Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Save the Agricultural Land Reserve


     In the 1960's and 70's we in British Columbia lost thousands of acres of prime farmland each year to the development of subdivisions, shopping centres and industry.  In 1972 Dave Barret and the New Democratic Party were elected for the first time and in 1973 they created the "Agricultural Land Reserve" in an effort to save our remaining farmland.  Today, our farmland is disappearing.  Premier Christy Clark and the Liberal Party who support oil fracking and oil tanker traffic on our west coast are not only allowing the development of our farmland but intending to dismantle the ALR under the guise of modernization (Dismantle the ALR).  Existing rules allow the development of our farmland such as the Blenheim Flats (the last remaining ALR in Vancouver) into massive estates with mansions, tennis courts, swimming pools, 5 car garages ...  This is also occurring in Richmond, Ladner and Delta.  In Richmond prime farmland is being used as a toxic dump site by developers (Farm vigil actually 318 days and counting).

     With the present day focus on the oil and gas industry in B.C the Liberal government and Energy Minister Bill Bennett (how appropriate - inside joke for older folks) are attempting to dismantle the ALR to allow for among other things oil and gas development (ALC Stop Work Order).  The Liberal government wants to put the Agricultural Land Commission, an autonomous, independent crown agency which makes decisions regarding agricultural land use under the control of the ministry of agriculture (ALC Reform). 
     A few years ago the Fraser Institute (an ultra right wing B.C organization) commissioned a report calling for an end to the Agricultural Land Reserve.  The report suggested that locally produced food was impractical and  that food could be produced elsewhere at a lower cost where environmental laws were not so restrictive and the lack of labour laws allowed for the cheap production of food.  

     The local production of my food is vitally important to me and I think to most of you.  I want to support my local farmer and to know how my food is produced.  I want to know if it is genetically modified and treated with agrochemicals.  I don't want my food produced thousands of miles away where farm workers are exploited and crops are grown unnaturally with agrochemicals and genetic modification.  I don't want to contribute to global warming through the burning of fossil fuels needed to transport food long distances.  


     What can we do to support local food production?  First, grow our own food.  Whether we have land, are part of a community garden or guerilla garden we can produce some of our own food.  It always amazes me how much food you can produce on a small portion of land.  This year I started growing food for the Vancouver Food Bank on a very small urban farm and was constantly amazed at the hundreds of pounds of produce we were able to produce.  Secondly, support your local farmer (and beekeeper).  In Vancouver as in other major cities farmer markets are popping up at an increasing rate every year and stores like Whole Foods  are making an effort to sell locally produced, organic, non genetically modified foods.  Third, sign this petition here to support our disappearing farmland and lastly at our next election vote for a party that wants to strengthen the Agricultural Land Reserve and preserve our endangered farmland (definitely not the Liberal Party - Liberals propose ALC Reform).

     I have witnessed the rise of power of the corporate elite through the 1960's, followed by the growth of labour power and environmental awareness in the 70's and the subsequent movement towards worldwide corporate amalgamation and control.  Eric Blair (George Orwell) professed in his novel Nineteen Eighty Four published in 1949 that the world would be controlled by a single entity, "Big Brother".  He foresaw the amalgamation of corporations (30 years ago 20 major corporations controlled 80% of the food production in North America - now the control is owned by 4 corporations all contemplating amalgamation) and the subsequent control of government.  We all have witnessed the increasing control major corporations wield on governments through campaign contributions and the constant interchange of personnel (Monsanto).  Let's put the power of food production back into the hands of the people.
     Please sign the petition to support local farmers and vote for a political party that supports local food production.  For more information regarding the future of the Agricultural Land Reserve go to Farm Watch BC.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pollination Crisis Lecture

SFU President's Faculty Lecture Series

President's Faculty Lecturer: Dr. Elizabeth Elle

Elizabeth Elle is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at SFU.  A member of national (the Canadian Pollination Initiative) and international (the Integrated Crop Pollination Project) collaborations, Elizabeth’s research focuses on the impact of human activities (urbanization, agriculture, cattle grazing) on pollinator biodiversity, and how we can preserve pollination services to wildflowers and crops in the face of pollinator losses.

Are we having a pollination crisis?

