edition of the Manitoba farm paper, Co-operator reads, reads, "New systemic insecticide (Movento) worries beekeepers." Earlier this year, the Co-operator reported that commercial honey producers in Canada lost over a third of their colonies last winter!
Beekeepers in Atlantic Canada, where the neonicitinoids are used on potato crops, are among the hardest hit by these losses in Canada, so far.
Honeybees appeared on earth more than 100 million years ago.
For centuries, beekeepers have known their value as makers of honey, the world's first sweetener that never spoils. It has even been found in Egyptian tombs.
Honeybees are the world's best pollinators of food crops, ranging from apples to blueberries to cucumbers.
Without them, these plants would simply not produce. It is believed that fully one third of the human diet comes from plants pollinated by insects, mostly honey bees.
As the bees fly from flower to flower, gathering nectar, pollen sticks to their legs and is then deposited on other plants. The fertilization cycle is thus completed.
While figures for Canada are not immediately available, the US Department of Agriculture estimates the products bees produce there are worth $15 billion dollars a year.
Recently, the annual Earthwatch debate in the UK actually voted the bee the most valuable species on the planet. In the words of one debater there, Dr. George McGavin of Oxford University, “Bees are irreplaceable. Their loss will be catastrophic.”
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
"Clean, potable drinking water is critical for human life and, therefore, a necessity for prosperous, sustainable communities." - Shell River State of the Watershed Report - 2008A study of western Manitoba’s Shell River watershed points to the buildup of nutrients as the most serious water quality problem in the region.
The 2008 "State of the Watershed" report by the Lake of the Prairies Conservation District is a report card on the health of our surface and ground water.
Its verdict? It could be better!
The watershed stretches well into Saskatchewan. In Manitoba, it covers almost 3,000 km2, and includes parts of the Duck and Riding Mountain Parks, and the communities of Roblin, Inglis and San Clara.
The study by technical experts, says farming and other activities are adding excess sediments and nutrients to waterways in the region.
These nutrients cause harmful, sometimes toxic algae to grow, robbing those waterways of oxygen and killing fish in both summer and winter.
Mucky green messes caused by algal blooms are often seen in the Shellmouth Reservoir in late summer and early fall.
The report calls the buildup of these nutrients, especially phosphorous, the most critical water quality issue in the region.
But there are others.
People are channeling or trenching waterways to improve drainage.
This increases both the speed and volume of water in them.
Erosion of the banks and even more rapid movement of nutrients and sediment are the result.
The report’s authors express concern that human activity is damaging or destroying “riparian areas.” These are natural buffers like trees along the shorelines that protect waterways and provide wildlife habitat.
Governments have long encouraged farmers to preserve such riparian cover and keep livestock back from the edges. (Manitoba even offers tax breaks to farmers who do this.)
A common sight. (r. & below) Trees bulldozed around waterways - Livestock with easy access. Banks slumping. Cattle manure washing in, reducing water quality, not only for humans, but for the cattle themselves.
Photo by l.p.
Despite programs such as the Riparian Tax Credit, the report estimates that at least 30 kilometers of riparian areas in the watershed are at risk of erosion. Streams flowing through cropland are of special concern.
Tests for pesticides and bacteria show these to be mostly within provincial drinking water quality guidelines.
Silt and suspended solids were occasionally higher than the guidelines.
Levels of dissolved salts and minerals, like calcium and sodium, often exceeded objectives for irrigation. The report suggests both industrial and municipal discharges can adversely affect such levels.
Iron and manganese, which can give water an unpleasant taste and colour, were found to be consistently above recommended levels in both the Shell and Assiniboine Rivers.
But the most troublesome finding has to do with nitrogen and phosphorous, mostly the latter.
Phosphorous is a common nutrient in sewage and livestock waste. Once it gets into waterways, it promotes the growth of algae.
Tests show phosphorous levels in the Shell River watershed consistently violate Manitoba’s guidelines for drinking water quality.
Ironically, people are destroying natural features of the landscape that could improve the nutrient problem. The report finds that people are draining wetlands “without regard to negative ecological consequences.”
