Election time and the platforms get wobbly - Let’s Talk Farm Animals
By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator
"I am not committed to any particular political party and, like many Canadians, tend to cast my ballot based on election platforms. Not that I necessarily expect them to be honoured, but sometimes party platforms devolve into nonsense.
Take the Green Party for example. The candidate in my riding is a pretty capable gal. But to anyone who knows agriculture, some of the planks of her party’s agricultural platform are misguiding at best. It seems to me that the Green Party is trying to cater somewhat more to the non-farm vote than the farm vote.
Leader Elizabeth May released the party’s platform last week at a press conference in Toronto. Featuring a long list of farming-related platform planks, the goal is for “regional food self-sufficiency across Canada” with a “shift to organic agriculture as the dominant model of production.” On the list, is a ban on federal research into genetically engineered crops, eventual 100 per cent testing of slaughter cattle for BSE and reducing allowable pesticide residues in crops. The goal of this latter policy, the party said, would be “an orderly reduction in detectable residues of these substances until they reach undetectable limits.”
The Green Party wants to legalize marijuana, yet wants to ban government funded research into potentially meaningful food production technologies. And we wonder why Canada has a “brain drain”?
The party said it would also tighten Canada’s testing net for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in slaughter cattle by implementing “100 per cent” testing of all slaughtered animals, but only “as soon as the process of detecting BSE in blood samples is perfected.” The proposal is laudable yet out of step with current internationally approved testing for a low risk disease that is diminishing world-wide. Who will conduct, pay for and supervise the testing of 3.5 million head of cattle per year is left unanswered.
Reducing “detectable” pesticide residues seems more about politics than science and is likely unachievable what with our ongoing ability to detect things at ever-smaller levels. Simply because something is detectible does not make it a risk. In my opinion. money would be better spent testing for more serious risks such as harmful microbial levels and pollutants.
“Our food security and safety are threatened directly by agribusiness as factory farms crowd chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs into inhumane and unhygienic conditions, creating the risk of serious health threats from toxic spinach to mad cow disease and swine flu,” said the Green Vision document released with the election platform.
But what can you expect from a party who’s leader once served on the board of animal rights radicals, only resigning after CBC coverage shamed her into it. And a party who appoints a famous used-up hockey player turned animal rights and vegan promoter as deputy leader. Green party deputy leader Jacques Rivard has said “Georges Laraque is an ideal candidate to represent the party and boost its profile."
I admire Elizabeth May’s goal to strengthen farming and food production, but I see some of her agricultural platform as being counter-productive" Leslie Ballentine.