Friday, August 31, 2012

Food Prices Set to Soar. Reducing Poverty in Manitoba Just Got Harder.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Early last year stories hit the news about the potential for food prices to rise throughout 2011. 
 PLT photo
Commodities prices for wheat, corn, sugar, and others were all on the rise which ultimately resulted in a 4.4% rise in the cost of food to December 2011. Full story here

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shockwaves in Manitoba's Hog Industry Over Investigation

People in Manitoba's hog industry are shocked a farm in the western part of the province is under investigation for animal cruelty. Full story here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Latest Hurricane Shows Interesting Timing

Sooo.....Hurricane Isaac has forced the Republican National Convention to take a recess.....couldn't happen to a nicer group of climate-deniers.  PLT

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are Canada's Pesticide Regulators on the Take? (Opinion)

 Canadian Authorities Refuse to Protect Precious Pollinators From Known Toxins. Is Something Crooked Going on Here? 
Bumblebees forage on organic chives. A PinP photo

For way too many years now, they and their political masters have been stubbornly refusing to protect our precious plant pollinators such as bees from known toxins. 

Isn’t it high time we found out why?

It’s gotten to the point where, to me, the failure of these individuals to lift a finger to save collapsing world populations of these creatures, borders on the criminal. It even smacks of collusion between them and the agro-chemical industry.

For years, scientific research teams both far and near, have been documenting dwindling numbers, even extinctions, of several populations of honey bees and bumble bees.

Scores of reputable groups, including The Canadian Pollination Institute (CANPOLIN), the Xerces Society and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the ‘States, are all sounding the same alarm;

“The diversity and abundance of insect pollinators are in a global state of decline. This decline represents a serious threat to the integrity of natural ecosystems and the production of many crops.”

Xerces has been devoted to preserving habitat for invertebrates since 1971. It stresses, the importance of pollinators is not to be underestimated.

“Bees are undoubtedly the most abundant pollinators of flowering plants in our environment. The services that bees and other pollinators provide, account for over 30 percent of the foods and beverages that we consume.”

So Who or What is to Blame?

Many culprits are suspected in the deaths of pollinators. They include mites, pathogens, habitat loss, diet, stress and climate change.

But, for years, a common thread has woven its way through the scientific studies; several pesticides used by conventional farmers and beekeepers to control crop pests and mites which prey on the bees.

According to NAS, these products “Kill or weaken thousands of honey bee colonies in the US each year. Pesticides can potentially harm many bee species and even eliminate some pollinator populations in ecosystems.”

Just last week, a British newspaper, the Guardian, reported US honey bee colonies had suffered another catastrophic winter loss of over one third! That’s the fourth straight year of similar losses.

Corresponding numbers for Canadian beekeepers are expected soon.

While it cannot be proven conclusively, NAS says pollen from genetically-modified crops may even be affecting the “behaviour, physiology and reproduction” of honey bees and even the quality of the finished product, honey!

None of this has prevented millions of acres of farmland from being sewn each year to GMOs. 
On the Canadian prairies alone, GMO canola is so dominant it has wiped out the market for organic farmers by contaminating their fields with its pollen.

And, oh, by the way, GMO corn, sugar beets, soy, alfalfa and possibly even wheat, are either already licensed, or ready to be rubber-stamped by our “regulators.”

Xerces calls certain insecticides “highly toxic to bees” and blames them for “most of the bee poisonings in the Pacific Northwest.” (Both US & Canada.)

Is this just a faraway problem? Not really.

In 2006, one product blacklisted by Xerces, chlorpyrfos (Lorsban) was used to combat an outbreak of bertha armyworms in canola crops in western Manitoba. It was sprayed from the air over a vast area near Roblin and Swan River. It even made some people sick. (True to form, nothing was done about that.)

Needless to say, its impact on pollinators was neither considered beforehand, nor investigated afterward.

In 2008, another product singled out by Xerces, clothianidin, (Poncho)  killed billions of honey bees in Europe. After that, several countries banned or suspended its use there. But not Canada.

Here, it is commonly used to treat canola seed. Scientists call it a “systemic” poison, which gets into all parts of a plant; the stem, root, leaves, flowers, nectar and pollen (which the bees gather and eat).

The bulk of honey produced here in Manitoba comes from bees that forage on canola.

Then, a couple of years ago, our regulators added insult to injury. They licensed yet another, similar product, spirotetramat (Movento). Beekeepers fear it is even deadlier than its predecessors! (See Manitoba Co-Operator, Oct. 9-’08, “New Systemic Insecticide Worries Beekeepers.”)

In the US, a judge recently ordered spirotetramat removed from the market. But not in Canada.

Then, last summer, the Monsanto Corporation helped write another sad chapter in this sordid tale.

Monsanto and its co-inventor, Dow AgroScience, announced the arrival of a new GM crop in Canada and the US, “SmartStax” corn.

It contains a witches brew of additives including cleverly-manipulated genes and clothianidin, one of the most notorious bee-killers in the chemical-makers’ arsenal.

The government’s Food Inspection Agency authorized its release without even conducting an environmental risk assessment. Neither Health Canada nor its “Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency” bothered to look into any impact the new product might have on human health or safety.

In so doing, they violated the spirit of “Codex,” an international food safety treaty which Canada helped to negotiate.