A study by Ducks Unlimited, quoted in the report, suggests up to 70% of wetlands in the watershed have been either lost or degraded since 1968.
Wetlands act as nutrient “sinks.” They filter out up to 90% of sediment, nutrients and bacteria from receiving waters.
They also allow water to percolate through soils, recharge groundwater supplies and buffer the impact of both floods and droughts, by capturing water and releasing it slowly.
Yet drainage and infilling continue to damage these wetlands.
Groundwater Also Vulnerable
But surface waters aren’t the only concern in the report.
Bacteria that indicate the possibility of contamination from the surface are commonly found in private water wells.
The serious kind, E.coli, was found in 6% of water samples taken. E.coli can be found in human and animal feces.
The study warns that water from almost all of the public drinking water sources within the watershed, while safe to drink, are at “high or moderate” risk of pollution.
Places falling into this category include Inglis, Asessippi Park and East Blue Lake in Duck Mountain Park.
The appearance of some public groundwater sources is also being affected.
For example, the public water supplies of Ricker's Campground on Lake of the Prairies, as well as the Towns of Roblin and Inglis, exceed the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Aesthetics for factors such as manganese, hardness, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
The report goes on to say, several species of birds, fish and plants face an uncertain future in this area. That’s because their habitat is being lost more quickly than it is being restored.
Spragues’ Pipit (l.)is one of the species in the Shell River Watershed at risk. (Photo courtesy GoogleImages.)
The report calls for several steps to be taken to improve the situation. Among them;
• Neglected, abandoned or unused wells should be sealed because they can act as a direct pathway for contaminants from the surface.
• New drainage projects should be done using Best Management Practices, with careful regard for the environment,.
• Solve the lack of long-term planning by creating a watershed-wide Surface Water Management Plan.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Manitoba's Conservation Minister, Stan Struthers, promises that past mistakes in the way factory hog barns have grown up in parts of the province, will not be repeated elsewhere.
Struthers makes the remarks in an interview with "Paths Less Travelled" today.
(Struthers Photo Courtesy Gov of MB)
In the face of sustained and sometimes vicious opposition from the hog lobby,
Struthers (also the Minister responsible for the environment) recently piloted a law through the provincial legislature, freezing the development of new factory hog barns in three areas of the province; the Interlake, the Red River Valley and the southeast.
But new ones will still be allowed in the rest of the province!
In that regard, Struthers has reassuring words for people in these areas (like myself) who might fear they will be adversely affected by new barns.
He says a working group will bring recommendations back to him that will address such things as spread fields, nutrient levels and the ability of crops to take up those nutrients from the soil.
Environmentalists and others have complained in the past that too much slurry (the waste from millions of hogs in these barns), has been applied too heavily as fertilizer on "spread fields," where crops like corn or forage are typically grown.
This practice creates as excess of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. These then build up in the soil and wash off into rivers, streams and lakes, notably Lake Winnipeg.
There, they promote the growth of algae which deprives waterways of oxygen. (Lake Winnipeg is one of the world's largest fresh-water lakes with one of the biggest drainage areas.)
At least one scientist said recently, Lake Winnipeg is in danger of becoming a "dead zone,"in which waterways become so polluted they choke out all important aquatic life, including fish.
Several huge dead zones already exist in many parts of the world. And, they're growing. Fed by things like synthetic farm fertilizers, livestock, industrial and human waste, they wipe out commercial fisheries and often provide homes for nothing more than jellyfish!
Struthers referred to the many pig factories that have sprung up around La Broquerie and Hanover in the southeast over the past several years, for example, as "extreme."
But he believes many existing big barns in such locations will now start installing state-of-the art sewage treatment plans, even better than some already in use in urban centres. He says they will have to make such improvements, if they want to expand those facilities.
He also thinks more and more companies will harness the methane from their own operations to generate power and thus keep their costs down.
