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Letters – for Jan. 7, 2010

Bigger issues than climate change

Pat Mooney, an Ottawa-based consultant and crop diversity enthusiast, addressed the NFU convention in Saskatoon in December, as reported by your Allan Dawson (“Crop diversity key to food security,” Co-operator, Dec. 10, page 16). In Mooney’s future, climate change will change everything in world agriculture, including what crops can actually be grown. Why? Because the weather is going to be different – dramatically different from day to day, week to week. The big seed and pesticide companies, he suggests, would be marginalized or out of business because the “dozen” plant species they focus on would no longer grow. Instead, crop production control would return to “small farmers and peasants,” growing not the present familiar crops (wheat, canola, soybeans, corn, cotton, etc.) but any or all of 5,000 known plant species. There would be no choice but to grow whatever would grow in the new environment, meaning a lot more diversity. This, he suggests, is the only hope for feeding the world in 2050.

Wait a minute: is this a likely scenario for providing a world of nine billion with food and fibre? Not really. It is conjecture. It is certainly not “statistical truth” as he was quoted as calling it. It is alarmist theory linked to climate change, for which there is always a good market and an eager audience.

There are at least three issues affecting future food security which are a clear and present danger – certainly more so than climate change.

First, one of the biggest “food” problems is population. There are too many people. There will soon be 2.3 billion more, for a total of nine billion. This is a political hot potato. Future population growth is expected to occur substantially in the Arab world, most of which is thoroughly undemocratic and otherwise not an easy place for the West to have influence. But population growth is starting to go down in Africa. If it can go down in Africa, it can go down anywhere with the right stimulus.

Secondly, soil loss and soil degradation are huge environmental problems. Soil washed away, blown away and lost to non-farm use is lost forever. It is happening throughout the Third World and, to a lesser extent, close to home. Much of this soil loss in tropical countries can be linked to human activity, including the destructive farming practices of their “small farmers and peasants.”

The third problem is water scarcity, a problem relatively well known. Again, its causes and solutions are loaded with politics, so people would rather talk about climate change than deal with it. But water scarcity is a problem second to none. Look no further than California for a world-sized example. It grows each year. It can and must be dealt with.

Somewhere, further down the ladder, is the effect of climate change on world agriculture. Yes, it is possible or even likely that it will become a serious problem by 2050 or sooner. However, the “problem” as we know it is based largely on long-range computer modelling of climate change which, as almost everybody knows, has experienced major credibility problems in recent weeks.

Therefore it’s time to switch some attention to the devil we know.

Bill Anderson Forrest, Man. farmers, and imposing all the conditions of access they see fit. What is particularly vexing is that this is occurring after the recognition of this right by the courts. In the famed “Sintaluta test case” of 1902 (which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada), the court recognized the provision of producer cars to farmers “as a legal right” and not as a matter of privilege. The understanding inherent in this was to restore some effective degree of competition at local points.

None of this is of any use to farmers if the railways are able to circumvent this right.

It is well known that moving grain by rail is far more fuel efficient than by truck. If Canada is at all concerned about CO2 emissions, it would seem to be an obvious choice to require these sites to remain open.

It is imperative for the environment and for farmers, that you, as federal minister of transport, stop CN from proceeding with its efforts to close down producer car loading sites. It is also imperative that you move immediately to amend the Canada Transportation Act to prevent this from happening in the future.

Terry Boehm

President National Farmers Union Allan, Sask.

Not a done deal

The decision to build Manitoba Hydro’s next major transmission line down the west side of Manitoba (Dec. 17 Manitoba Co-operator) will cost at least $640 million more than an east side line. This decision is illogical, and ignores the advice of experts and of Manitoba Hydro itself. Make no mistake – the decision to build Bipole III down the west side is being forced on Hydro by the NDP government.

Routing BiPole III on the east side of Lake Winnipeg makes economic sense, will provide economic activity for residents of the east side, and will not have any bearing on the designation of a world heritage site.

Routing BiPole III through prime agricultural land shows a callous disregard for agriculture and the communities affected.

The western route is not a done deal and there is a fourth option for BiPole III. I urge all affected landowners to contact my office before any negotiations with Manitoba Hydro. It is not just the physical presence of the line to consider. Landowners need to consider the loss of production on an ongoing basis; i. e. crop protection and overlap, irrigation potential, stray voltage for livestock and equipment. These are just a few of the factors to consider.

The route can be changed. Faster, greener, cheaper the east side route. Call my office.

Blaine Pedersen, MLA Carman, Man.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or e-mail: [email protected]

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