Opinion

Les opinions sur les questions relatives à la municipalité de Pontiac - Opinions about issues concerning the Municipality of Pontiac

Protecting Canada’s farmland, the right way

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Breckenridge Creek, Municipality of Pontiac, Québec.  (Image ©Thomas Soulière 2014)

macleans.ca

November 20, 2014 — Canada was once a country of farms. At Confederation, four out of every five Canadians were farmers. Today, farmers comprise less than two per cent of the population and produce a mere 1.1 per cent of GDP. Should it come as any surprise that the amount of farmland in Canada is shrinking, as well?

Last week, Statistics Canada released a comprehensive look at agriculture in Canada, bringing together the latest economic, geographic and ecological indicators. The most noteworthy observation: Nearly one million hectares of “dependable agricultural land” has disappeared from cultivation over the past 10 years, most of it subsumed by development around Canada’s biggest cities.

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Urban sprawl is destroying Ontario’s farmland

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The view from midway up the Luskville Falls Trail in the Gatineau Park looking south east over the center of the Municipality of Pontiac, Québec.  (Image ©Thomas Souliére 2013)


By: David Suzuki and Faisal Moola
© Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2015

Despite its huge area, Canada has relatively little dependable farmland. Good soil and a friendly climate are hard to find. So it seems like good news that on a clear day you can see about half the best agricultural land in Canada from the top of Toronto’s CN Tower. If we’re to feed our growing urban populations, having food lands close to where people live will be critical to sustaining local food security.

Some regions of the country, like the Golden Horseshoe surrounding Toronto, have been blessed with an abundance of Class 1 soils. But an increasing proportion of the best soils in the Golden Horseshoe and in most urbanized regions of Canada now lie beneath sprawling housing developments, highways, strip malls and other infrastructure. As urban communities have grown over the years, agricultural lands and natural areas have far too often been drained, dug up and paved over.

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End the Food Wars: Let’s Fight for Understanding Instead

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Rob Wallbridge

I can’t really tell if it was the “packed with pesticides” or the “bashing mom bashes good” phrase that finally made me realize what was wrong.

It wasn’t long after I became active on Twitter that I began to question some of my long-held assumptions about GMOs and “conventional” agriculture. I had always been a critic of GMO technology, based on a broad range on concerns and backed by what I considered solid evidence and sound arguments. But on-line I found a community of scientists, farmers, journalists and others who were passionate about good research, sound reasoning and logical thinking on agricultural issues. And their conclusions were often at odds with mine. Seeing their evidence, I was forced to re-evaluate and modify a number of my positions.

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Charlie Hebdo in Context

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Jonathan Crowe

Satire doesn’t translate well.

Unless you speak French and have spent a significant amount of time in France absorbing the culture, you will not be able to pick up the nuances of French humour and satire of the sort found in Le Canard enchaîné, Les Guignols de l’info or, yes, Charlie Hebdo.

I’m certainly not able to do so — and I speak French, spent the better part of two and a half degrees studying French history, and for four years had a French French girlfriend to explain all the cultural references. All I ended up with was just enough awareness of French culture to appreciate the extent of my own ignorance.

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Where have Canada’s young farmers gone?

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Ralph C. Martin, PhD, P.Ag
Guelph Mercury

The Statistics Canada 2011 Census of Agriculture shows that farm youth are still leaving their farms. About 20 years ago, almost 20 per cent of farmers were under 35 and by 2006, less than 10 per cent of farmers qualified for this distinction. In 2011, only 8.2 per cent of farmers were in this energetic age category of enhanced mental acuity and physical stamina.

Let’s be clear that we’re not only talking about fewer farmers as farms increase in size. The point to emphasize is that as the overall population of farmers declines, young farmers are disappearing even faster.

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Protéger les terres et défendre les droits des producteurs : un devoir pour l’Union des producteurs agricoles

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L’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) et Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie ont récemment signé le protocole qui entérine la seconde révision de l’entente entre les deux organisations sur le passage des lignes de transport en milieux agricole et forestier.

Il faut rappeler que les producteurs agricoles et forestiers bénéficient depuis 1986 d’une entente négociée entre l’UPA et Hydro-Québec. Cette entente vise à optimiser la localisation des lignes de transport d’électricité et des postes sur les terres, à réduire les impacts lors de la construction de ces infrastructures et lors des travaux d’entretien, et à compenser équitablement les désagréments et pertes de récolte occasionnés par l’implantation d’un projet donné sur les propriétés.

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Feeding the World: Beyond the GMO/Organic Dichotomy

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Rob Wallbridge

We should all recognize by now that “feeding the world” is much more a logistical and political challenge than an agricultural one. As a farmer, however, I spend a lot of time thinking about producing food economically, efficiently, and ecologically. Conventional wisdom dictates that genetically-engineered crops are a vital part of the overall solution, while organic methods are nothing more than a way to fill a niche market for affluent consumers. Is that assumption accurate? What is it going to take to meet production challenges?

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Will a Neonic Ban Save the Bees?

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Rob Wallbridge

As an organic farmer, I get lots of invitations to sign petitions to ban things like insecticides herbicides or GMOs. When I was younger, I used to sign these petitions and even share them with others, often accompanied with white-hot exhortations that others should sign them too.

More often than not these days, I find myself cringing a little when these passionate pleas cross my screen. The hot topic recently has been neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics), which are blamed by some scientists and activists but not others as a key driver of spike bee deaths. Predictably the views of many anti-chemical environmental NGOs range from scepticism to outright fear: a recent literature review by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (a European-based non-profit) concludes that their environmental impact is “impossible to deny”; the International Union for Conservation of Nature (an NGO with a similar ideological tilt) says neonics are responsible for bee deaths and “must be banned.”

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