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LAST UPDATE April 02, 2015


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Looking to buy fresh produce straight from the farm?

 Shared Harvest Okanagan website

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BC Stats
Issue 15-12
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

8.2% of B.C. households experienced food insecurity in 2011/12

Almost 145,000 B.C. households, or 8.2% of the total, experienced food insecurity in 2011/12. A household that is not food secure is one that does not have access to a sufficient variety or quantity of food due to lack of money. This was just below the national rate of 8.3%.

Of B.C. households, 5.3% reported moderate food insecurity and 2.9% reported it as severe. Among types of household, lone-parent families with children (under the age of 18) reported the highest rate of household food insecurity (24.5%), while couples without children had the lowest rate (3.3%). In 2011/12, four percent of children and eight percent of adults in British Columbia lived in food insecure households.

Across Canada, 1.1 million households experienced food insecurity in 2011/12. Nunavut had by far the highest rate (36.7%), while Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest (7.6%).

While low income contributes to food insecurity, Statistics Canada has noted that households where government benefits (such as employment insurance, benefits from the Canada Pension Plan, and provincial or municipal social assistance) are the main source of income had higher rates of food insecurity (21.4%) than those households where income is primarily from an alternate source (6.1%).

Source: Infoline is BC Stats’ highly successful free weekly information bulletin. Published since 1995, it has become an essential tool for executives, managers, analysts, libraries, businesses and media. It is our most widely distributed and timely review of statistical releases and events that shape or describe the economic and social fabric of British Columbia.

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The government is now changing legislation so that imported food from China and other places and processed in Canada is not labeled "made in Canada" as it has been in the past.

Doesn't it bother you when you can't read the date code on food product packaging or labels?

Would it bother you if we could not feed ourselves solely on our own land in our own country of Canada?

Would you like to see food that Canada is now growing and can grow naturally, is not imported in the slightest bit, unless there is a shortage?

Does it bother you that government is now into controlling junk food?

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Health Canada Exposed

Bill C-51 publication from Parliament's website

Stop Bill C-51 website

Can Health Canada be Trusted With the Police State Powers Sought For In Bill C-51?

Health Minister Tony Clement fully supports enforcement actions causing the deaths of Canadians

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Have you noticed the Saskatoon Berry trees this year 2010 yet?
These spiked Saskatoon berries have a fungus disease called Saskatoon-Juniper Rust.
It is a fungus that can spread 1/2 mile.  Disease problems are more prevalent in years of greater than normal precipitation. Disease control involves pruning, sanitation, and use of fungicide. Pruning tools must be disinfected after every cut. All pruned material should be burned. Burn any berries that fall on the ground and clean up any leaves and other debris under the tree.  More information about Saskatoon-Juniper RustMore pictures from the Okanagan 2010.
The Saskatoon Berry is a member of the apple family.

Saskatoon-juniper rust:
The most common species of saskatoon-juniper rust infects leaves and berries, and can cause extensive damage. Infected fruit are unmarketable. Characteristic symptoms include firm, yellow, spiky outgrowths. Another species of saskatoon-juniper rust infects twigs and branches, causing swelling and distortion. The saskatoon-juniper rust requires native junipers as alternative host plants.

Saskatoon bush with Saskatoon-Juniper Rust
click for larger photo

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Councillors say fruit farmers deserve help
Kelowna Capital News - By Kathy Michaels - February 24, 2011

Kelowna city councillors spoke out on behalf of agriculture this week, as they signed off on a resolution that could eventually allow them to lobby the province for more funding for farmers.

“If you look across the country, the government hasn’t supported agriculture as part of our economy. Before the Olympics, the province doubled the budget for tourism, but agriculture has been stymied for years,” said Coun. Robert Hobson following the reading of a resolution being sent to the Southern Interior Local Government Association.

If it’s approved at the association-level, it will be forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference, where local-level politicians lobby to impact provincial legislation, and in this case ask the province to “increase financial support of agriculture consistent with the national average.”

It’s the type of support, explained Hobson, that should eventually benefit everyone.

“It’s an investment in a renewable resource like forestry,” he said. “(The Ministry of Energy) got a boost a couple years ago, and now it’s got lots of money, maybe funds can come from them.”

Couns. Charlie Hodge and Graeme James also threw their support behind the industry also, referring to it as the back-bone of the economy.

“Funding is ridiculously low,” said Hodge. “This is the future, it’s where food comes from and it’s what made this province what it is.”

In recent years, provincial agriculture budgets have dwindled by $2.5 million in expenditures, which is a fact that doesn’t indicate further investment.

But Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, said council’s support is much appreciated, as his peers are facing dire circumstances.

“It’s a disaster out there —this is the third year of poor returns,” he said, explaining that’s left more farmers making the decision to shut down portions of their orchard to reduce costs.

As is, the expectation is that orchardists will bring in 12.5 cents a pound, for apples—a half-cent rise from last year’s returns —and further financial failures will only make things worse.

“The other thing that’s going to have an impact on production and fruit is growers ability to support financing and credit for the coming year's crop,” he said.

“Growers by and large did a good job of finding credit in years past, but when you have two years in a row of similar concerns, it may be a different situation altogether.”

Cuts to supplies, like fertilizers, or services, such as pruning crews, are the first to go, but the worst is the fact Sardinha believes many will cut their safeguards.

“I don’t know if they’ll have the money to go out an get hail insurance,” he said. “It’s that tight out there.”

Looking at ways to regulate the market may be the best bet to ensuring agriculture has a future, he explained, noting that despite its weakened standing, agriculture is one of the financial backbones of the Okanagan.

“We generate $200 million of economic activity in a year, and you can’t replace that overnight,” he said.

