AIC Notes TopIssue 2011-36            October 13, 2011 
In This Issue
Poll Finds Many Canadians Worry About Imported Foods
Farm-to-School Program Boosts Health of Students and Food Economy
Regina to Host new Pulse, Durum Processing Plant
Richardson Expands
Herbicide-Resistant Superweeds Overpowering Crops
Feeding the World While Protecting the Planet
Australian Scientist Warning on Plant Biosecurity
Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Newsletter
Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities
Coming Events

Poll Finds Many Canadians Worry About Imported Foods


Imported foods have a branding problem in Canada, a government-commissioned survey has found.


Only 18 per cent of consumers said they are "very confident" that imported food sold in Canada is safe, while 18 per cent of consumers said they are very confident.


When those in the range from only "slightly confident" in import and "not at all" confident were tallied, fully onethird of consumers indicated they don't have confidence in the safety of imports.


This is the first time Agriculture Canada's strategic issues tracking survey has asked about the safety perceptions of food imports sold in Canada, and the results reveal a significant gap in confidence between imports and foods produced in Canada.


Among consumers, 51 per cent said they are very confident in the safety of food produced in Canada.

That's up 10 points since 2009, when 41 per cent said they were very confident. In 2007, when the tracking survey was carried out for the first time, 35 per cent of consumers said they were very confident in the safety of food produced in Canada.


At the same time, the percentage of people who look for a product's country of origin when food shopping is up, from 52 per cent in 2007 to 58 per cent in 2011.


The 2011 survey also asked about whether consumers check to see if a product is locally grown, meaning grown within 100 kilometres of where they live. Half (51 per cent) said they do check.


Environics completed the 2011 tracking survey in the first quarter of this year.


The poll of 1,052 Canadians not involved in farming or ranching has a margin of error of three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News, October 12, 2011


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Farm-to-School Program Boosts Health of Students and Food Economy 


Students who line up for lunch at the 50 or so salad bars that have cropped up in British Columbia school cafeterias are in the midst of a big undertaking.


As they load up on local greens, root vegetables, eggs and cheese, these youngsters are fortifying themselves and the province's local food system; they are also sketching the blueprint for a unique program with national aspirations and the potential to recalibrate how the leaders of tomorrow view food.


Called Farm-to-School, the program matches participating schools with farmers or small networks of growers who are paid fair market value to supply produce. It teaches students about more than just the food chain by integrating health, environmental studies, sociology, economics and agriculture. Inspired by a Toronto-based school-salad-bar model pioneered by the food-change organization FoodShare, it was launched four years ago by a community nutritionist bent on getting more fresh fruits and vegetables into B.C. schools.


"We were worried about the fact that there were so many children eating too much of the wrong things [who are] overweight or obese. On the other end of the spectrum, we have a lot of children who can't get enough of the right things to eat," said the nutritionist, Joanne Bays. "Kids' opportunities to access healthy foods were less than optimal."


Nutritionists in B.C. are mandated by the public-health authority to address community food security - ensuring that people have safe and nutritious food. For Ms. Bays, the ideal school solution was one that also boosted the food economy in urban areas and remote regions where farming has died off or is dwindling. She focused her project on areas where processed food is cheaper than fresh alternatives.


Seed funding from the Premier's office for salad-bar and kitchen construction, greenhouses and gardening tools paid to jump-start the program in 16 schools.


The money has long since run out, but the program, which Ms. Bays oversees, continues to balloon. This year, more than 50 schools across the province will operate the program, which costs students between $3 and $5 a day.


"This has taken on a life of its own and we're not dependent on the government for subsidies to make it happen," Ms. Bays said. "We've got communities engaged in doing it."


The results have been transformative. In Chetwynd, a small, northeastern B.C. town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the popularity of the school salad bar has regenerated the community's interest in producing fresh food: Several gardens have been launched to supply the salad bar; the town now grows enough to support a farmers' market, and curiosity about cooking is growing, particularly among youth.


"We have 11-year-old boys asking for recipes of stuffed mushrooms," said Marcie Fofonoff, the district's former healthy communities co-ordinator. "Or we have them saying they can make bread at home. The objective was to expand the palette, get them to try different foods."


Debbie Field, director of Toronto's FoodShare, which started the nation's first school-salad-bar program, said students' enthusiasm is proof that kids aren't only interested in eating junk food.