And he hints that improvements proposed in a report of the Clean Environment Commission, (into hog industry "sustainability") will be incorporated into the report from his working group. That, he says, will mean that the mistakes of the past, will not be repeated.
Big changes could also be on the way in the process surrounding future project approvals, the Minister hints.
Technical Review Committees have gained the reputation of being rubber stamps for barn applications in the past.
Struthers says those committees have been "worse than rubber stamps. They have simply rammed projects through!"
The Minister also suggests ways must be found to take the pressure off smaller farmers, the kind exerted by the big industrial-style barns, so they can continue to survive. He suggests organic farming could be a solution.
Struthers believes the trend toward the large factory-style hog barns began several years ago, when the previous Tory government did away with the Hog Marketing Board.
He confesses he would have liked the subsequent NDP government to have held a vote, to decide whether farmers wanted it back. No vote was ever held.
Struthers did not say when the working group will get back to him with recommendations on the future course of hog industry development. But, as he puts it, "The sooner, the better."
Footnote: I believe Stan Struthers and his government ought to be congratulated. He navigated the "moratorium bill" (the one which put a hold on hog barn construction in 3 areas of the province already saturated by them) through the Legislature under tremendous, often frenetic pressure from the hog lobby, represented by the Manitoba Pork Council. The Council, already the recipient of mounds of "corporate welfare" from all levels of government, continues to howl that it has been "picked on" & that it is not really to blame for pollution problems associated with its industry.
Manitoba's hog population has ballooned from about 2 million in 1990 to more than 9 million today!
As the Minister himself puts it, "How much is enough?"
Having said all that, I believe the real test of government sincerity will unfold down the road. If the hog industry is allowed to "saturate" the rest of the province, as it has already done in the 3 areas mentioned, (also under the watch of Struther's government) before being reigned in again, good will for this government, at least in my circle of friends, acquaintances and others who actually value the quality of our land, air and water, will quickly evaporate. L.P.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Annual report weighs opportunities and risks of biofuels
7 October 2008, Rome - Biofuel policies and subsidies should be urgently reviewed in order to preserve the goal of world food
security, protect poor farmers, promote broad-based rural development and ensure environmental sustainability, FAO said today in a new edition of its annual flagship publication The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2008.
(also see post directly below and my article "Bursting the Ethanol Bubble" in older posts.) L.P.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
(Also see my article, "Bursting the Ethanol Bubble" by scrolling way down to older posts.)
Saturday, 13 September 2008
While the crowds were perhaps not all we had hoped for, those who did attend clearly appreciated the produce, crafts, information, tea party put on by our host, the Life & Art Centre, and the live music.
Enthusiasts of local food production and marketing and the so-called "eat local" movement are well aware that many in our community grow their own gardens and share their bounty, free-of-charge, with their friends and neighbours। This is a time-honoured tradition and is as it should be.
Come to think of it, this practise surely is as central to the "eat local" movement as any other element - another pillar in a structure we know as "food security."
The consumers we are "targeting" are the ones who continues to buy exotic produce in the store, when the same is available locally!
We propose to help you break that habit by making local food equally "convenient" to attain.
You can read all about my pitch in support of eating local, below.
Just scroll down to "Earth Day Too Returns."
It should be mentioned also that there is no attempt here to put our local food retailers out of business!
We believe that more shelf-space dedicated to local food in these outlets is the way of the future.
Our biggest challenge now is to attract more producers, since the demand for local food, at least in urban centres, is exploding, beyond our capacity to keep up.
My next appeal would be to those who might be interested in organizing similar events in future years.
Help is urgently needed.
Once again, thanks to all who made our event a success, including customers, vendors, organizers performers, the Art Centre and the Manitoba Food Charter.
You are appreciated!
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
In 1992 Martin Entz started growing crops in an un-Western way to prove to himself that it couldn’t be done.
But after nearly 17 years of comparing organic and conventional agricultural practices at research farms around Winnipeg the plant scientist delightfully notes his assumptions were wrong.
The Glenlea long-term organic/conventional crop rotation study is Canada’s oldest and it’s providing valuable insights into natural farming systems.