Coun. Andre Blanleil pointed out that while he’s not against the idea of further industry support, it’s important to remember that funding isn’t limitless.

“Where is this money coming from?” he said. “Do we ask them to cut other things, or raise taxes?…I realize these are great motherhood issues, but at the end of the day, who is going to pay the bill?”

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Sharing your harvest online
by Castanet Staff - Story: 58033 - Nov 6, 2010

An online classifieds system is providing a central hub for those interested and involved in food and agriculture in the Okanagan.

FarmFolkCityFolk is expanding their number of Shared Harvest sites to include the Okanagan, providing free online classifieds for locally produced food and agricultural products.

The first Shared Harvest site was launched for for Metro Vancouver in September of this year and shows an array of ads including wanted ads for bees and garden space, available ads for locally grown kiwi fruit, and a food event calendar.

FarmFolkCityFolk is working towards a network of Shared Harvest sites across BC to support the trade of food and agricultural products within and between regions.

The addition of the Okanagan and Victoria brings the Shared Harvest network to a total of three sites with the location for a fourth to be determined by a BC-wide competition.

Shared Harvest, Okanagan will allow farmers, processors, grocers, restaurants, distributors and the general public to post and browse ads for free.

The ads provide an up-to-date, season by season snap-shot of which local foods and agricultural products are available and in demand.

For businesses the site provides increased access to selling and buying opportunities for the public it means more local food for local tables.

Shared Harvest Okanagan will also support food rescue efforts by providing a venue to direct leftover, quality food away from landfill.

Grocers, hotels, restaurants and even backyard gardeners with “too much of a good thing” can post food donations and those registered charities and societies involved in feeding those most in need, can post want ads.

Link: Shared Harvest Okanagan website

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Recognize fruit and vegetable label numbers.

If it is a 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced.
If it is a 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is GM. However, do not trust that GE foods will have a PLU identifying it as such, because PLU labeling is optional.
If it is a 5-digit number beginning with a 9, it is organic.

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The future of food is genetically altered - by Rachael Kimola - Story: 56168 - Aug 8, 2010

You could be eating gene-altered food every day and not know it.

A Kelowna nutritionist has formed a group to help educate the public about a matter that affects every Canadian, that is the amount of genetically altered food we consume every day.

Heidi Osterman is the president and founder of the True Food Foundation (TFF), and her aim is to let people know what they are eating.

“There are five major food crops currently in commercial production that have been genetically manipulated: canola, corn, soy, sugar beet and cottonseed. All are used to make vegetable oil, soy and corn by-products and are used in most processed foods and grown for animal feed. Without our knowledge--we are consuming products containing GMOs. We should demand that GMO content in food be identified so that we can decide whether to eat GMO-containing foods or not. Such products should not be forced upon us without our knowledge,” says Osterman.

She says some 70% of boxed foods at supermarkets have GMOs.

“There is no labelling required for it, so people can't easily make an informed decision not to eat them. Part of the focus of TFF is to gather signatures in support of Bill C-4747, which will be voted on by Parliament in September. It will require a moratorium on GMOs until more study and independent research can be done.”

Osterman says the only testing currently being done on GMOs is by the companies which create them.

“That's a little like allowing Charles Manson to perform his own psychiatric exam. The government just takes their word that the food is safe and there are no long term effects. We need independent studies, studies on how eating GMOs can affect humans over the long run. Right now, there are a few animal studies, done in other countries, which shows the health effects on third generation rodents (three generations eating only GMOs). The rodents have been shown to have developed fertility issues, cancerous lesions, in some cases, even hair in their mouths. Can we really expect results to be different for humans?”

She says even a small tipping point can help put pressure on the companies and government to change their approach to GMOs.

“Even a change of 10% at the supermarket level can have a huge impact. If people refuse to buy GMOs, policy will be changed.”

Osterman says the first step is for people to inform themselves about the issue.

“There is info on our website, as well as a free movie called 'The Future of Food,' which is fantastic. We also set up an info booth at farmer's markets across the Okanagan. Once people have the info, we encourage them to sign our petition and write a letter to their MP.”

She says they are working on making the petition sign-able through the TFF website, but for now, it can also be signed at Nature's Fare markets in Kamloops and Kelowna.

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B.C. unable to monitor fish health
By JES ABEITA, Vancouver Sun August 5, 2010

With Ottawa preparing to take over the job, fish farms stop cooperating with province
The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture is no longer able to audit information on fish health and sea lice provided by B.C. salmon farms.Photograph by: Bill Keay, Vancouver SunThe B.C. Ministry of Agriculture is no longer able to audit information on fish health and sea lice provided by B.C. salmon farms.

In April, the farms stopped providing the ministry with samples of fish tissue and carcasses, which the ministry normally uses to double-check information provided by the farms.

Industry representatives said they took the action in preparation for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ takeover of fish farm regulation from the province in December.

They said they’re still collecting the samples, but believe the information should be audited by an independent, private company during the transition to ensure it is done consistently.

However, nobody is doing such audits at the moment: The fish farmers’ association is still reviewing proposals from companies that want the job.

Patrick Vert, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry, said until the federal government takes over, “there is surveillance taking place but there is no data from carcasses or live fish,” to track disease or lice.

Colleen Dane of the BC Salmon Farmers Association said farms have not changed their testing procedures, even though samples no longer go to the ministry.

“Fish health technicians collect samples from dead fish collected on the site,” about once a week and test to find the cause of death, she said. The monitoring also includes checking live fish, selected at random, for sea lice. The information is put into a database and shared with the ministry.