"People tell you that kids won't eat healthy," she said. "We've proven that they'll eat it."


For advocates of food culture change, winning over these young palettes is the holy grail. By the time students reach high school, many argue, their food habits are too entrenched to change.


"If we go back to teaching some of the basics at the younger age, we're beginning to form children who will not forget those as they grow old," said Carol Henry, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan who studies school food in Canada. "By the time they get to high school, it's a little too late. In elementary school, they'll still listen."


Paolo Di Croce is international director of the Italy-based Slow Food, an organization with a global campaign to persuade educators to use food at school to teach lessons on farming, gardening, industrial food production and its environmental impacts. The value of doing so is in the multiplier effect, he explained.


"If you teach young children, they influence their families," Mr. Di Croce said.


The payback, some argue, will have a much broader reach.


At Windermere Secondary School in Vancouver, students grow and cook food for the school cafeteria and elementary feeder schools. They also use bicycles to transport compost from the feeders back to their greenhouse.


Principal Maria Taddei said the program teaches students about the inherent interconnectivity of nutrition, environmental science, social studies and health.


"It creates in a student more global-minded thinking," she said. "We're growing leaders."


Jessica Leeder, Globe and Mail, October 10, 2011


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Regina to Host new Pulse, Durum Processing Plant


An expansion-minded international pulse packing and export firm has pledged up to $50 million for a new Saskatchewan plant to process pulse crops for flours and food ingredients and durum into semolina for pasta.


Alliance Grain Traders (AGT) on Friday announced construction work on the plant is to begin in 2012 in the Global Transportation Hub (GTH), a new Regina industrial development devoted to transportation and logistics facilities needing central road, rail and intermodal access.


The AGT complex is planned as a milling facility to process durum for the production of its Arbella pasta brand in Canada, and to process pulse crops into pulse flours, starches, proteins and fibres.


AGT expects its distribution centre, to be built at the same site, will capitalize on the availability of ocean containers, trucks and intermodal container units at the Global Transportation Hub for domestic and export shipments. Canadian Pacific Railway has previously announced it will build a new intermodal facility at the GTH.


Upon the completion of the new plant, expected in mid-2012, the AGT facility is expected to generate 60 full-time jobs, the federal government noted in a separate release Friday.


"We have always been focused on creating value through origin-based processing, locating our processing facilities where high-quality crops are grown," AGT CEO Murad Al-Katib said in the company's release.


"We seek to create value for our farmer suppliers and our shareholders by shipping finished food products and not just the raw basic commodities to markets around the world."


Arbella pasta, for instance, is a brand owned by the Arbel Group, an AGT subsidiary based in Turkey, where the company's pasta is currently produced.


Canada, Al-Katib said Friday, is a "dominant world supplier of durum wheat and pulses. With our strong Canadian base built over the past decade, Western Canada was a logical choice for our new processing complex."


Furthermore, he said, the GTH "will provide a competitive freight advantage for us that makes this a sensible investment."


The Regina facility is expected to "solidify" AGT's pasta milling capacity in Canada and move the company "further up the value chain in our pulses platform," AGT chairman Huseyin Arslan said in the same release.




Nowhere in its release did AGT, which runs 12 pulse processing plants in Western Canada, mention or suggest the impending end of the Canadian Wheat Board's single marketing desk for Prairie wheat, barley and durum as an incentive for the durum processing portion of its facility.


However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, both present Friday at AGT's announcement in Regina, drew that connection in a separate release.


"This significant investment in Regina is positive proof that the government's commitment to opening Canada's grain markets is attracting investors that are generating new jobs and economic growth," Harper said.


AGT's announcement, the government said, builds on "economic opportunities created by the government's commitment to end the single-desk wheat marketing system" through the planned passage of legislation expected to come into force in August 2012.


Pro-deregulation groups including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Grain Growers of Canada, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, Western Barley Growers Association and Alberta Barley Commission all issued statements Friday hailing AGT's announcement as clear proof that an open marketing system will encourage further-processing of board crops on the Prairies.


"Buy Canadian"


"I'm already planning to increase my durum acres next year," said Wheat Growers past president Cherilyn Nagel, a grain grower near Mossbank, Sask., about 70 km southwest of Moose Jaw.


