Issue 257: July 2008


 "Green Is The New Black"

by Cathleen Kneen

Slow Food is In, fast food is Out. Eating local, buying direct from a farmer, seeking out organic foods, have all become fashionable. Although supply has not yet caught up with demand, those farmers who are able to sell into this ‘high-end’ market are (finally) recouping the costs of production. We haven’t yet figured out how to use this trend to increase the quality of food available to the poor. However, I am sure that the more we can produce our own food, rather than trucking it in from somewhere else, the more that Nature’s abundance will provide extra to feed the whole community – a sort of ‘Zucchini Theory’ of food security.

From a public health perspective, this trend has huge advantages. Aside from the obvious fact that it is much easier to monitor quality in small batches, sales direct from the producer to the consumer are 100% traceable. So you would expect that the CFIA would welcome it with open arms and appropriate standards. After all, as a conscientious CFIA scientist recently revealed, the CFIA is planning to pass the job of monitoring food safety standards over to the industry. To the contrary,
however: while Unilever, Cargill and Saputo are trusted to monitor themselves, small producers and processors are regarded with distrust and burdened with ever-increasing regulation and restrictions, many of which make no sense whatsoever. Where is the risk in selling eggs that have not been graded as to size and weight at the farmers’ market?

Fresh from the disaster of the imposition of regulations on abattoirs in BC – which has left large swaths of the province without any slaughter facilities as the small, locally-focused plants could not afford the fancy upgrades, and caused countless small farms to quit livestock as part of their holistic production systems – the key actors in the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Ministry of Health are reported to be plotting even more comprehensive regulations for all food processing and distribution, which will make the local direct market prohibitively expensive and bureaucratic.

Of course the contradiction is only on the surface. Once you accept that the guiding policy (not to say ideology) is that Bigger Is Better, the spectre of increased numbers of small entrepreneurs becomes the epitome of Risk, to be avoided at any cost. The real risk, of course, is that we continue on this road, driving small producers out of business, depleting rural communities and leaving ourselves dependent on an industrialized, globalized food system controlled by profit-seeking corporations.

My guess is that once people have come to appreciate the real value of locally and ecologically produced foods, they will not willingly give them up. It’s not just trendy, even though Green may be the food fashion basic just as black is the clothing fashion basic. If the government attitude and regulations don’t change, the “Green” market will become the new black market. After all, there is far more risk for all of us in losing our capacity to feed ourselves than there is in eating food that comes from someone you know.


#257: July 2008 TOC
"Green is the New Black" - Regulation stifling direct markets may lead to a new black market in local organic food
Government Dismantles Itself - from the CFIA to research, government is handing responsibilities to corporations
A Very Different Attitude - the Bocock family donates most of their farm to the University of Alberta for agriculture research
Ray Epp writes from Hokkaido, Japan, about using wild yeasts 
Sustainable Fuel Initiatives:

  Growing biodiesel for their own farms - a farmers coop in Manitoba grows 'feed' for their 'horsepower'
  Learning Centre Proposes Waste-based Biodiesel - Everdale Centre in Ontario looks at 'renting' their product to restaurants and then recycling it as fuel
  Reducing Carbon Emissions - Prince Charles' Aston-Martin runs on ethanol from 'surplus wine'
  What goes ’round ... - a correspondent notices sustainability behaviour in birds
Corporate Watch:
  Rearranging the Deck Chairs - Mergers and Acquisitions
  Tyson Foods - plans to sell beef interests, focus on chicken
  Cargill & Fertilizer - update on world's primary phosphorus and potash producer
  A Public Food Policy - Food Secure Canada members plan a coast-to-coast public process on food sovereignty policy