Farmer’s association executive director Mary Ellen Walling said that since the ministry was “winding down” its aquaculture department in preparation for the transition to federal oversight, the industry decided third-party auditing was the best way to safeguard the integrity of the information the farms are collecting.

David Lane, executive director of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, called the lack of audits on the salmon farms’ data a “ridiculous notion.” He added: “This is a long-standing program that the provincial government has done to audit the numbers that are collected by the salmon farming companies —for them to just drop that and stop complying means there is no government oversight.”

Walling said the farms are still in compliance with management plans and ministry staff still visit the farms to check for compliance.

But Lane said compliance with the management plans is irrelevant without samples being submitted to provincial authorities for testing.

“I hope the DFO is looking very closely at this and realizing voluntary measures don’t work,” Lane said.

“This is just as if restaurant owners were doing their own food inspections and sending it off to the restaurant owners’ association with no government inspectors coming in to take a look at things.”

Trevor Swerdfager, director general of aquaculture management for the DFO, said the federal regulations will leave “no room for waffling around.”

The proposed federal regulation would give the minister the authority “to require, not suggest or encourage or cajole, but to simply require as a condition of licence that sort of information be provided to us,” Swerdfager said.

The proposed regulations can be veiwed online at

jabeita "at"

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Day’s words one thing, gov’t policy another
Kelowna Capital News - July 27, 2010

To the editor:

I recently read (MP Okanagan-Coquihalla) Stockwell Day discussing freedom of choice, that buying local should be done by choice, not forced by law).

He states: “Anytime we bring in laws that limit our choices as consumers, it leads to decreased quality and increased prices.”

Very true. Does he remember bill C51? This bill was designed to take away the consumers’ choice by combining pharmaceutical drugs and natural health products into one category called “therapeutic drugs.”

All of these drugs would then become regulated.

It targets freedom to manufacture, freedom of resource, and the personal health care choices. Why?

In a nutshell, larger profits and control by large pharmaceutical companies.

This bill would also prepare Canada for the ongoing UN codex efforts to regulate food and drugs worldwide according to the corporate model endorsed by the World Trade Organization—just one reason why people protest.

Mr. Day’s government also defeated bill C517 to make labeling of genetically modified foods mandatory. So as Canadians, we do not have the choice to decide if we want to eat these foods which have been documented in mainstream medical journals as having “ disastrous side effects.”

Then there is bill C52 which he endorses. This bill would remove fundamental safeguards on property and privacy rights.

Mr. Day’s words speak of freedom of choice but his governments actions are completely different.

Dean Armeneau,

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Governments chip in fruit funding
Vernon Morning Star - July 03, 2010

Federal and provincial governments plan to invest $5 million to support the tree fruit industry.
morning star file photo

Federal and provincial governments have teamed up to invest $5 million in support of the tree fruit industry.

This funding aims to deliver results for farmers by helping to develop new marketing opportunities, infrastructure, and further improve orchard pest management.

“Canada’s Economic Action Plan is putting farmers first, by helping to increase production and sales, and creating more opportunities for farmers to get their product to market,” said Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“This investment will allow the tree fruit industry to find new technologies that will help them stay ahead of the curve in the global market.”

The province announced $2 million in funding, and the federal government will provide an investment of $3 million more.

This combined funding will be used for new environmentally friendly packing and storage infrastructure, marketing opportunities that raise the profile of fresh and processed apples, and to build on work accomplished by the sterile insect release program in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions.

“This is a significant investment that will give tree fruit growers in this province the innovative edge they need to strongly promote B.C. grown fruit and compete with producers in other regions,” said Minister of Agriculture and Lands Steve Thomson.

“In our discussions, the industry identified some areas, such as marketing and infrastructure, where they wanted to focus efforts and make further improvements.”

Canada’s Economic Action Plan continues to help farmers with its focus on strengthening the economy and creating jobs.

“Everyone benefits from a healthy and prosperous fruit industry,” said B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Joe Sardinha.

“There are approximately 800 orchard operators in B.C., and together they generate $900 million in economic activity that creates jobs and delivers high quality products to markets in B.C. and around the world.”

The federal funding investment is made through the AgriFlexibility Fund, a five-year, $500-million fund created to help reduce costs of production and improve environmental sustainability for the sector; promote value-chain innovation and sectoral adaptation; and respond to emerging opportunities and market challenges for the sector.

The governments of Canada and B.C. also offer a suite of jointly funded Business Risk Management programs under Growing Forward. AgriInvest, AgriStability and AgriInsurance (crop insurance) work together to provide farmers with support against farm income and production losses beyond their control.

For more information on this program go to

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'Made in Canada' rules under review
CBC News - May 22, 2010

Canadian consumer groups are urging the government not to alter its new "product of Canada" and "made in Canada" food labelling rules as Ottawa considers exempting some ingredients.

Two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new rules for labelling. Products had to contain 98 per cent Canadian ingredients to be considered a "product of Canada."

But food processors across Canada have complained that it's almost impossible to comply.

For example, Chapman's Ice Cream, located in Markdale, Ont., has Canadian employees, uses packaging made in Canada and milk from Canadian cows.

But company president Penny Chapman still can't put a "product of Canada" label on her wares because she uses some imported ingredients.

"You cannot in Canada buy [domestic] cocoa beans to make chocolate, we got refined sugar, we don't have [Canadian-grown] pineapple," she said. "It's just plain old stupid."

Dave Shambrock of the Canadian Council of Food Processor said Chapman is not alone in her frustrations with the regulations.

"More and more companies have simply taken the "product of Canada" designation off their label," he said.

In response to those concerns, the federal government is reviewing the regulations and floating the idea of exempting sugar, salt and vinegar from the rules.

