Letters to the editor – May 23, 2013

EU BEATS CANADA

Oh, to be in Europe, now that they have put us to shame, once again.

Member states of the European Union have just voted to ban that “devil family” of bee-killing pesticides known as neonicotinoids.

It is now illegal to apply the stuff anywhere over that entire continent. While Europe has finally seen the light, oceans of it continue to be applied with abandon on food crops in North America. The seeds of crops such as corn and canola are now shot full of it before they even go into the ground.

I guess authorities here and chemical giants, which make these poisons, don’t want us to know certain things. For example, when Italy acted on its own a few years ago and banned it, pollinator populations bounced back the following season, with little or no effect on crop production.

A year ago, during corn planting season in Ontario and Quebec, there were well over 200 separate complaints from beekeepers of honeybee kills. Regulators have responded by promising to “review” the complaints and possibly “tighten up” the warning labels on the products. Scary.

In the United States last year, commercial beekeepers report they lost up to one half of their hives.

Authorities described honeybee losses in Canada during the winter of 2010-11 as drastic and extreme. The following winter, for some reason, they were much better.

Still, given the wild west mentality that prevails in this country, and the resurgence of corn, treated with you-know-what, as a livestock feed on the Prairies as well as Central Canada, it’s hard to imagine how that state of affairs can last.

Larry Powell,
Roblin, Man.

OBESITY BEFUDDLES SCIENCE

In over 80 years of living, with half of that involved in animal agriculture, teaching, extension and research into human nutrition, I have never read so much misguided and misguiding balderdash as that in the Farm Living section, “Tackling the obesity question” (WP April 18)

The address by Dr. Robert Dent to the Conference Board of Canada food strategy conference on April 9, epitomized everything that has gone wrong with “science” and “scientists” in the last 50 years.

His incredible statement that “obesity is not rocket science, it is a lot harder,” leads me to believe that science has been seriously crippled. To suggest that in the last 20 years, people have developed a genetic predisposition to become obese defies all the laws of genetics.

Human generational intervals are about 25 years, so the “recently appearing” genetic cause of obesity is impossible.

A statistician could have done a better job of increasing the awareness of the rising incidence of obesity to the conference, by simply tracking in graph form the coincidental rise in obesity since WWII, with the increased consumption of sugar, pop, fructose, white flour products, boxed breakfast cereals and all the other refined carbohydrate products that comprise over 60 percent of the space in modern supermarkets.

The confusion that folks have developed listening to musings and pontifications that MDs and PhDs offer about human health has created a society that is collectively crippled in its ability to find logical answers to health concerns….

I am convinced that if concerned people could return to the dinner table of my childhood in the 1930s, on which my mother would have placed garden vegetables, slightly crisp, and topped with homemade butter from our family cow, along with a slice or two of grass fed beef, they would have waxed eloquent.

The side dishes would impress them even more: tea with cream from the daily milking, or a glass of whole raw milk, and a slab of apple pie made with apples from a tree in the back yard…

Maybe it’s time we put “science” aside and used our common sense, choosing food that is whole, and teaching our children that indulgence with sugar and refined foods is poisonous.

For the adults who are obese and at the mercy of doctors, pharmacists and health scientists, I can only say I’m sorry that society has betrayed you.

Trevor Jones,
Fairview, Alta.

ALL-OUT ATTACK

Re: Biotechnology opposition off base by Lorne Hepworth (WP, May 02)

I found the May 2 propaganda article “Biotechnology opposition off base” to be somewhat economical with the facts.

Clearly, the purveyors of GM crops are feeling the heat from farmers and Canadians rising up in opposition to the registration of Roundup Ready alfalfa. This is rightly being viewed as an all-out attack against organic and other conventional farming systems.

In terms of the so called many benefits the author speaks of, GE crops can lay claim to really only two traits : the herbicide tolerant gene, as in Roundup Ready, and the B.t. pesticide gene (Bacillus thuringiensis), which renders the entire plant a pesticide factory.

All the inherent qualities of a seed that contribute to yield and nutritional enhancements are still being achieved by conventional breeding methods, which can in no way be credited to genetic engineering.

Factor in the emergence of resistant super weeds that is forcing farmers to use more herbicides, including older toxic ones like dicamba and 2,4-D, and anyone can see the full scope of the GM scam.

The author’s assertion that coexistence of GM crops is possible also rings hollow.

We only have to consider the example that has been set by GM canola in Canada to see the future inevitability of contamination of all alfalfa seed stock if Roundup Ready varieties are let loose.

Drawing on the expertise of 400 scientists from 60 countries, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that genetically modified crops will not address the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger or poverty.

It urged the world’s governments to redirect funding and efforts away from the destructive chemical dependent one-size-fits-all model of agriculture and towards a system which embraces small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods. I wonder if the author would regard the IAASTD as a special interest group as well.

Alex Atamanenko, MP,
B.C. Southern Interior,
Castlegar, B.C.

NO TO GM ALFALFA

Many of you have seen my name under letters to the editor here in The Western Producer and sometimes even in articles.

If you wondered what I look like, that’s me at the center of the picture in Lorne Hepworth’s op-ed piece in the May 2 edition.

Contrary to the assertions of agrochemical corporations like the one that pays Mr. Hepworth’s comfy salary, the core message of the GM alfalfa protests was not that all innovative ag technology is bad.

I grow GM canola on my farm and many of the Ontario protesters grow GM soybeans, which shows that many of us definitely embrace biotech innovations we think will be profitable.

Most articles about the protests faithfully reported economic concerns as our main focus. Corporate control of farming decisions by patent, by contract, and by the de-registration of any alternative was another.

Most of Mr. Hepworth’s piece was platitude and misdirection. The only paragraph which actually addressed our concern of gene transfer ending the entire organic alfalfa industry (and negatively affecting organic honey, beef, milk, etc.) was downright laughable. It is impossible, not just improbable, to stop the field release of GM alfalfa pollen by cutting before flowering.

You will always miss a few plants on the corners or at the fence line, or scoop up a gopher mound and push over plants instead of cutting them, or some plants will just flower before you are ready.

Biotech isn’t inherently evil, but some efforts will clearly do more harm than good. Triffid flax, anyone?

Glenn Tait,
Meota, Sask.

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