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Food blog no. 7 – Canadian Food Inspection Agency lacks strategy for of surveillance of imported food

So, here I am am, happily blogging about Food Security and food sustainability, and there on the front page of Friday's Globe and Mail, above the fold, is the headline "Food watchdog asks who's minding the store: Canadians drawing more and more from foreign sources of food, but domestic regulation isn't keeping pace, internal audit finds". The article reports that an internal audit found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency - CFIA - "has failed to develop a strategy to ensure that health hazards are not entering Canada in cans of spices and jars of cooking oil."

Now, I have had various interactions, on and off with CFIA for a decade, about the development and implementation of the Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada. CFIA and Environment Canada were two of the lead agencies on this issue. From a global perspective, Canada has been a laggard when it comes to the development of strong laws, policies and programmes for managing potentially invasive, non-indigenous, introduced species, and their potential threats to both agriculture and the natural environment. I have witnessed this laggardliness from when I was researching my book with Judy Myers at UBC, and in the decade since, as Canada has tried to move forward on this issue (see Myers and Bazely 2003). I have come to the conclusion, that one of the main reasons for Canada being at the rear of the pack when it comes to action, is the woeful under-resourcing of the various agencies, including CFIA, who are tasked with the issue. Who's at the front of the pack? New Zealand and Australia.

Therefore, Prof. Rick Holley's (University of Manitoba) observation about the lack of resources for CFIA in the context of screening imported food for quality and contamination, certainly resonates with my experience. For example, I referred to a US Department of Agriculture report on "Imports from China and Food Safety Issues" in an earlier Food Blog (no. 2) because I couldn't find a Canadian information source.

Dawn R. Bazely

Buying Locally Produced Foods

Did You Know?
The majority of the money spent on grocery-store food goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers. Only 3.5 cents of each dollar actually goes to the farmer. (approximately, I've read other figures but generally it's in this area) If you buy food from a farmers market or farm stand, you can be sure that most, if not all, of your money is going directly to the farmer.

Communities reap more economic benefits from the presence of small farms than they do from large ones. Studies have shown that small farms re-invest more money into local economies by purchasing feed, seed and other materials from local businesses,x whereas large farms often order in bulk from distant companies. Large factory livestock farms also bring down local property values with the intense odors they emit.

Food transported short distances is fresher (and, therefore, safer) than food that travels long distances. Local food has less of an opportunity to wilt and rot whereas large-scale food manufacturers must go to extreme lengths to extend shelf-life since there is such a delay between harvest and consumption. Preservatives are commonly used to keep foods stable longer, and are potentially hazardous to human health. Industrially-produced foods are also difficult to grow without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and growth hormones, all of which can be damaging to both the environment and human health.

A large amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, smog and air pollution. Even the refrigeration required to keep your fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats from spoiling burns up energy.

A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.

In the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread-approximately the cost of the wrapping.xiii
Farmers markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.
Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.
If you are concerned about genetically-modified foods, you can select local farms that grow food from heirloom seeds. And you can support organic practices in your region.

Local Food: Where to Find It, How to Buy It
This 30-page booklet was developed by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture for consumers who are interested in supporting rural communities by buying locally grown food, but don't know how to begin. You can get the full free PDF version here:


The Big Green Purse! AKA The Sustainable Shopping Bible Pt. 3/4

Brief notes on how to go Green with your clothing choices, and some things you didn't know...

What most of us don't know:

  • Manufacturing nylon creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas at least 300x more potent than carbon dioxide
  • Dry cleaning relies on a toxic solvent ("Perc") to get the job done - which is known to cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It is also linked to reproductive problems. More info in the Big Green Purse


  • One of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world
  • Cotton seeds contain residues of tons of toxic chemicals, is fed to cattle and pressed into oils = we EAT the toxic residue!

Some eco-friendly clothing fabrics as alternatives to conventional cotton:


  • Naturally resists pests so you don't need any pesticides!
  • Needs little bleaching
  • Needs 1/20 as much water to grow and process as cotton


  • Naturally resists pests and many bacteria
  • Antimicrobial


  • Much stronger than cotton = lasts longer
  • Generally uses far less pesticides than growing conventional cotton

Some eco friendly online clothing retailers:

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

This wallet-size guide from the EWG will help you decide which produce to buy organic, and which are lowest in pesticides, so you can eat healthy without emptying your wallet. I recommend the health-conscious shopper to print and keep a copy with you in your wallet or purse:

P.S. It is always better to buy locally in order to reduce gas emissions from transport vehicles