Bruce Cran is with the Consumers Association of Canada, which originally lobbied for the 98 per cent standard, and said the government is caving in to food processors.

"It was quite obvious that [food processors] had a preference for cane sugar bought from Third World countries over anything that might be produced in Canada. We do produce sweeteners in Canada but they're expensive and that's why we want a made-in-Canada label."

Chapman said using homegrown sugar along with Canadian milk would price her ice cream out of the market.

The government's review should be completed by the end of June.

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Meat rule changes slammed
Vernon Morning Star - By Richard Rolke - April 27, 2010

Local politicians believe new meat processing rules ignore the North Okanagan’s needs.

The provincial government has introduced two new categories of licences to B.C.’s meat inspection regulations.

“It’s a positive move for up north but it doesn’t easily accommodate our needs,” said Buffy Baumbrough, a Vernon city councillor who has been fighting the regulations since they were created.

One of the new licences (Class D) will permit geographically-restricted sales in nine designated areas while the other licence (Class E) allows for the on-farm slaughter of a small number of animals annually for direct sales to local consumers in rural communities that cannot support a fully licensed facility.

The North Okanagan is not one of the nine designated areas for Class D licences, and North Okanagan Regional District director Rick Fairbairn believes Class E will be too restrictive.

“I don’t see it helping our problem,” he said.

“It won’t give a break to small-scale producers for farm-gate sales. There’s a general discontent from the farming community on what’s been presented.”

Baumbrough says Class E training isn’t available yet, and believes the process to get such a licence could be too bureaucratic for producers.

“It’s not even clear if they can get a Class E licence here,” he said, adding that the North Okanagan should be one of the Class D distinct areas in B.C.

“I want the application of the regulations provincewide.”

Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, supports the new licence categories.

“Local farmers and ranchers asked me to encourage government to take a second look at how the regulations were impacting them,” he said in a release.

“With their help, we were able to find a good solution that balances health protection with freedom to operate their businesses efficiently.”

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City Hall abuzz about bees
Kelowna Capital News - By Jennifer Smith - March 25, 2010

There will be no bumbling around when it comes time to pollinating this spring.

Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd has decided honey bees will soon hold a special place of esteem in Kelowna’s heart.

This year, when the Mayor’s Environmental Expo is held, it will also be used to celebrate the city’s new Day of the Honeybee, as proclaimed by the mayor.

International Day of the Honeybee began in 2009 and is celebrated May 29, the day after the expo.

Coun. Michele Rule said the buzz about our bees came to the attention of the Central Okanagan Healthy Food Council after she heard about the movement on Facebook.

“Honey bees are our hardest working bees,” she said, noting they’re critical for food production and to maintain the flowers that support biodiversity in our ecosystem.

Honey bees are our domestic bees and they are dying at “alarming” rates in every country where they are,” according to Shane Ekdahl, who started the Facebook site in their honour.

There is no clear answer as to why bee populations are dying off, although disease and climate change are listed among the suspect causes.

jsmith "at"

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Poverty analysis calls for more responsive actions

Dr. Paul Hasselback speaks about the costs of poverty as Lenetta Thordarson, Bob Kay and Shelley Cook look on at a press conference marking the release of the Central Okanagan Poverty Report Card.
Jennifer Smith/Capital News

Kelowna Capital News - By Jennifer Smith - Published: April 30, 2009

Some 1,765 Central Okanagan residents are quite literally living in the poor house.

They’re being forced into substandard living conditions because proper housing is too costly and there is not enough available to those living on modest to low incomes, according to a new poverty analysis.

Thursday morning, the Poverty and Homelessness Action Team released its Central Okanagan Poverty Report Card, revealing the area has serious challenges in every area—health care, to child care, income levels, housing, nutrition—when it comes to reducing poverty levels.

Research done to compile the report reveals the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment requires a gross annual income of $42,500 in this valley; a two bedroom, $38,500; and a one bedroom $32,000 to keep housing costs below 30 per cent of one’s income—the target set by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation as affordable for Canadian families.

“The working poor have been the foundation that has made the economy thrive and benefit others, yet they are going homeless as they grow old or without their own place to live in as young adults,” one respondent told researchers working on the affordability survey PHATCO used to produce the report card.

Getting government and policy makers to listen to this message has not been easy.

Poverty is not on the agenda of the Interior Health Authority, according to medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback, who told those gathered for the release of the report that poverty could be targeted as easily as any other major health concern.

“We seem to worry about our long-term care beds, and that’s a good thing. We seem to be worried about how long we wait in emergency room departments. We seem to be worried about how long we wait for elective surgeries, surgeries that are necessary, but not urgent. If we were able to take poverty and put it right up there (with these other concerns), you would see so much savings to the health care system.”

And it is certainly the poor who suffer when times get tough.

Whether you are talking swine flu, or a tuberculosis outbreak among street-oriented people in the Central Okanagan, vulnerable populations tend to bear the brunt of crisis, even in natural disasters, said Hasselback.

“We need to revisit how important it is to ensure that all members of our society have the same opportunity for health and wellbeing and opportunity for socially being successful,” he said.

This could mean raising the minimum wage, building universal child care systems or attacking the nutritional needs of a community, according to recommendations in the report card. No matter what issue the community tackles first, it’s likely to save society plenty of money in the long run.

On average, it costs $35,000 to provide someone living on the street with social housing, versus $55,000 in annual costs to provide for the need that person creates on the street through policing and medical intervention.

“That means we are paying 48 per cent more to do nothing,” said Shelley Cook, executive director of the John Howard Society and a PHATCO member.

One small step communities can take is to include a community food charter in their bylaws, according to Lenetta Thordarson, with the Kelowna Community Food Bank.

