— Heather Conn photo
Oh, that lawless lettuce and suberversive zucchini. Those red apple rebels. Did you know that new regulations in British Columbia, Canada strike at the heart of local farming and produce markets? They are taking the small-scale producer out of the province’s food-production system, leaving room for agribusiness and government slaughterhouses to dominate the market. So much for supporting the 100-mile diet.
The B.C. government now requires vendors at farmers’ markets to submit applications, recipes, and completed lab tests before they can sell their food at market. Essentially, this makes anyone who peddles produce from their garden, whether it’s organic or not, an outlaw.
The province’s Meat Inspection Regulations (MIR), effective since Sept. 30, 2007, stipulate that only meat slaughtered in provincially or federally licensed facilities can be sold for human consumption. In other words, all B.C. farmers who raise cattle, chicken or sheep destined for family dinner tables, and sell such livestock from their property, do so illegally. That’s outrageous.
Even though I don’t support the mass slaughter of animals for human food and don’t eat such meat, I still believe that farmers have a right to sell directly what they produce. I come from several generations of dairy and produce farmers in Ontario. My sister and her husband raised and sold beef cattle in Quebec for years until it no longer remained financially viable.
British Columbia’s regulations have resulted in long-standing, high-quality meat producers in the province losing their farm status and suffering dramatic losses in revenue. Suddenly, their related equipment is useless. One former sheep producer says:
“I had 110 ewes in Langley and maintained 58 ewes in Kelowna since 1999. I sold all my lambs locally and could have sold more if I had them.
“In the fall of 2005, I sold off all my sheep as there was no way I could operate under the draconian and ridiculous new meat regulations introduced by our Provincial government. There are no qualifying slaughter houses in our area and it is not economical to transport the lambs to the Fraser Valley.”
The B.C. regulations are supposed to protect consumer health, presumably following the hysteria over mad cow disease and subsequent efforts to prevent the sale of affected meat and cattle. Yet, small, organic framers who raise free-range animals without antibiotics — the more healthy choice for buyers — cannot sell their meat under these new laws.
Today’s eco-savvy consumers want to eat low-stress, humanely treated animals. They want to buy fresh, organic produce from outdoor markets in their neighbourhood. But B.C.’s regulations now ensure that more animals than ever will die in huge slaughterhouses, with animals mixed from different farms. There w ill now be more people handling this meat, risking greater chance of disease transfer. Any meat recalls will now involve tons of meat, rather than the mere pounds that might have resulted from a small-scale producer.
The implementation of the MIR regulations stands in total contradiction to the provincial government’s own policies of climate-change initiatives, green and sustainable communities, and reduced vehicle emissions. This new system demands the transportation of livestock and produce over greater distances and increases concerns over food security.
What happened to those “Buy local” campaigns? A B.C. medical health officer said in a 2005 annual report:
“Buying locally produced food also makes it easier for consumers to trace exactly where their food comes from and how it is produced, improving confidence in the safety of the food system.”
At the federal level, the Codex Alimentarius is an attempt at similar but vastly more far-reaching regulations, which would make local vitamins illegal, for instance. Currently, Codex covers most of the food consumed in Canada; we’re one of 176 countries, including the U.S., under its domain.
In theory, Codex food safety guidelines aim to protect consumers. In reality, they serve to boost the profits of, and further entrench and legitimize, corporate products made by the pharmaceutical, pesticide, biotechnology, and chemical industries. Find out more at www.codexalimentarius.net and www.saveournaturalhealthproducts.ca.
Many thanks to the Farm Food Freedom Fighters on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast for providing the core of this information. One member, an earnest senior, told me that their group had difficulty registering the URL for their website because the web provider thought they were terrorists.
How can you help?
To find out how people in the U.S. are fighting back against similar regulations, please visit www.healthfreedomusa.org