Shaking Off Distractions – Letter to Manitoba Co-operator

Would you agree – that the best environmentalist is the land owner who knows the value of maintaining a good measure of ‘wild’ on the farm, is part of a supportive family and community and gets enough for the food he/she grows to be able to afford to keep a healthy balance on the farm? It seems to be a no-brainer but when I asked Patrick Moore (formerly of Greenpeace) that question at Ag Days, he couldn’t answer. He seemed to distrust my question.

In his speech Mr Moore proved to be no friend of environmentalists or farmers. It simply seems to satisfy his agenda to fuel the fire between farmers and environmentalists. But whether or not there is a difference of opinion between these professionals is not the question. The question, it seems to me, is How can we change the agricultural economy to ensure that farmers can afford to be environmentalists?

The cheap food policy is clearly the enemy here. Playing to the dictates of ever increasing efficiency will ensure that we all drain, burn and plow down every habitat that is not dominated by machines. We’ll destroy every earthworm and microbe in our soils. And we won’t have one child who wants to buy in to our lunacy. This, as I tried to articulate at Ag Days, is what I have seen happening in Africa, Mexico and Central America. The corporate driven chemical and seed companies have been contributing to farmers leaving the land – as they have in Manitoba. Can someone please help me understand why farm organizations and governments support a process and policies that discourage farmers from farming?

Take the GMO issue. It’s clear enough that consumers in Europe, Asia and increasingly in North America do not what GMOs in their food. They don’t trust the science and when we embrace the science they don’t trust us. We are losing markets due to our embracing of this technology. I don’t get it. Why would we embrace the dead end GMO technology over and above the booming organic market possibilities? And please don’t tell me this is about feeding hungry people in Africa or that African leaders are begging for this technology. Does our Prime Minister speak for the interests of our farmers? No, this is about very big business wanting to manipulate the situation to satisfy their over-the-top salaries and profits. Why would we as a farming community let ourselves be distracted so? Do we or do we not want more farmers – more people thriving on the land – here and in Africa?

At the end of my little tussle with Mr Moore, I asked him if we couldn’t work together to nurture more farmer-environmentalists. He must have been too stressed out to think by then because he said, “Maybe we don’t need more farmers. Maybe we need more machines doing the work.” Surely I didn’t hear you agreeing with him.

Lets call it straight folks. Mr Moore is being hired these days because he is promoting the GMO industry. He isn’t interested in what is good for Manitoba farmers or rural communities. It worries me that the Manitoba Canola Growers Association would, first of all, pay Mr Moore to speak, and secondly, that they billed him as being with Greenpeace. He has not been with Greenpeace for some time and he clearly has no love for that organization. I have no connection with Greenpeace but I can’t imagine them being as anti farmer and as anti rural vitality as Mr Moore seems to be.

Hopefully we can shake off distractions such as this and get back to the work of forming a united voice – as Mr Dewar of KAP expressed so well through the farewell interview he gave to The Co-perator. I look forward to the day when the Organic Food Council or Manitoba and Organic Producers Association of Manitoba see the benefit of sitting at the KAP table along with MCGA and the other member groups. How do we hasten that day? Because, as another story covered in last week’s Co-operator states, Environmentally sustainable agriculture is no passing fad. I trust farmers farther than any other professionals and I know that we all want our children and grandchildren to be free thinking, quality food growing farmer-environmentalists – if we can work out a way of ensuring they can make a good living doing so. Get behind us Mr Moore.