The City of Kelowna is writing the food charter and its suggestions right into its Official Community Plan, which is currently under review.

“It will create more independence for people. If we had a food charter that makes healthy nutritious food accessible to people then we would have fewer people relying on the food bank,” Thordarson said.

“People could do more rooftop gardening, we could reduce the impacts of the health care system and make the healthy food the smart choice and the easier choice for people.”

The Food Bank’s Plant a Row, Grow a Row program, for example, brought in 20,000 pounds of food last year from gardens where residents just added one row to their own produce section to help the food bank out.

In March 2009, the food bank served 2,565 people or $212,570 worth of groceries, so those extra pounds of food are needed.

A copy of the report is available on the PHATCO website at

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Food supply system is under stress
By Judie Steeves - Kelowna Capital News - Published: February 24, 2009

Our food system is in danger of imminent collapse because it’s not sustainable, according to Herb Barbolet from the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University.

He was speaking to delegates at the three-day Building Sustainable Communities conference in Kelowna Tuesday, and warned at the outset his talk would be depressing.

The local food system is not supported by either government or corporations, and there are no linkages to make it a vital, vibrant entity, he said.

The industrial food system relies on the success of sales of highly-processed foods such as those found in the centre aisles of the supermarket, he noted. It’s the only way the big corporations can make money.

Traditionally, all our food systems have been entirely organic. “We didn’t need Monsanto or biotechnology,” he said.

He called it “arrogant” for multi-national corporations to think they’re going to feed everyone with an unproven technology like genetic modification of seeds.

Now, he said, we have to change how we think and behave about food, in order to bring our food systems back from the brink.

“We’ll pay only 10 per cent of our disposable income on food, but we’re still prepared to spend more on oil, or on health care,” he noted.

The solution is to take back power; to fight the corporations, he advocated. People have to be educated about their own power; about the real economics; about money that stays in the community.

He suggested bartering; using the underground economy instead of supporting the multi-nationals.

When enough people revolt, government will pay attention. “We need to take power to the people.”

Barbolet questioned why we have to certify and label organic food when the huge corporations can sell “poison” in the guise of food.

“By building community, we don’t have to go in that direction,” he said.

Barbolet is one of the founders of Farm Folk, City Folk, an organization that links farmers with city dwellers in the Vancouver area.

He recalled his involvement in a cooperative in Vancouver in the 1970s where he brought fresh produce from his farm in the Fraser Valley, and said residents bypassed the boxes of fresh for the packaged-in-plastic produce from the store around the corner.

“There was a disconnect between people in the city and the source of their food,” he said.

Nadine de la Salle, a food system planner with HB Lanarc Consultants advocated what she called agricultural urbanism, re-thinking our relationship with land, food and community.

Instead of a hard edge between farming and new development, she recommended an integrated edge, with recreational or wildlife corridors between the two.

Within new developments adjacent to farmland, there should be market squares where the neighbourhood farmers can sell their produce and meet their neighbours.

The conference continues today and Thursday at the Grand Hotel.

jsteeves [at]

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Pesticides are safe if used properly says scientist
By Jennifer Smith - Kelowna Capital News - Published: January 31, 2009

Anything can kill you, it’s the dose that counts, according to Keith Solomon, a toxicologist with the University of Guelph who spoke at the Environmental Plant Management Associations’ conference Friday about using pesticides.

On Thursday, during the conference, another speaker, a pesticide advocate, challenged the industry to sue those who disagree with using the products.

By Friday afternoon, the troops were rallying behind the cause with conference conveners encouraging industry professionals not to have a knee-jerk reaction to reports in media that speak out in favour of Kelowna’s cosmetic pesticide ban—particularly if they quote the UBCO English professor (or his wife) who are leading the rally against their cause.

For his part, Solomon encouraged his audience to use the products judiciously, as simply any other tool in its arsenal, and tried to provide some facts for the fight.

“It’s very difficult for the public, for politicians, to differentiate between the potential for harm and risk,” he said.

Pound enough sugar, salt or egg white into a body and eventually you will kill a person, he said. It’s the same principle with the chemicals.

Provided people follow the safety guidelines and use the products sparingly, they offer far more benefits than potential for harm, he said.

In Kenya, 70 per cent of the population is involved in food production, whereas only two per cent of North Americans are, said Solomon, noting that those who criticize these products tend to be the ones who benefited the most from their existence.

“In Africa, they’re trying to get more pesticides,” he said.

As someone who tests the products prior to them reaching the market he said it’s generally the user, not the product, that causes problems.

In North America, pesticides are directly responsible for only hundreds of poisonings versus thousands in the developing world where those spraying the products tend not to have the same protective gear and safety standards available to them.

As for Canadian pesticide bans, like the one instituted in Ontario, Solomon encouraged his audience to question the fine print, as it were, pointing to some obvious flaws in the logic.

In that case, some very toxic insecticides, like pyrethrins, are fully permitted if they are used for health or safety reasons—like killing a wasps’ nest.

Solomon suggested the testing is thorough and so-called cancer epidemics, linked to the products are unrealistic when one considers that the statistics, don’t reflect an increase in cancers in Canada at all—at least if age and the population increase are factored into the equation.

Pesticides offer a $3 to $4 return on the dollar investment for growers—not much if they are not used sparingly, he said.

“Sometimes you just need that exact socket wrench for that exact size nut and there’s no other tool in the tool box that will do,” he said.

jsmith [at]

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Sue anti-pesticide policitians: consultant
By Judie Steeves - Kelowna Capital News - Published: January 29, 2009

The pesticide application industry should sue municipalities, councillors and environmental activists who advocate for, and pass, bylaws restricting the use of pesticides—particularly when such actions are based on fraudulent information, says an Ontario pesticide proponent.