The Wheat Growers also hailed the plant as "good news for Canadian consumers looking to buy Canadian."


Right now, the group said, there are "few pasta plants on the Prairies and none of any significant size. North Dakota, on the other hand, is home to five pasta plants, including one plant that produces almost as much pasta as all of Canada."


A pro-single-desk group, the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, scoffed at the pro-deregulation sentiment, alleging previous plans to process pasta on the Prairies "could not get financing because the economics of processing durum wheat into pasta favours plants closer to major population areas."


"While it is convenient for Harper and Ritz to hide behind this announcement, it makes me wonder how much federal incentive money has been promised to this company to construct and operate this plant," CWBA chair Bill Gehl, a grower near Regina, said Friday.


Harper's and Ritz's presence at AGT's announcement, however, did not come with any funding pledges for the facility. The government's release specifically states the AGT project "will be funded through a $50 million private investment."


Country Guide, October 8, 2011 


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Richardson Expands


Richardson International Limited is expanding east.


The company has purchased Innovative Foods Corporation, a margarine and shortening manufacturing business with plants in Mississauga, Ont. and Sussex, N.B. The sale was completed on Oct. 1.


"We are dedicated to developing innovative, new canola-based food products for today's health-conscious consumers," says John Haen, vice-president of Richardson Nutrition. "The purchase of Innovative Foods allows us to continue to grow our business in the retail, food service and industrial markets."


With the purchase of Innovative Foods, Richardson states it's the only Canadian company with manufacturing plants in Eastern and Western Canada that produce both margarine and shortening.

Richardson will employ approximately 60 employees who worked for Innovative Foods.


"Richardson is recognized as a leader in developing innovative, new non-hydrogenated ingredient solutions for food manufacturers," Haen says. "The acquisition of Innovative Foods will allow us to better service our customers in both Eastern and Western Canada as well as U.S. markets."


Earlier this year, Richardson Nutrition announced a $15 million expansion to enhance its canola packaging facility in Lethbridge, Alta. to meet increasing customer demand for healthier food products. The company is also adding a $1.5 million research and development laboratory at the facility.


Allison Finnamore, FCC Express, October 7, 2011


Herbicide-Resistant Superweeds Overpowering Crops


Farming costs, food prices and agricultural pollution may rise as a result of nature's strike back against a biotechnology that has revolutionized modern farming.


"Superweeds" resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, also known by the trade name Roundup, have infested millions of hectares of cropland through much of the U.S. and areas of southwestern Ontario.


That means farmers may no longer be able to reap the benefits of Roundup Ready crops, which are genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, allowing farmers to control weeds with the herbicide without harming the crops themselves.


Bill Johnson, a weed scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., told CBC's The Current that the development of Roundup crops was among agriculture's top one or two most important in the past 60 or 70 years because it allowed farmers to control weeds that had become resistant to a variety of other herbicides. That resistance had been forcing farmers to use complicated mixtures of chemicals to control weeds.


It also meant farmers no longer had to till their fields to control weeds, Johnson said.


"It greatly reduced soil erosion. It allowed farm sizes to expand," he said, noting that tillage is time-consuming and expensive because it uses lots of fuel. Forgoing tillage has also reduced the amount of polluting agricultural run-off into waterways, he said.


Johnsons said glyphosate-resistant weeds began popping up in fields around a decade ago, and by 2002 or 2003, there was a large area in southeast Indiana where over 80 per cent of soybean fields had a glyphosate-resistant strain of mare's tale, a weed also known as Canada fleabane.


Double, triple weed control costs


Such weeds can double or triple the costs of weed control, he said, and lead to more tillage, more erosion, more water pollution from run-off, increased costs, yield losses and higher food prices.


Philip Shaw, a farmer and agricultural economist near Dresden, Ont., said glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed, a "very aggressive" weed that can grow up to three-metres tall, first appeared on his farm about 10 years ago. The plant can destroy 93 per cent of the yield of soybeans in the surrounding area, he added.


Shaw said he wonders if Monsanto, the U.S. biotechnology company that makes both Roundup and Roundup-Ready crops, has some responsibility to deal with this problem: "Because some of these weeds are getting away from what it says on the label will be killed."


Trish Jordan, director of public and industry affairs for Monsanto Canada, said her company is committed to working with farmers and academics to make sure glyphosate continues to be effective weed control.