A major finding pertains to soil health, specifically, the microorganisms living in it. (To re-cap from a first-year Biology course, over 95 per cent of vascular plants have fungi in their roots and this association benefits the plants in numerous ways.)
In Year 13, graduate student Cathy Welsh, working with Entz and soil sciences’ Mario Tenuta, compared the plots’ fungal spore density and diversity – a hallmark of soil health, and indirectly and to some degree, plant health. In short, the organic system was a metropolis compared to the conventional plot.
“It shouldn’t have been a surprise to find this, but it was,” said Entz, a University of Manitoba professor in plant science.
This has many implications, one of which pertains to fungal resignation.
Soil in conventional systems is obese with fertilizer-derived nutrients. This causes the plant, specifically those mycorrhizal fungi, to become lazy, which is a shame since they are superb micronutrient extractors. But in such systems they sit back and wait for fertilizers to bring the goods to them. They fail to extend their hyphae and the plant, as a result, ends up having a lower micronutrient density when compared to plants in organic plots.
So organic food not only has fewer pesticides on its exterior, but its interior hosts a gala of zinc, iron and the like. What’s more, when the plant is left to fend for itself its immune and other systems become more robust. Flax samples Entz took from his 1995 to 1999 crop years confirm this and a current project is further investigating it, as well as things like mill quality.
Another drawback to conventional farming is how much energy (read oil) it takes to cram nitrogen into fertilizer. Indeed, since about one-half of the energy on our dinner plate came from nitrogen, we are essentially eating oil, Entz notes.
To rectify this, he is experimenting with “green manure” – plants, like legumes, that extract nitrogen from the atmosphere. These plants then get mashed into the soil by way of a tractor add-on Entz’s lab created. The legumes soon decompose and cycle nitrogen into the soil.
All this sounds great, but everything seems to have a downside. A major flaw critics point to in organic systems concerns yields: you can’t, the argument goes, feed the world on organic.
“But that’s a premature debate,” Entz said, noting that less than one per cent of Canada’s land is now under organic cultivation. “The real debate needs to be on how we can achieve sustainable agriculture because our current system is not sustainable. Also, we need to keep in mind that much of the world currently feeds itself using what are essentially organic methods”.
Besides, Entz notes, the gap in yields should close with further research. Currently, organic plots produce up to 85 per cent of the calories a similar conventional field can, but it takes 30% less energy to do so. And as Entz and others work with farmers to breed crops specifically for organic systems the yields will increase.
“Our current agricultural model is getting tired. It had a good run, but it’s time to adapt – that’s how civilizations move forward. What Glenlea offers us is a laboratory that lets us explore what these natural processes offer humanity. And what we learned is that they offer a ton.”
|For more information, contact:|
Research Communication Officer
Office of the V.P. Research
Phone: (204) 474-7184
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Tasteless strawberries from California?
Potatoes from Texas or apples from Australia?
(All of which grow quite nicely here on our Canadian prairies, thanks very much!)
What's wrong with this picture?
Wouldn't it be better on so many levels to buy your veggies or baking, or preserves, or meat,for that matter, from a local producer rather than some faceless corporation in the supermarket?Obviously this is not always possible in the "off-season."But how about when these items are at their best,right in your own community?Does common sense not tell us;
b) we'd save a lot in transportation costs;
c) this would be kinder to the environment (avoiding all the harmful
greenhouse gases produced when our food is trucked over long distances);
d) we'd boost the economic health of those local producers?
Keep reading and find out what folks in the Roblin area of western Manitoba are doing to correct this unsustainable situation.
The "eat -local" movement in the Roblin area of western Manitoba will get another boost at a special event this fall!
Local Food Producers, the Roblin Life &
SEASON'S-END CELEBRATION MARKET
(sometimes called "Earth Day Too")
August 30, 10 am. - 4 p.m.Life & Art Centre - 3rd Ave NW & Hwy 5, Roblin MB.
Join us as we celebrate local food, life, and art in
& Art Centre building.