“Sue council members who say the products you use are detrimental to the environment or public health,” Jeffery Lowes told members of the Integrated and Environmental Plant Management Association meeting in Kelowna Thursday.

Kelowna council’s new pesticide regulation bylaw is now in effect, but it isn’t a full ban on the use of pesticides, only on the use of them for cosmetic purposes—except by trained applicators, noted John Vos, general manager for citizen’s services.

Lowes, a consulting investigator who is leading the fight against pesticide bans in Ontario, told delegates there isn’t anything concrete to support activists’ claims that pesticides cause harm to the environment or public health.

“2,4-D is probably the safest product you have access to,” he told the landscapers and pesticide applicators.

Most of the bylaws won’t stand up in court, he said. The turfgrass industry is planning to sue in Ontario, he added.

He also claimed there are no economic benefits to a ban on pesticide use, but Vos feels Kelowna’s bylaw likely would be of benefit to trained applicators, because it prevents the untrained from applying them.

He said he doesn’t think Kelowna’s bylaw is in jeopardy.

Kelowna Coun. Robert Hobson agreed, noting council has the power to regulate pesticides. The new bylaw was the result of interest from the public, and it will be enforced by complaints from the public.

The regional district had already made the decision not to use pesticides in its public parks, and council received letters from doctors and from Interior Health supporting the new restrictions.

Even the industry is trying to reduce the amount of pesticides that are applied, by using such alternatives as Integrated Pest Management or IPM principles, he noted.

As a farmer, he said pesticides are one of the most expensive costs of growing, so orchardists are not hesitant to use such alternatives as the Sterile Insect Release program to reduce their use.

He said he voted in favour of it because of a desire to have less pesticide use in the community, and also because of a “concern about the way people apply them,” he said.

jsteeves [at]

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Armstrong grows food initiatives
Vernon Morning Star - Community - Published: January 27, 2009

A new Armstrong group is calling on anyone who has an interest in food.

The Armstrong Community Food Initiatives Group (CFIG) is holding its first meeting today to begin discussions on how to improve access to locally grown food.

“It’s really to pique the interest of anyone with an interest in the group,” said Armstrong city councillor Shirley Fowler, who will be working with the group.

Once members and a direction are sorted, the CFIG’s first order of business will be creating and carrying out plans for a community food garden.

The meeting runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at city hall.

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Ottawa takes action
June 04, 2008 - Vernon Morning Star

Canadians have some of the lowest food prices in the world, with 10 per cent of total household expenses going to food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Europeans spend over 20 per cent and most developing countries spend almost all their family income on food.

Many international factors affect food prices, including rising oil prices and transportation costs, lower stocks of grain and increased demand from emerging economies such as China and India.

Raw ingredients such as wheat represent a small fraction of retail food costs but do have some impact on consumer prices.

For example, during the 2007/2008 crop year to date, the cost of wheat in a standard 20 ounce loaf of bread was 16 cents.

The cost during the last crop year was 10 cents per loaf.

Our government is committed to working with farmers to do what they do best: grow food.

We are working with Canadian farmers, processors and retailers as they produce, market and sell quality food for Canada and the world.

Biofuels benefit the environment and Canadian farm families by providing a market in their own neighbourhoods where they can sell their crops for fair prices rather than watching shipping costs erode their profits.

This government’s goal of five per cent renewable content in gasoline, and two per cent renewable content in diesel is a balanced and achievable approach. This is based on consultation with the sector in order to effectively introduce renewable fuels as a strong and viable option to Canadians.

By meeting Canada’s biofuel goals, we will make a real difference for our environment and future generations by taking the equivalent of almost one million cars off the road

Internationally we are standing up for people facing hunger as the second largest contributor to the United Nations World Food Program.

We are delivering real help for people around the world facing hunger with another $50 million a year in food aid.

Our government will be reducing taxes by $200 billion over the next five years to make certain Canadians are able to keep as much of their hard earned money to meet cost-of-living increases.

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Bill C-51 blues
Vernon Morning Star - May 30, 2008 - Letters

If one wishes to mount a bandwagon for a cause, consider this. The federal government is at this very moment (it has already passed first reading) trying to push ahead Bill C-51 which will effectively place a stranglehold on the health food industry. The large pharmaceuticals are attempting to take control of natural health products, because, as they exist today, there is no profit for big business in the sale of said products. And, the health food industry is gaining a lot of attention and more and more folk are paying heed to that attention.

We all know that big business drives big government, so beware folks, that the daily vitamin you take at breakfast may soon become a prescription drug, if big pharma has its way.

And do you know what else? The drug companies present the largest, most powerful and wealthiest lobby group, and spend billions every year, in their attempts to influence the medical profession and governments.

They were successful in some European countries and Australia and will be here, too, if you don't kick up a fuss and write or e-mail or phone your MP, Colin Mayes (who is totally in favour of said bill), and your MLA Tom Christensen.

Most health food stores have petitions which you can sign and get on board. Please do it and do it now. It is critical.

We sent an e-mail to Colin Mayes. The time for action is now, make no mistake. Send it to

The proposed statute Bill C-51 is a repressive, punitive piece of legislation. It must not be allowed to be passed.

It is obvious that the pharmaceuticals, the most wealthy group of lobbysits to assail any government, are behind this extremely restrictive proposed policy.

It must not happen. Incumbent elected members must realize that it is not the drug companies but the electorate that is responsible for their place on Parliament Hill. Money talks but the constituent votes. Listen to your constituency. please.

My wife and I reside in Enderby and use a number of natural health products and practitioners to our benefit. Values are changing. Change is good. Bill C-51 is not.

