Larkin Schmiedl's Blog

Journalist at work

Posts Tagged ‘Food politics

Kamloops Farmer’s Market video series: Silver Springs Organic Farm

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Mendel Rubinson farms near Savona, B.C. with his partner Paula Rubinson.  Their farm is called Silver Springs Organic.  In this video Mendel shares a bit of his farming story, and his opinions about local, organic, and what he chooses when the two collide.

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The Art We Are making news

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Christina Grono, owner of The Art We Are, was interviewed by CBC's Rebecca Zandbergen on Radio West live Mar. 2 at The Art We Are. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

The Art We Are is a colourful local coffee shop, restaurant and art gallery that strives to be a community hub for music, art, relaxing and making connections.

Owner Christina Grono was interviewed on site this past Friday Mar. 2, by CBC’s Rebecca Zandbergen of Radio West.

Grono described some of her philosophy behind the café on air.  “Everyone is welcome.  I just felt that if people could express themselves in a safe place, it spreads creativity and helps growth and helps community.”

“In my travels and going to other cities I felt like we needed a place where people could create community, where they could come at all hours and be able to just feel like they could come and read their book, and be here for eight hours if they wanted to be.”

The Art We Are is quite a unique business in Kamloops, both in terms of how it looks, and how it actually feels.

As part of my project on this food blog I’ll be interviewing Grono this Wednesday.  I’ll be looking at her philosophy behind her business, and how it coincides with the type of food The Art We Are uses.

I’ll be talking with her about some of the ethical issues that arise for her as someone who is both a conscientious consumer while also being constrained by the limits of running a business.

Stay tuned for more information on the interview coming up.

Christina Grono of The Art We Are interviewed by Rebecca Zandbergen of CBC's Radio West. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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“What is perhaps most troubling, and sad, about industrial eating is how thoroughly it obscures all these relationships and connections. To go from the chicken (Gallus gallus) to the Chicken McNugget is to leave this world in a journey of forgetting that could hardly be more costly, not only in terms of the animal’s pain but in our pleasure, too. But forgetting, or not knowing in the first place, is what the industrial food chain is all about, the principal reason it is so opaque, for if we could see what lies on the far side of the increasingly high walls of our industrial agriculture, we would surely change the way we eat.
“Eating is an agricultural act,” as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world–and what is to become it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction. By comparison, the pleasures of eating industrially, which is to say eating in ignorance, are fleeting. Many people today seem perfectly content at the end of an industrial food chain, without a thought in the world; this book is probably not for them. There are things in it that will ruin their appetites. But in the end this is a book that is about the pleasures of eating, the kinds of pleasures that are only deepened by knowing.”

– Michael Pollan

Written by larkinschmiedl

February 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Percy Schmeiser went up against Monsanto

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Percy Schmeiser at TRU Jan. 25. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl

Percy Schmeiser is a well-known Saskatchewan canola breeder and organic farmer who came into contact with Monsanto when he found unwanted genetically-modified (GM) canola plants growing in his field.  His struggles, lawsuits and victories are well documented in the press, and I had the chance to see him speak live here in Kamloops on Jan. 25 at Thompson Rivers University (TRU).  He is in his eighties now, and sometimes goes on speaking tours to educate people about what he sees as the dangers of GM foods.  He spoke to around 175 people in the Clocktower auditorium.

Monsanto is now the largest seed company in the world.

I took some audio and pictures of his talk, and here is part of what he had to say:

Schmeiser says these are the fundamental issues that were on the line when he took Monsanto to the Supreme Court of Canada: Video

Schmeiser says Monsanto threatened him in various ways: Video

He said that farmers fall under Monsanto’s contracts even if they haven’t signed.  They are bound by virtue of what is in their fields–so if Monsanto’s GE plants pollinate with your plants and begin to grow on your property, even if you don’t want them there, you can be held responsible.  He read out the contract, and it was, frankly, shocking.  Here is some more information about the contracts Monsanto produces.

Monsanto has its own investigation and police force, and puts out ads encouraging people to let them know if they see ‘Monsanto’s’ plants growing in their neighbour’s fields.  The company offers gifts to anyone who provides information.

For more information on Schmeiser, his history with Monsanto, and his views, search his name in Google and you will have plenty of information on your hands.

***

Here are some more bits of information about GM foods for folks who are not familiar:

GM crops were first introduced to the world in 1996.

Genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s) are not labelled in our food in North America, despite all the unknowns.  In Europe, GM food is banned.  (As one consequence of this, North America cannot export GM crops, or crops contaminated with GM genes, to Europe.  Canola is one of these crops, since it can no longer be guaranteed GM-free even if it’s organically grown, due to cross-contamination where the GM plants breed with the plants in the organic field.)  Percy Schmeiser took Canada to court at the U.N. in Geneva over lack of GMO labelling.

The science to date about GM foods is not conclusive.  The largest factor concerning GM is that its effects are unknown.

The social and political effects of GM, and the workings of Monsanto, are however much better known.

