Issue 250: October 2007




There’s a game called “Food Security Bingo” where you can only cross off a square that is called if it fits you. But I had no trouble with the question “Name a culture based on corn” – it’s North America, obviously. Just about everything we eat is based on corn, fractionated (isn’t that a lovely word?) into ingredients for just about every packaged food, and the packaging too.

I was playing the game at the Food Security Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, which made the question rather poignant. When I was growing up in St. John’s, there was a saying, “You can’t starve a fisherman” – and I’m sure a DNA sample of the average Newfoundlander would show that we were all made of cod and potatoes. But since the industrialization of the fisheries and the destruction of the Northern Cod, hunger is a reality, Newfoundlanders rely on imported packaged food, and they are now as full of corn as the rest of us.

Happily, however, they are fighting back. The Assembly attracted more than 100 people from all over the province, including a sizeable contingent of Indigenous people (Inuit, Innu, Mi’kmaq) and a smattering of passionate young organic farmers. Behind the registration was a table overflowing with local produce, from berries to lettuce and tomatoes, brought from local farms. In keeping with this, the presentations at the conference focused, not on the crises of hunger and obesity, although they have been important in sparking the food security movement in the province, but rather on the elements of food security which are being built with an East Coast twist.

The young mayor of Branch, a village on the South Shore of Newfoundland, described the ‘Singing Kitchen’ – a community meal designed to bring together isolated seniors for food and a traditional sing. A young farmer argued that since food is medicine, the province should pay for the training of farmers who commit to local agriculture, just as it pays for the training of physicians who commit to two years of practicing in the outports. Perhaps the most powerful presentation was a simple description by a respected elder of the Innu Nation in Labrador of her annual trips “to the bush and country” and two-week annual canoe trips with local youth, to teach them how to live in, and on, the land. It was this vision which I think inspired the spirit of the gathering: to learn to think again in terms of subsistence, to celebrate and learn to use what it is that the land offers.

Newfoundland is not known as “The Rock” for nothing. The growing season is short and the soil is thin. However, Newfoundlanders also don’t give up easily, and they don’t like to be dependent. I was impressed by the willingness I saw at the Assembly to drop their differences and prejudices and work together to find ways to feed themselves. And sing about it.

For more information on the Newfoundland and Labrador Food Security Network, see  <>

Winner of the DNA Cup
Winner of the DNA Cup


#250: October 2007 TOC
Bingo! - Cathleen reports on the food security assembly in Newfoundland
R.I.P. Prairie Agriculture Co-Ops - latest merger clearly ends the farmer-led vision
Minister Supports Organics - Saskatchewan government looks favourably on organics
Persistent Bacterium - new research shows bacterium can transfer into other genomes
"We have no clue..." - Dow spokesperson is unusually candid
Energy and Synthetic Fuels - relating energy policy to other policy areas:
    * Synthetic fuels from slaughterhouse waste
    * Agrofuels not climate-friendly
    * A way to sell more
    * Rising food prices, inflation
Cargill update: (see also 'Cargill Profile')
    * Record 'earnings' - revenues for the last fiscal year were $88.3 billion
    * Kitchen Solutions (egg and breakfast products division)
    * Biodegradable packaging - an agreement with Teijin (Japan)
    * Cargill Canada - the grain trade
Healthy information policy - Sweden gives out information to public!
Roundup Ready diplomat - US ambassador pushes Afghanistan to spray poppies
What does 'Natural' mean? - we look at ice cream and what it's made of, including fish genes
    * Technical Background from ISIS