GM canola and alfalfa, and a little poetry news

I’ve been discovering some shocking things about genetically modified foods in Canada this week, and so will all of you with televisions that can be tuned to Global for a documentary on Saturday night, March 23 at 7pm (dunno if it’s the same outside BC). Hijacked Future is about GM foods, but also about the stranglehold that large, profit-driven corporations are securing on the world’s food supply, while we consumers blithely carry on as it it were the most natural thing in the world for farmers to be forced to buy new seeds every year instead of saving and planting their own stocks, developed for local ecosystems and disease resistance.

Stephen Hume‘s article in the Vancouver Sun this week previews it nicely:

“…it’s fascinating to observe how we appear to be collectively sleepwalking toward … a potential catastrophe with that most strategic of all things, a sustainable, secure, equitably distributed global food supply… [Hijacked Future] takes dead aim at the question of whether it’s in our best national interests as informed, intelligent citizens of a global civilization to snooze while a few giant trans-national corporations succeed in their attempt to monopolize food production.”

I learned a bit about organic farming, too, and the loss of Canada’s organic canola crops, both as a commercial crop and as an invaluable rotation crop. It appears that because of the (non-organic) genetically-modified canola in our fields, over 90% of all canola – including organic – has been contaminated now. This has caused a significant loss of livelihood to organic farmers, so two Saskatchewan canola farmers tried to bring a class action suit against Monsanto, on behalf of all certified organic farmers, but our very own supreme court told them in December they couldn’t. The farmers are currently considering their options. Percy Schmeiser is our best documented case of unwanted GM crops intruding on private land against the wishes and intent of a farmer, and our higher courts did a less than heroic job there too. Although he’s just won – wait for it – $660 from Monsanto in a small claims settlement for costs involved in cleaning the GM canola off his fields.

Thank heavens for the farmers, consumers, environmentalists and courts of California, who were able to call the USDA on its ill-judged approval of genetically modified alfalfa. Alfalfa is hardly a glamour crop, being mostly known as animal feed, but it is also a crucial rotation crop for organic farmers. In both these roles, it sits at the bottom of our food chain, and we should – must – pay attention to what happens to it, or risk losing organic farming forever.

And on the poetry side of things, if you want a little extra CanLit reading you can sign up for The New Quarterly‘s new e-newsletter.

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