You’ve probably seen it in the news: bees are in trouble, and farmers are worried about our food supply. Much of the press is on the managed honey bee, an important component of agricultural systems, but many of the earth’s 20,000 other species of bee are also experiencing population declines.  Is it cell phones? Pesticides? Habitat loss? Do we really only have four years to live if the honey bee goes extinct?! In this lecture, you’ll learn the latest science about bee declines, about the many species of wild bees in B.C. and their contribution to both crop production and resilient natural ecosystems, and how everyone can contribute to pollinator conservation.
Wed, 06 Nov 2013 7:00 PM
Studio 103 - Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
6450 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby

Event is free. Please click HERE to register.

Here is a previous lecture from Dr. Elizabeth Elle.

" A Plea for the Bees' Needs: Pollinator declines and how to encourage backyard biodiversity" presented by Dr. Elizabeth Elle.

Learn more about why bees are in trouble, the natural history and status of our native bees, and what you can do in your backyard, community garden or even on your balcony to help support pollinators.

This public lecture was recorded on Thursday April 23, 2009. It was organised by Continuing Studies in Science at Simon Fraser University.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No U.S Bees for Canada

     In a recently released report from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Risk Assessment of Importation of U.S Honey Bees) they concluded that the risk was too great to remove the blockade on U.S honey bees.  The initial blockade was implemented in 1987 in response to an outbreak in the U.S of the tracheal and varroa mites.
     My personal viewpoint on the subject has evolved through the years.  Initially I was totally against the ban on importation of U.S bees from a purely practical point of view.  First, it made no sense to import bees from the southern hemisphere (Canadian Regulations on Importation of Honey Bees) thousands of miles away when bees were readily available closeby at a fraction of the cost and environmental impact.  Present regulations allow Canadians to import packages of bees from New Zealand, Australia and Chile only and queens from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, California and Hawaii.  Secondly, the blockade has not worked.  26 years after the ban on U.S bees, both the tracheal and varroa mites are alive and established in Canada.  Strange as it may seem bee swarms do not go through the regulated border crossings when flying into Canada.  The vast majority of the Canadian population and beekeepers live very close to the U.S/Canada border which is the longest unregulated border in the world.
     My viewpoint now is very much in support of developing localized bee breeding.  With the issues that bees face today I feel that localized environmental adaptation and the development of strong, survivor stock is essential for a long term healthy bee population.  At present the beekeeping situation here in British Columbia is dependant on the annual importation of thousands of packages of bees primarily from New Zealand.  That dependance has created a situation where there is very little available local bee breeding and no incentive to do so.
     The reasons given for maintaining the ban on importation of U.S bee packages are the risks associated with the importation of Africanized honey bees, antibiotic-resistant American foulbrood, small hive beetle and amitraz resistant varroa mite.

     I believe maintaining the ban on importation of American bees will only delay the arrival of these 4 stated health risks.  Reasons that these risks may not be valid are most juridictions do not treat American foulbrood but have regulated mandatory eradication through the burning of the colony and hive.  The small hive beetle is present in small populations in Canada but is considered more of a southern problem probably due to it's origination in the warmer climates of Africa.  Similarly, the Africanized bees progress northward has been slowed by the colder winters of the north (Killer Bees).  As the Africanized bee moves northward the genetic dilution of the much publicized aggressive behaviour and tendancies toward swarming may conclude in the creation of a more manageable, hygienic bee.  Finally, all pests eventually develop resistance to pesticides.  The philosophy of agrochemical dependant farming (including beekeeping) only serves the profits of the agrochemical corporations. 
     The dilemma is that my alternate solution of a localized, survivor stock is not a practical reality.  It will take decades to create an infrastructure of local bee breeding sufficient to meet our demands.  Commercial beekeepers are faced with the financial reality associated with the high costs of importing bees from the southern hemisphere (Eastern Protectionism and Local Commercial Beekeepers).  Meanwhile Americans are studying the risks associated with importing bees from Australia (Apis Cerana in Australia).
     Maybe we should build a Bee Wall.

     As a backyard beekeeper not faced with the financial reality of high import costs that burden Canadian commercial beekeepers I have the luxury of not buying any imported bees.  I will continue to support the development of a localized, survivor stock through local bee breeding. 

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