Ed and Claudette Murdoch

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OCP proposals draw debate
By Richard Rolke - Vernon Morning Star - May 23, 2008

Specific segments of Vernon’s proposed new official community plan are undergoing scrutiny.

About 20 people attended an open house Tuesday to consider draft policy sections that deal with sustainability, heritage, agriculture and a youth friendly city.

“We are trying to conduct as much consultation as possible and these (policy) sections were ready to go,” said Kim Flick, manager of planning and building services.

Much of the focus of the open house revolved around heritage issues.

“There was a lot of talk about the value of heritage properties to the community and the challenges of property owners to keep them up,” said Flick.

Currently, city staff is proposing annual grants to the owners of heritage homes to deal with maintenance.

There is also a proposal to expand commercial uses in heritage buildings. But Flick admits that while such businesses can make having a heritage property more viable, such activities can have a negative impact on neighbours.

“We are trying to find the right path,” she said.

In terms of agriculture, city staff are proposing no net loss of farm land because of development.

“If you remove one acre of land, 1.5 acres of land must be found within the Agricultural Land Reserve in the North Okanagan,” said Flick.

“We want residents to have access to local food production.”

However, some participants questioned the impact farms have on residential areas — primarily through the application of pesticides.

“Protecting agricultural land is one thing, but we need to know what is put on them,” said Krystine McInnes, with the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

One of the other policy sections deals with youth, covering a broad range from 10 to 29 years of age.

“Everyone says Vernon is a great place to raise a family but it can be a tricky place for youth to be,” said Flick.

Among the youth-related issues the policy looks are at employment, educational opportunities and housing.

“They need housing options so they don’t have to live with their parents,” said Flick.

The draft official community plan will be presented to council for consideration June 9, and then public hearings will be held.

“There will be additional opportunities to provide input,” said Flick.

It’s anticipated that the new OCP will be adopted in August.

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Bill C-51 targeted
May 21, 2008 - Vernon Morning Star - Letters

As a mother and a Canadian citizen I am appalled by the lack of attention the media has been giving to Bill C-51.

On the heels of Bill C-517, which was passed and negates our right to know when foods we buy have been genetically engineered, Bill C-51 is looming as the next work of legislation to quietly pass despite its potential to quash many democratic rights and freedoms.

Bill C-51 proposes to make natural health products safer for the public; however, it really does nothing to make people safer. In his recent article Colin Mayes said that “they (Natural Health Products - NHPs) are not regulated as drugs,” but that is not true. They are specifically excluded from being ‘foods’ therefore they must be regulated as drugs.

I agree that there should be reasonable scientific evidence to support claims and that there needs to be proper labeling; however, Bill C-51 will put great power in the hands of unelected government officials who then may confiscate natural health products and herbal remedies without a warrant or a reason.

This kind of action puts many people who rely on NHPs to stay healthy, fit and even sane at risk.

This bill has been fast-tracked through Parliament without much public input and now faces its third and final reading in the near future. If it is passed this bill has the potential to put all small vitamin and supplement manufacturers out of business, leaving the pharma big wigs and only the largest of vitamin companies to survive.

If it is passed it could make my act of administering tried and true herbal remedies to my children at home illegal and that is something I simply cannot accept.

Christina Erl-Daniels

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It’s not supply and demand
May 21, 2008 - Vernon Morning Star - Letters

The recent sharp rise in the cost of gas and oil products as well as wheat, rice, and other food products on the market reveals a surprising matrix of financial problems.  One thing that it is not – it is not based on the “supply and demand” formula of the free trade marketeers.

There are several different perspectives one can look at the problem from:
  • Oil and war – The war in Iraq is more about control of oil and regional control for military reasons than it is about the actual supply of oil.  Most of American oil comes from Mexico, Venezuela, Canada and Africa.  The actual cost of oil is determined more by its evaluation with the American dollar, the world's reserve currency.  American demand for oil has actually decreased 1.9% over this time last year.
  • American money and inflation – While many Canadians seem to take pride in a stronger Canadian dollar, they do not recognize that while it is at parity with the U.S. dollar, that same U.S. dollar has declined significantly compared to other currencies.  Simply put it now costs more American dollars to pay for oil than it did before. This inflationary pressure is caused by a weakening American economy that is significantly based on debt with trillions of dollars of debt owned by foreigners.

  • Oil and ethanol – This is a double-edged problem.  As oil prices rise, alternate sources become more sought after.  As global warming continues again alternate sources become more sought after.  Unfortunately one of the main alternate sources, corn, is bought and sold as a commodity rather than a foodstuff and commodities buyers on the stock markets are pushing the price very high.

  • Agriculture and ethanol - At the same time, the highly subsidized American agricultural sector has increasingly grown more corn for ethanol, reducing the amount of corn for use for human and cattle consumption, and reducing the area of cropland for wheat.  Both of these factors increase the price of various food items. Higher oil prices also have an affect on fertilizers, transportation, and storage costs for all food products.

  • Global warming – Fully related to all this is global warming.  The concern for alternate energy sources to cut down on global warming also looks to ethanol production to help.  Unfortunately, the production of corn requires more energy inputs (e.g. fertilizer, machinery) than it will eventually produce as a fuel.  Even if all American cropland were used for ethanol, there would still not be enough to fuel the demands for gasoline.  And global warming would continue apace regardless.

  • Oil as a commodity  – As a result of the dropping American dollar, investors are looking for good places to put their money.  Oil has always been a good commodity to buy, but while demand is dropping in the U.S., and resources have not yet gone into decline (although we are considered to be close to or at peak oil about now), the price has still increased dramatically due to commodity speculation.

