Archive for April, 2013

Food Read Round-up: Ontario re-introduces Local Food Act, and more on how pharmaceuticals, pesticides and superbugs have made our food system toxic

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

Photo: Flickr, thornypup

 

Earthward is on hiatus for a few weeks due to a family emergency but Tweets will continue at vw_ward

Local Food Act called “stepping stone”.  On March 25, 2013, the Ontario government re-introduced a local food bill that bit the dust last fall when former premier Dalton McGuinty decided to prorogue the legislature. Welcomed as an important first step by local food advocates and food and farm workers, the proposed act aims to build food security and boost jobs in the province.

If the act is passed, the Canadian Environmental Law Association says it will strengthen the local food economy by:

  • making the Minister of Agriculture and Food – who happens to be Premier Kathleen Wynne –responsible for implementing the act and advising the government on local food issues
  • requiring the minister to prepare an Ontario local food strategy
  • providing funding to develop the distribution system for local food
  • requiring the public sector to procure more local, local sustainable, or local organic food
  • encouraging eco-friendly practices farming, goods and services for farmers, and production and processing of healthy food
  • promoting food, agriculture and garden-based educational activities in schools.

Read the draft bill online.

OMA wants ban on antibiotics in livestock feed.  The Ontario Medical Association has called for a ban on the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, citing the worldwide increase in antibiotic-resistant strains of pneumonia, tuberculosis, staphylococcus and other pathogens.

An estimated 80% of all antibiotics solid in the U.S. are added to feed to keep factory farm animals free of illnesses that can slow their growth and reduce their market weights.  (It’s likely the percentage is similar in Canada but no comparable statistics are available.) Poultry, beef, pigs and other animals raised on factory farms live in crowded conditions, close to, or on top of, one another’s waste. The drugs used in feed are similar enough to those prescribed for humans that their overuse can result in “cross-over bacteria” with resistance to human medicines. A wide variety of medical and scientific organizations have expressed concerns on the issue and in the EU, antibiotics in animal feed have been banned since 2006.

In a related story, scientists have found conclusive proof that a drug-resistant superbug (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus , or MRSA) that caused human infections in Denmark actually came from livestock. The findings provide further evidence that routine use of antibiotics in meat and poultry leads to development of superbugs.

Ottawa refuses to say whether drug-tainted horse meat entered food chain. In a March post, I wrote about a scandal in the European Union (EU) which involved the adulteration of beef and beef products with horse meat. Now it appears that Canada has its own horse meat problems. An investigation by The Toronto Star has uncovered major gaps in the country’s system for inspecting horse meat –specifically, meat from the many racehorses sent to slaughter each year.  Racehorses are given performance-enhancing drugs that can be toxic to people who consume the meat, yet Canada has no reliable way to keep the drug-tainted meat out of the food chain. To boot, Canada is a major processor of horse meat, supplying thousands of tonnes of it to Europe and Asia, as well as to Quebec and some Toronto restaurants. As part of the investigation, The Star learned that a former racehorse of Magna’s Frank Stronach had been slaughtered and packaged for human food, despite having recently been injected with a drug linked with bone marrow disease in humans. Neither the slaughterhouse nor the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) would say whether the meat had entered the food system.

Lawsuit seeks to address bee Colony Collapse Disorder and demands EPA protect livelihoods, rural economies and environment. No bees, no food. We all rely on bees to pollinate crops and produce honey but bee colonies are declining thanks to routine use of pesticides on food crops. On March 21, 2013, four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups in the U.S. filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its failure to protect pollinators such as bees from dangerous pesticides.  The coalition wants to suspend use of insecticides that have been demonstrated as toxic to honey bees and major contributors to colony collapse disorder (CCD). 

The pesticides involved — clothianidin and thiamethoxam — are “neonicotinoids,” a newer class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by all parts of a plant. Neonicotinoids have been used heavily since the mid-2000s, at the same time as beekeepers started observing widespread cases of CCD.  

What food stories have you been reading?