(Scroll way down to see what our "eat-local" movement did last year.)
Also, watch this video for an excellent summary of this subject from the
Kate (far r.) shows her guests some of the livestock.
They sell all kinds of fresh veggies and preserves.
Rowena and Larry Powell operate a vegetable market garden on a 6-acre parcel they call Earthkeeper Farm. It’s less than 20 kilometers northwest of Roblin.
For five years, their produce was certified organic through the Organic Producers’ Association of Manitoba.
While they no longer have their crops officially certified, their growing methods remain the same.
“We grow organically because we believe in it,” says Larry. “I think far too many chemicals are used on our food crops these days. We somehow have to find a way of 'getting our farms off drugs'and going organic!"
The Powells have marketed much of their produce at farmers’ markets in Winnipeg.
“It’s a long way to go,” Larry adds, “but that is where we had to go to find a ‘critical mass’ of people interested in organics.
“Eventually, I’m sure the market for organics, specifically, will grow to the point where smaller, urban communities will also seek it out.
“We’ll have lots of "fresh from-the-ground" stuff on sale at the Roblin market on Sat., August 30th (the Labour Day weekend). We’ll see you there!”
The Powell's will also be selling a limited quantity of their pure, homegrown maple syrup at the market.
Local horticulturist, Hugh Skinner will sell perennial flowers - hosta, daylily, lily, peony and possibly his comprehensive and authoritative gardening books
Isabel Wendell will sell her locally-produced honey।
ARLENE ARNOTT (r.):
Knitted Items; Pot scrubbers from baler twine and dish cloths.
Crocheted; Purses, Barbie and Ken doll clothes, baby sweaters
and bonnets, dresser runners, doilies, hot-dish mats, pot holders
and kitchen towels.
Brenda Neuhofer of the Inglis district will display the fine wools of "Asessippi Alpaca Products"(L), and finished goods made from the wool." These will include toques, scarves, socks and even blankets.
And, oh, by the way, don't be surprised if one or two of the animals themselves will make an appearance there!
will display an array of aboriginal art,
and birch bark biting.
Pat Kisiloski of Lake of the Prairies, near Roblin, will be there with sweet corn and some zucchini!
OTHER ATTRACTIONS: Plans are in the works for an herb demonstration, complete with recipe samples. (Those plans have yet to be finalized.)
Paul Chorney of the Manitoba Food Charter will be there with a display about his organization. Funding from Heifer International - a US-based charity which strives to achieve food security for people around the world - made available through the Food Charter, has made this event possible.
Pint-sized fiddling sensation Scott Cornelius will drop by the market in the morning. (Not only will he be playing, he'll have his CD, "Fiddlin' Around," available for sale!)
The Storeys from Grandview will add their own brand of celtic entertainment; Doug on bagpipes and Kate on the tin whistle.
Larry Powell will play a few tunes on his clarinet and may (if he works up the nerve),
even sing a song.
Thursday, 31 July 2008
Greenpeace challenges the sacred cows of modern society -farmers - and calls them to task for their considerable contribution to the degradation of our planet.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Beyond Factory Farming Manitoba, a group promoting the ethical production of livestock,has launched a new website as a response to the "Unfriendly Manitoba" ad campaign by the Manitoba Pork Council.
“It’s time to put the friendly back into Manitoba farming,” says BFF's Glen Koroluk.
There is a small minority in our community who would make
you believe that Bill 17 would devastate our province.
The Truth of the matter is that the Bill does not go far enough!
It will still allow unfriendly factory hog barns to continue to operate and expand in most of rural Manitoba.
Bill 17 is an amendment to the Manitoba Environment Act
which. If enacted, it will prohibit the construction of new, confined livestock areas for hogs and hog manure storage facilities, or the expansion of exisiting ones, in specific areas of Manitoba.
It allows existing factory farms in these areas to operate business as usual.
However, these areas make up less than a third of Manitoba’s farm land,
leaving the rest of the province open for unfettered large-scale
factory hog production.