Minimal impact in Canada: Monsanto


Jordan downplayed the impact of Roundup-resistant crops in Canada, where she says they are a relatively new phenomenon and confined to parts of Ontario. She credited good crop rotation practices and lower adoption of Roundup Ready crops compared to the U.S.


The company has been recommending practices such as crop rotation, tilling their fields from time to time if appropriate, and using other herbicides to help control weeds.


It is also working on genetically modified crops that are resistant to other herbicides, such as dicamba-resistant soybeans.


"In the U.S., we think that will be a potential option to help grower who have been relying on roundup ready soybeans to introduce a new technology into their fields that has a different mode of action."


However Chris Willenborg, a weed scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, cautioned, "The solution is not always more and different pesticides."


He suggested using additional methods such as crop rotation and high seeding rates to keep weed populations low and minimize the chance that they become resistant to Roundup.


Johnson noted that the process of natural selection inevitably leads to the appearance of weeds resistant to any widely used herbicide. The genetic variation within a population eventually produces an individual that can survive the pesticide, and over time, that strain will come to dominate, since all the other strains will have been killed off.


He said companies need to stay ahead of the resistance curve by developing new herbicides and investigating other means of controlling weeds.


He added, "We've simply gotten too accustomed to relying too heavily on a very good technology."


CBC News, October 7, 2011 


Feeding the World While Protecting the Planet:  Global Plan for Sustainable Agriculture 


The problem is stark: One billion people on earth don't have enough food right now. It's estimated that by 2050 there will be more than nine billion people living on the planet.


Meanwhile, current agricultural practices are amongst the biggest threats to the global environment. This means that if we don't develop more sustainable practices, the planet will become even less able to feed its growing population than it is today.


But now a team of researchers from Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Germany has come up with a plan to double the world's food production while reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture. Their findings were recently published in the journal Nature.


By combining information gathered from crop records and satellite images from around the world, they have been able to create new models of agricultural systems and their environmental impacts that are truly global in scope.


McGill geography professor Navin Ramankutty, one of the team leaders on the study, credits the collaboration between researchers for achieving such important results. "Lots of other scholars and thinkers have proposed solutions to global food and environmental problems. But they were often fragmented, only looking at one aspect of the problem at one time. And they often lacked the specifics and numbers to back them up. This is the first time that such a wide range of data has been brought together under one common framework, and it has allowed us to see some clear patterns. This makes it easier to develop some concrete solutions for the problems facing us."


A five-point plan for feeding the world while protecting the planet


The researchers recommend:


Halting farmland expansion and land clearing for agricultural purposes, particularly in the tropical rainforest. This can be achieved using incentives such as payment for ecosystem services, certification and ecotourism. This change will yield huge environmental benefits without dramatically cutting into agricultural production or economic well-being.


Improving agricultural yields. Many farming regions in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe are not living up to their potential for producing crops -- something known as "yield gaps." Improved use of existing crop varieties, better management and improved genetics could increase current food production nearly by 60 per cent.


Supplementing the land more strategically. Current use of water, nutrients and agricultural chemicals suffers from what the research team calls "Goldilocks' Problem": too much in some places, too little in others, rarely just right. Strategic reallocation could substantially boost the benefit we get from precious inputs.


Shifting diets. Growing animal feed or biofuels on prime croplands, no matter how efficiently, is a drain on human food supply. Dedicating croplands to direct human food production could boost calories produced per person by nearly 50 per cent. Even shifting nonfood uses such as animal feed or biofuel production away from prime cropland could make a big difference.


Reducing waste. One-third of the food produced by farms ends up discarded, spoiled or eaten by pests. Eliminating waste in the path that food takes from farm to mouth could boost food available for consumption another 50 per cent.


The study also outlines approaches to the problem that would help policy-makers reach informed decisions about the agricultural choices facing them. "For the first time, we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet," said lead author Jonathan Foley, head of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. "It will take serious work. But we can do it."


The research was funded by NSERC, NASA and NSF.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by McGill University.

McGill University (2011, October 12). Feeding the world while protecting the planet: Global plan for sustainable agriculture. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/10/111012151720.htm 


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Australian Scientist Warning on Plant Biosecurity  


Greater attention needs to be paid to plant biosecurity to ensure the security of the world's food production and supplies, according to an Australian scientist.