  • Food as a commodity – Our current increase in food prices is also a result of commodity speculation as investors try to find the best return on their dollars.  There is not, at the moment, a shortage of food.  There is a shortage of equitable distribution aggravated by the commodity purchasers.  This applies to the basics that everyone needs: corn, wheat, rice as the three main global staple crops.

The underlying problem then with rising food prices is the speculative money fleeing from the American dollar, looking for someplace to reap further profits regardless of the consequences.  Obviously there are other factors involved as mentioned above, but it is an artificial market creating the higher prices and not the so-called neutral laws of the market as “supply and demand” are considered to be by economists. 

Haiti which used to supply all its own rice needs, now must import almost all of it due to U.S. subsidized rice flooding the market under free trade agreements.  The same applies to Mexican farmers and their encounters with subsidized American corn.  Be prepared then for our own ongoing fast rising prices and reading about food riots in countries where market reforms have devastated native agricultural production.

Jim Miles

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Drawbridge not needed to be sustainable
April 09, 2008 - Kelowna Capital News

To the editor:

This letter is in response to a recent letter by John Zeger regarding sustainability.

The people of Kelowna will hear this word many times between now and the civic election in November and it probably means something slightly different to each person. To me sustainability means building for the future in a conscientious, planned manner while preserving the unique features of our city and region and leaving behind something better; a better Kelowna for my children who were born here.

In terms of being able to supply all of our food needs from our own region our agriculture cannot and never has supplied all of our needs. Regional self sufficiency in regards to food production is laudable but the truth is there are not enough farmers for this to happen.

On an encouraging note, more people are demanding and purchasing locally grown produce and meats. As past president and current vice-president of the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market, I can safely say that regional agriculture is growing in strength due to awareness amongst the buying public.

I also attended the UBCO sponsored forum When Urban Meets Rural: Planning for Sustainability in the Okanagan and prior to that the Fresh Outlook Foundation’s workshop in Sustainable Community. The main points from both of these sessions were the need to build green buildings, to support higher density in downtown areas and to infill existing urban areas.

I did not hear any one of the presenters say we have to curtail growth.

What I did hear was that growth has to be managed better and we have to plan and build now for the future. We can build green buildings.

Many developers here in Kelowna are now building green and we must push city council to issue permits to those developers offering well designed, green buildings in a higher density downtown area. This reduces pressure on the our rural, agricultural areas and preserves them for future use.

As a farmer and a member of the City of Kelowna’s Agricultural Advisory Committee I know full well that agricultural land must be preserved. Our committee does due diligence in this regard and these lands are being well protected.

That said, it does not mean all development must grind to a halt while we bury our heads in the sand and hope that no more people move to Kelowna. We must be prepared for our future.

And yes, John, I am running for Kelowna city council in November 2008.

Graeme James,

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Province puts food on back burner
By Judie Steeves - Kelowna Capital News - March 12, 2008

Despite all the hoopla over a new B.C. Agricultural Plan last month, the provincial budget allotment for agriculture doesn’t show much of an increase to support the promises.

NDP agriculture critic Corky Evans pointed out that even under the Social Credit government (prior to 1991) there were 720 full-time equivalent staff in the agriculture ministry, while there’s only 312 in the budget recently tabled by the Liberal government.

He claims there was one mention of agriculture in the budget speech and it had to do with making fuel from agricultural products.

“There was no mention of making food from agricultural land,” he noted.

Evans will be in the Okanagan this week for the annual B.C. AgriTourism Alliance conference in Vernon. He’ll be speaking at the Prestige Inn Sat., Mar. 15 at 10 a.m. and returns to talk to Kelowna consumers and farmers April 10 or 11.

Evans referred to a resolution approved by B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association members at their annual meeting earlier this year, calling on the province to “recognize the importance and potential of this diverse industry and its contribution to the GDP, environment and well-being of residents, and immediately increase funding to the agriculture ministry in line with the average of all other provincial governments at 16.4 per cent of agricultural GDP and use these funds to help increase the productivity and efficiency of our diverse agricultural sectors.”

That resolution pointed out that B.C. has the most diverse agriculture and restrictive land use legislation of any Canadian province, yet receives the smallest provincial government contribution, at 3.3 per cent of agricultural GDP.

Evans said he will be touring the rural areas of B.C. this spring to ask farmers and consumers whether we are committed to farming and food production in B.C. or not; and if we are, “What would it take to make farming pay and to make new farmers want to do the work and afford to get started?”

BCFGA president Joe Sardinha agrees that there doesn’t appear to be much of an increase in money for agriculture in the provincial budget, including for some of the measures promised in the agriculture plan. Even though there is some federal money coming to B.C., he said B.C. is not even matching those funds with new provincial funds as most other provinces are.

“How do we make agriculture more of a priority in government?” he questioned.

“There’s nothing wrong with farmers making a living,” he added before warning, “Without agriculture in Canada the cost of food would really skyrocket.

“It’s on the backs of producers that we pay so little for our food,” he said.

People spend a far smaller percentage of their income on food today than they did 50 years ago, he pointed out.

Climate change and fuel costs could lead to an agricultural revolution as the cost of shipping food products around the world goes through the roof, he said.

“We need to sustain agriculture here for future generations. We put our country at risk by not supporting agriculture,” he warned.

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GST on groceries?  What is the difference if you eat at home or on the road ... you need to eat to survive!!  GST on Sandwiches ... come on!!  Not everyone eats out for enjoyment, but rather some eat out because of necessity.  If they want to G.S.T. everything, they should just do it ... then it will be less confusing and then maybe the G.S.T. could come down a few more % points.

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Never doubt the ability of a small group of concerned citizens to change the world.  In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

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