The Institute for Responsible Technology publishes the “Non-GMO Shopping Guide.”  One useful piece of knowledge I found when scanning through it is that, “If a non-organic product made in North America lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets.”

Here are some links to further reading about Monsanto and some of the controversies the company is involved in (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).

Monsanto, World’s Largest Genetically Modified Food Producer, To Be Charged With Biopiracy In India, HuffPost Canada, Oct. 2011

Monsanto Accused In Suit Tied To Agent Orange, NPR, Feb. 1, 2012

Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds, The WIP, May 2011

Occupy Wall Street Stands with Farmers, Says Enough! to Monsanto, CommonDreams, Jan. 31

This WordPress blog has many articles relating to both Monsanto and food issues generally: Food Freedom

A couple of Monsanto’s technologies:

Round-Up

Terminator Seeds

There is so much to learn about GM, and it’s an ongoing discussion in the larger community as well as the scientific community, with new discoveries being made all the time as we deepen our understanding of this extremely powerful and potentially very dangerous technology.

It’s important to separate the social structure and corporate structure of GM foods from the science of it so that we can understand each piece of the puzzle as we consider the problem.  And it’s equally important to be able to unite these factors and see it as a whole, for that is how it is presently operating in our world.  A big part of that whole is determined by what Monsanto is up to.

Food brainstorms

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My investigation begins.  It began years ago, really, when I first became acutely interested in food politics.

I am in process of surveying local food issues, and will be attending the Kamloops Food Policy Council meeting this Wednesday.

I spoke with Anne Grube yesterday, who is a local organic farmer (Golden Ears farm) and mother of city councillor Donovan Cavers.  (Cavers also runs a local catering business that strives to provide local organic ingredients, Conscientious Catering.)

I’ve been brainstorming ideas for stories, thinking about what can be put in concrete terms that really delves to the heart of issues with food and the food movement, and speaks to what a wide audience is concerned about.  The best idea I have so far is to look at the pricing of organic foods vs. conventional foods, to look at the reasons and provide information that people can base their purchasing decisions on, or at least give some food for thought and further research.

I have an obvious bias in support of organics and local and sustainable foods, so I will just put that front and centre right here.  However I do not think this prevents me from delving in and reporting on the issue.  I hope that by being transparent about my beliefs and background I will be able to put forth some of the concrete things I have learned about the food system in my time, alongside new research, and presented in balance with other perspectives.  My aim is for us all to learn, and find our way collectively toward a food system we can believe in, and that is viable to create.

Any ideas, readers?  Anything you’ve always wondered about food or the food system?  Any things you think need to be heard about more in the media?  Write and let me know.  I want to know what folks are wondering and concerned about.

The ideas I’m playing with right now include:

  • Food recommendations and the official national food pyramid–how it came to be, and what factors influenced its development?  What do dietary experts have to say about it?
  • Food irradiation treatment–what exactly is it, and how does it work?
  • The Kamloops public garden is expanding to the North Shore in the spring, and this is of interest locally.
  • Kamloops grocery store waste–what is given away and where to, and what goes into the dumpsters?  (I used to procure a lot of my food from dumpster diving, but not in Kamloops, so I have first-hand experience of the vast amounts of food that are thrown away, and am curious about what is happening here in Kamloops.)  What regulations govern food donation, and what laws apply to dumpster divers?  How does this relate to poverty in town?
  • How much food do we actually have in Kamloops that is locally produced?
  • I had the idea to create an interactive online food miles calculator that would tell you where your food came from if you typed in the type of food, its brand and where you got it.  This does not exist on the internet that I know of, and it would be a complicated, extensive and ever-changing and expanding project.  I think it’s pretty far outside the scope of what I could accomplish in this course.  I am very excited about the idea of a project like this though.  This sort of database could link to a vast amount of information about environmental impact, farm conditions, predicted nutritional value, profiles of stores and what they provide, and more.  Very exciting.  The sorts of food miles calculators that exist online now are approximate and do not provide detailed information.  Here is one good one if you just want to calculate how far a particular item has travelled to get to you.  All you need to know is what country your food item came from.

I’ll continue brainstorming, blogging and reporting as the days and weeks go on, so stay tuned.

On the beat: Food

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We all eat.  Food is an issue that concerns each and every last one of us.

We care about how much it costs.

We care about how food is produced and what conditions on farms are like, as distant from us and as obscured as these may be.

We care about how food gets to us and what the environmental impact of this is.

We care about how food is processed and what its resulting nutritional value is.

We care about having safe food.

And we care about having some sort of connection to our food, whether that comes in the form of comfort foods, foods we are familiar with, culturally appropriate foods, or having a first-hand connection to our food by, say, growing a garden or signing up for a local CSA (community-supported agriculture).

In upcoming entries I’m going to be talking about food from a local Kamloops, provincial B.C., national and international perspective as I work on a feature story for my journalism course in politics.

I’ve been involved in the organic and sustainable food movement for close to 10 years, and food represents a web of issues that is dear to my heart.  I hope that my passion and my journalism will both bring revealing information on the issue for you to discover and contemplate.

Written by larkinschmiedl

January 22, 2012 at 2:45 am

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