Shifting a polluting industry from one part of the province to the other
is not friendly to family farms, not friendly to the environment,
and not friendly to rural Manitoba. And as it stands, Bill 17 will not reverse the deterioration of our provincial waterways, including Lake Winnipeg.
In fact, with millions of dollars of taxpayer aid, Manitoba’s hog
industry is restructuring, consolidating and expanding its
This means Maple Leaf Foods and Hytek will be building new factory finishing barns in western Manitoba.
The launch of http://www.friendlymanitoba.org will take place:
11:00 am on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 at the Forks Market: Tower Atrium (beside the canopy)
For further information, call Glen Koroluk at 296-2872 cell 943-3945 w
- 30 -
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
the Government of Manitoba।)
Called "Crops, Cars and Climate Crisis," the forum featured four notable experts on the topic.
They all referred to the dramatic and disastrous food price increases that are devastating the world's poor and which are being aggravated by the diversion of so much food into vehicles.
One of the guest speakers was Javiera Rulli, of "Base Investigaciones" in Paraguay.
She told of an assault taking place on the environment, human health and human rights of citizens of that South American country।
It is all due to the transformation of the small nation to monoculture crops for the production of "biofuels" or "agrofuels" to power vehicles, rather than to feed people, she said.
Big landowners and farmers are clearing forests, displacing people, sometimes by force and treating the large, genetically-engineered fields with sprays that often inflict serious skin ailments on children living nearby, Rulli said।
(Rulli showed her large audience a slide of a young boy suffering from a serious rash covering his entire body।)
She added, this ruthless push to transform the country was being aided and encouraged by large chemical companies such as Syngenta.
People once used the disappearing forests to hunt, trap and log, she went on. Now, those opportunities are disappearing, too, along with natural places and the biodiversity of wildlife which lived there.
Another speaker, Pat Mooney of "ETC Group," Ottawa, said he has spoken directly with many of the "movers and shakers" in the biofuels industry.
Oddly enough, he says, many are, themselves renouncing this rush to divert food into fuel. Instead, he says, they are hinting at some, mysterious "second phase" of biofuels which will correct all the problems of the past. But, he adds, they won't come clean on the details. He notes that the players putting big money into researching this "second phase" are the same ones who've created the problems in the first place!
"Depending on biofuels to solve our problems," quipped Mooney, "is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine!"
The other speakers at the forum were Darrin Qualman of the National Farmers Union and Diddit Pelegrina of SEARICE, the Phillipines.
(Also please read "Bursting the Ethanol Bubble.")
Friday, 11 April 2008
A new report released by Greenpeace on the 10th of April 2008 finds that logging in Canada’s Boreal Forest is making global warming worse by releasing greenhouse gases and reducing carbon storage. It also finds that logging makes the forest more susceptible to global warming impacts like wildfires and insect outbreaks, which in turn release more greenhouse gases.
Canada’s Boreal Forest is dense with life. Richly populated with plants, birds, animals, and trees; home to hundreds of communities; and a wellspring of fresh water and oxygen, the Boreal has long been recognized as a critically important ecosystem. But as rising temperatures threaten to destabilize the planet, the potential of the Boreal’s carbon-rich expanses to mitigate global warming continues to be underestimated.
Based in part on a comprehensive review of scientific literature by researchers at the University of Toronto1, this report examines the complex relationship between global warming and Canada’s Boreal Forest. It finds that the intact areas of the Boreal are not only actively helping to slow global warming, but are also helping the forest itself to resist and recover from global warming impacts. These unfragmented areas are also helping trees, plants, and animals to migrate and adapt in response to changing climate conditions.
At the same time, however, it finds that logging is destabilizing the Boreal Forest in ways that may exacerbate both global warming and its impacts. The forest products industry and government regulators adamantly deny that logging in Canada’s Boreal affects the climate. But research shows that when the forest is degraded through logging and industrial development, massive amounts of greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere, and the forest becomes more vulnerable to global warming impacts like fires and insect outbreaks. In many cases, these impacts cause even more greenhouse gasses to be released, driving a vicious circle in which global warming degrades the Boreal Forest, and Boreal Forest degradation advances global warming. If left unchecked, this could culminate in a catastrophic release of greenhouse gasses known as “the carbon bomb”.
