Letters to the editor – August 23, 2018

Hog producers won’t benefit

An article in your Aug. 2 edition suggested that Canadian hog producers might somehow benefit from the U.S.-China trade war, and specifically, from high punitive duties on U.S. pork exports to China.

Let’s examine the facts. In mid-August the Alberta Index 100 slaughter hog price was $1.31 per kilogram, while the estimated break-even point is $1.65 per kg. Far from benefitting, Canadian producers are losing in excess of $30 per head.

Based on current futures market trading, the losses for Canadian hog producers will continue well into the first quarter of 2019.

Canadian producers are paid by formulas that are based on the U.S. hog price. If the U.S. price declines, so too do Canadian prices, period.  If there are benefits in terms of improved sales to China, or other markets, those will accrue to Canadian pork packers, not to the producers.

Unfortunately for producers, unless your name is on the box of meat going to China, you do not benefit.

Ron Gietz
Brooks, Alta.

Who benefits from ‘sustainable beef?’

I was rather underwhelmed by recent press regarding McDonald’s starting to sell “certified sustainable beef.”

Claims that this is the first such program in the world don’t bear much scrutiny. Having read the program production protocols, I can assure you they are considerably less rigorous than those I was meeting for the Scottish Farm Assurance program in the early 1990s.

My experience with that program doesn’t encourage me that there will be any benefit to Canadian cattle producers from this program in the long run. The Scottish model similarly encouraged early participation with the promise of market premiums, yet once a critical mass was achieved the premiums disappeared and anyone who wasn’t “Farm Assured” had their produce discounted in the marketplace.

I predict Canada will follow the same path as Scotland with the cattle producer left to shoulder the burden of ongoing costs and regulation to meet the standards in perpetuity, for no financial benefit. With only $20 per head being used as the bait in the trap — and this being paid to the feedlot operator — the rancher likely won’t get enough to buy a Big Mac the day he is in town selling his calves.

What really rankles me is that farmers and ranchers must be certified as having production practices attaining a certain level of environmental and operational sustainability — for McDonald’s. It’s the same McDonald’s whose menu items are generally considered junk food, contributing to the obesity epidemic and include a throwaway Chinese made plastic toy with every kids meal. I’d like to know where the sustainability, environmental or otherwise, is in this case, and who is auditing them?

I think the real driver of this program is fulfilling the desire of agri-food processors and retailers to environmentally “greenwash” their corporate images in the eyes of the consumer. What they are really trying to buy for $20 is the trusted reputation farmers and ranchers have built up over generations. I’m sorry, but mine isn’t for sale and I won’t be participating in any such scheme.

Iain Aitken,
Belmont, Man.

EU gene ruling supports science

Re: WP Editorial: EU’s gene editing ruling shows disdain for science, Aug. 2.

Regulating the newest genetic engineering techniques to assess safety is not a hit to science-based decision-making, but rather ensures it.

The European court ruling to regulate gene-editing techniques as genetic modification makes no judgment on these new technologies other than to establish the need to examine them, via scientific evaluation.

Disdain for science would be to endorse a new technology writ large based on claims of safety, without independent investigation or regulatory assessment.

The fact that the biotechnology industry protests that regulatory review will slow down development and product approvals does not make the EU court decision anti-science.

Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
Halifax, N.S.


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