The Director of Plant Biosecurity with the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food Shashi Sharma delivered the warning in a keynote address to an International Symposium on Grain Information Technology, being held in Beijing.


The Symposium features speakers from Canada, Japan, Australia and China.


Dr. Sharma said plant biosecurity was not receiving enough global attention or investment.


"There is a pressing need to improve the world's plant biosecurity if plant resources and the world's food production and supply are to be safeguarded from biological threats," Dr. Sharma said.


"The international community urgently needs to develop a biosecure global food supply chain and establish a strategy for regional, national and global biosecurity requirements to produce, process and deliver food."


Dr. Sharma said the green revolution of the 1960s was primarily focused on producing more food.

"The daunting task of feeding humanity now and in the future urgently requires another revolution focused not only on producing more food, but making it available and affordable, and not losing what is produced," he said. "To make that happen, plant biosecurity has a pivotal role to play."


Dr. Sharma said biosecurity covered the full spectrum of biological risks, whether they were naturally occurring pests and diseases, those introduced by accident or negligence, or deliberately as biological weapons.


"Nations need to consider undertaking a stocktake of their biosecurity risk management strategies, policies, institutional arrangements and systems to respond to biosecurity threats to the world's food supply chain," he said.


"There are new opportunities for trading and for enhancing the availability of food. But there is a growing concern that the spin-off from globalisation is increased exposure of the food supply chain to biosecurity risks.


"The world is already seeing significant production and post harvest food losses world-wide because of pests and diseases, particularly in the developing countries where chronic food shortages persist and where many people are starving.


"For instance, rice blast fungus alone is estimated to destroy enough rice to feed 60 million people a year. Importing food has the potential to expose a country or region to the introduction of harmful organisms, significantly impeding its ability to become food self sufficient."


Dr. Sharma said the adverse impact of these organisms in the invaded regions could be intergenerational and irreversible.


"Safeguarding the food supply chain from biosecurity threats by implementing effective risk management strategies is necessary to achieve food security for all," Dr. Sharma said., October 11, 2011 


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Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Newsletter


The fall 2011 issue of the Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation Newsletter is available at the following link:

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Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture:  Challenges and Opportunities


CAST has released a new Task Force Report about Climate Change, examining agriculture's role in:


  • Land-atmosphere exchanges of greenhouse gases (GHGs);
  • The science of carbon sequestration and GHG mitigation for various sectors of U.S. agriculture;
  • The consequences of any action--or inaction--in light of agriculture's role of providing necessary food, feed, and fiber.


The 116-page report includes graphs, photos, tables, and a large number of literature citations, but a statement early in the paper makes the key point clear: "Emissions of CO2, CH4, and N20 from agriculture are the result of both human-induced and natural processes in the ecosystem .... they can be lowered through modified land use and management."


The 22 eminent authors give detailed scientific explanations, but they also take an honest look at the causes of GHG emissions, how they might be managed, and what the consequences might be --environmentally, economically, and from a policy standpoint.


Purchasing Details:

The full text of Task Force Report 142 is available in hard copy ($50.00, plus shipping) and electronically ($10.00 download fee) through the CAST website at   


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Coming Events


Canadian Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Society of America joint conference, Fundamental for Life: Soil, Crop, & Environmental Sciences, San Antonio, Texas, October 16-20, 2011


Feeding a Hungry World: A Summit for Animal Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario, October 17-18, 2011 


Catalyst Canada Honours Celebrating Champions of Women in Business, Toronto, Ontario, October 18, 2011


2011 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Acadian Entomological Society, Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 6-9, 2011  


Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 21-22, 2011 


Canadian Weed Science Society Conference, Niagara Falls, November 21-24, 2011 


15th Annual Fall Canadian Agriculture Outlook Conference, Calgary, December 1-2, 2011


Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, Growing Forward in a Volatile Environment, Second Annual Canadian Agriculture Policy Conference, Ottawa, January 12-13, 2012


Canadian Organic Science Conference, February 21-23, 2012, Winnipeg, Manitoba 


6th Annual Growing the Margins: Rural Green Energy Conference and Exhibition and 4th Annual Canadian Farm and Food Biogas Conference and Exhibition, London, Ontario, March 5-7, 2012



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Frances Rodenburg, Editor