For these reasons, the report concludes that greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced and that intact areas of Canada’s Boreal Forest must be protected—for the sake of the forest, and for the sake of the climate.
(For the complete report, click on the link to the right.)
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Last fall, I had the privilege of visiting an enchanting area of my province along and around the Waterhen River. It's distinctive for a couple of reasons. It's the shortest river in all of the province, flowing out of Waterhen Lake and into northern Lake Manitoba. And it's also the province's most pristine. Environment Canada actually called it "excellent" in terms of water quality, the only Manitoba river to get that rating. I'm posting a few shots here for your enjoyment.
Friday, 28 March 2008
Photos Courtesy of "Stop the Hogs."
Seldom has there been a more important public debate in Manitoba than the one now raging over the hog industry.
Make no mistake. The issues here are grave.
A powerful industry, represented by the Manitoba Pork Council (MPC), is not only pitting itself against those of us who actually care about our air, water and soil, it's also challenging the very right of a democratically-elected government to govern on behalf of its citizens.
Thrown into this explosive mix are questions about the role of our cherished academic institutions. Are they remaining "above the fray?" Or are they taking sides?
Over a year ago, amid howls and threats from the hog lobby, the government of Manitoba imposed a temporary ban on new factory barns. This was to allow the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) to study how sustainable they are.
After receiving that CEC study a few weeks ago, the government obviously decided, they aren't sustainable enough.
It kept the ban in place in three regions of the province. That leaves open a vast area of Manitoba where they will still be allowed, however.
This map shows existing hog factories.
But that isn't enough for the industry. As usual, it wants it all. It is demanding the government reverse its decision and lift the ban in all areas, saying, with monotonous regularity, that it is being "picked on."
It has once again dragged out a tired old "study" that pigs contribute just a tiny part of all nutrient-loading in Lake Winnipeg. It turns out, that "study" has never been peer-reviewed, published in a scientific journal, or even mentioned in the CEC report!
Perhaps even more disturbing is the knee jerk reaction of a University of Manitoba official to march in lock- step with the MPC's shaky science on the matter. In several media statements, the Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Michael Trevan has supported the MPC's position.
Significantly, the CEC itself recognizes there are "shortcomings in the current science" surrounding this matter. So just how can Dean Trevan be so sure of himself in this case?
The U of M has had long-standing relationships with the pork industry over the years.
For example, a company specializing in hog genetics, "Genesus," provided the breeding stock at the University's Glenlea Research Station south of Winnipeg.
Genesus is no shrinking violet when it comes to politics. In a recent article on its website, it demands that the Government of Saskatchewan get out of the hog business. The article labels that involvement "foolish and socialistic."
So does the University (and Dean Trevan obviously speaks for his institution) simply share the same ideological bent as its business partner "Genesus?" (i.e. that government has no business interfering in the affairs of commerce?)
The Pork Council already has the backing of the corporate media in the province. That is no surprise.
What is, is the U of M's apparent willingness to risk its reputation as a place of intellectual, independent thought!
Then there's the endless argument over "sustainable development." (That which meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations.)
Listening to the Pork Council, you'd think they are as sustainable as can be.
Never mind that you and I are paying out millions in endless government subsidies so the industry can carry on. (Manitoba just recently announced about $20m dollars would go toward upgrading water treatement systems at two hog slaughtering plants in the province. Not to mention government aid to help slaughter excess hogs plus an unknown amount to help the industry "cope" with the continuing hog barn bans.)
Its sometimes said that, if the industry had to pay for the true social costs of its operations, it would go broke. Interestingly, while it bristles at suggestions of government regulation, it is not so proud as to refuse the corporate welfare so lavishly bestowed upon it by the public purse.
Larry Powell - Roblin MB
(Powell represented "Citizens for Family Farms" in a submission to the CEC one year ago.)