Codex warns that “unintended effects” may arise from consumption of products made the way “Smartstax” is made, and ought to go through a full safety assessment. That, of course, was never done.

So what is going on here?

Might the giant chemical companies actually be greasing the palms of bureaucrats and even their political masters to get them to do their bidding?

I have no idea. And I’m not saying that they are. 

What I am saying is, what other explanation makes sense? Why is no one stepping up to explain this baffling, misplaced loyalty to the corporations rather than to we, the people who elected them?

After all, if there is something crooked going on, it wouldn’t be the first time.

A few years ago, the US government sued Monsanto $1.5 million for bribing Indonesian officials to license its GMO cotton in that country. (Ironically, cotton, too, needs bee pollination to produce.)

In the late 90’s, Monsanto actually offered Health Canada a bribe of up to $2 million to approve its bovine growth hormone here. It was rejected, but only after senate hearings and accusations from government scientists who actually had a conscience. They complained they were being pressured by their bosses to fast-track approval of the hormone, despite evidence that it was harmful to both cattle and humans.

My own province, Manitoba, concedes that “certain bee species are declining.” But, in an email from the office of the Minister in charge of the Environment, Bill Blaikie, I was told that, “a lack of information on most species makes assessing their conservation status difficult if not impossible.”

Difficult if not impossible? With a defeatist attitude like that, what hope is there?

About a month go, I asked my own Member of Parliament, Inky Mark, why chemicals harmful to pollinators keep getting approved. He still hasn’t answered!

He did, however, vote the other day in the Commons with the biotech industry and against a progressive private members bill. If passed, it would force the government, before rubber-stamping any more GMO crops, to think about how farmers’ pocketbooks might be hurt if other countries won’t buy those crops.

(Keep in mind GMOs lead to more pesticides use and, of course, more bucks for the corporations.)

If the industry truly believed the propaganda it spews out, that it works “with nature” and for “sustainable agriculture”, it would surely put an immediate halt to the production of these evil concoctions.

To be sure, not all the pieces of the "pollinator-decline"puzzle have yet been found. But why do they have to be? Does every “t” have to be crossed and every “i” dotted before anything is done?

I would submit that more than enough is now known about pesticides to act, either by banning or at least replacing the worst offenders.

Call me crazy, but would this not relieve at least one point of pressure from these embattled creatures?

Meanwhile, Canada’s PMRA clings stubbornly to its denial line. In a recent message to me, the agency’s Chief Registrar, Marion Law, insists Movento, specifically, "underwent 'rigorous scientific review' and was shown to pose 'no unacceptable risk' to humans, the environment, or bees!"


Few people would be so naïve as to think that pollinators are the only creatures in mortal danger on this planet. Smarter people than I claim we are now living through the worst era of mass extinction since the dinosaurs! But, if the prospective loss of pollinators, which help us produce the very food we need to survive, does not move us to action, what the Hell will?

Might now be the time for a judicial inquiry to shake some answers loose?

As long as our government officials continue to spew out little more than “don’t worry, be happy” platitudes as some sort of pitiful response to this looming global catastrophe, I believe that it is time!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Very Few Canadians Doubt Climate Change

Vancouver Sun
Only two per cent of Canadians who responded to a new opinion poll believed climate change is not occurring. Full story here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stop Great Barrier Coal - Sign the Petition. Please

Australia could let mining magnates build one of the world's largest coal ports on top of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem -- opening access to 8 billion extra tonnes of planet-killing coal and risking the survival of this entire amazing world heritage site.
Details here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Manitoba's Lakes Have High Concentrations of Algae-Produced Toxin

By: Jenny Ford - Winnipeg Free Press
Manitoba lakes have some of the highest concentrations of a potent toxin produced by blue-green algae, a study published today found. Details here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Farmers' Pardons Another Slap in the Face

Laura Rance - Winnipeg Free Press 
Harper's act of clemency hits at CWB
PLT photo
As the new marketing era dawned Aug. 1, Canada's prime minister took his revisionist view of history and his ideological vendetta against the Canadian Wheat Board to a new level. Full story here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sustainability Now a Matter of Life and Death

IPS - Interpress Service
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 8 2012 (IPS) - Humanity is living beyond its means with the growing demand for food, medicines and other nature-based products, making sustainable consumption and conservation a matter of life and death. This is according to the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Details here.

World's Underground Water Resources Are Being Over-Exploited, Scientists Say


Irrigation pivots sit idle in winter, in the US midwest. PLT photo.
LONDON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - The world is depleting underground water reserves faster than they can be replenished due to over-exploitation, according to scientists in Canada and the Netherlands. Details here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

Dear Reader,

By way of explaining why my blog has been so dormant, I suffered a heart attack about a month ago. They rushed me by ambulance from Roblin (MB) to the cardiac wing in the Regina General hospital. There, they installed a "stent" in a blocked artery, then did open hearts surgery during which they bypassed six other arteries. Lucky for me, the cardiac ward in Regina and the people who work there, are world-class.

I'm home now, recovering. But I'll now have to visit a sleep clinic in order to deal with my Sleep Apnea which appears to have returned. I may have to start using (for lack of the correct, technical term) a "sleep machine" to help me at night.

Should be able to get back to posting regularly, in short order.

Thinking of you all.


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