Archive for August, 2011

Adieu le bon Jack

I’m impressed with Toronto; it has shown heart.

It had felt like things were getting a bit chilly in this town over the summer. City Hall’s swing to the right and its attempts to drop Toronto’s local food procurement policy, remove funding from community gardens – essentially putting an end to a growing urban agriculture movement, reversing bike lanes that even the cabbies like, closing community swimming pools and public libraries — basically all things that build community and make big cities livable.

But I think a very clear message has been sent to the powers that be over the last week—and we have Jack Layton to thank for it — amongst all the other things we have to thank him.

In his passing, we have rallied and stood up proudly, and shown just what kind of leaders we want. I am very proud of Torontonians. They — we — have shown heart, something we are often accused of lacking.

It is events like this, sad as they are, that can help build the character of a city — a united identity and vision of what a location represents.

I’m feeling optimistic.

Thanks Jack, you managed to bring us all together once again!

They have ripped up the better half of Dundas St. between Dovercourt and Lansdowne for sidewalk and streetscape reconstruction. It’s noisy and messy. But on the bright side the construction company seems to have learned from its mistakes on the north side of the street, because the crews have been pretty good, on the south side, helping mothers with strollers navigate the ramps and trenches to access the store where I work.

Rumour has it they’ll be ripping it all up again in October for more work, leaving me with no questions as to how our city money is spent and re-spent. Well, maybe one question.


I’m told that when the city has street work to be done, it has construction companies bid on the job. According to one insightful healthy food shopper, the scenario goes something like this:

1. Company 1 bids on the job saying that it will cost the city x dollars and take y time.
2. Company 2 makes a bid saying they can do it for half the cost and in half the time…because they have a dragon to help them.
3. Impressed, the city goes with company 2.

What happens then is that the job drags on, taking longer than scheduled, and ends up costing much more than quoted because, as we all know, there’s no such thing as dragons!

Now, you might think the city would do some research beforehand to cost their projects before believing in impossible fantasies. But they don’t. And so they do not know the real cost of things—which in the end costs us more.

It is a bit like the cost of food.

A real tomato does not cost 30 cents. This is what a tomato-like fruit costs, with added chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides because it is grown in depleted soil, and is likewise depleted of nutrients, like vitamin C, and has little flavour.

The cost of a real tomato grown under the sun in healthy soil, containing all the good taste and nutrients we expect from fresh food, is $1. That is the real cost. It is more expensive, but it is the cost of doing it right. The good thing is that there are no hidden costs that follow. In fact, you are compensated for the higher price with a cleaner environment, more vibrant local economy, and healthier food.

Doing things right the first time costs more, but at least we only have to pay it once.

Earlier this year, the USDA approved the planting of genetically modified alfalfa—that normally nutrient-rich sprout loved by healthy types across the land. Canada responded in lackluster fashion by promptly dragging its heels in a proposed ban of the Roundup Ready Herbicide tolerant product created in the labs at Monsanto.

Can anyone tell me why we need to make alfalfa GM? Last time I checked, it was a “health food”, eaten by health food lovers –- the same people who tend to avoid genetically modified anything because of the risks involved.

In response to our country’s lack of response, the Canadian Organic Growers signed legal action against Monsanto in March. The lawsuit is led by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) based in New York. PUBPAT is known for standing up to corporate greed against patents that are not in the public interest.
This particular suit is against Monsanto’s practice of defending its patent rights through legal action against farmers.

Any farmer who has the audacity of having the wind or wildlife (and their droppings) transfer GM seeds onto their land can face fines of up to $200 per acre.

The case against Monsanto rests on four main points:

1. that Monsanto’s GM seed patents are invalid for a variety of reasons, including the facts that they do not meet the tests of novelty and of usefulness
2. that Monsanto’s GM seed patents cannot be infringed if the plaintiffs’ fields become contaminated through no fault of their own
3. that Monsanto’s GM seed patents are unenforceable
4. and that Monsanto would not be entitled to any remedy against the plaintiffs

Monsanto responded by calling the lawsuit a publicity stunt, and has filed a letter asking the court in New York to dismiss the case. If this is denied, they’ve asked to move the case to a “friendlier” court in St. Louis, where Monsanto is located.

Last month, the Monsanto was granted permission to file a motion to dismiss the case. PUBNAT one month to file an opposition to Monsanto’s motion to dismiss.

Feels down to the wire. And depressing. And high time to start growing our own sprouts at home, or getting them from some reliable local growers like Kind Organics.

If you can, please support COG’s campaign.