Life

Deconstructing Dinner

New podcast feature here every Friday.

By Jon Steinman 11 Jan 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Jon Steinman is producer and host of Kootenay Co-op Radio's program Deconstructing Dinner. A new podcast with notes is posted on The Tyee every Friday afternoon. All Deconstructing Dinner podcasts can be found here.

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Steinman: Hit show.

[Editor's note: Add to your podcast menu "Deconstructing Dinner," a hit radio show by Jon Steinman at Kootenay Co-op Radio (CJLY) in Nelson, B.C. Now you can access the podcast here on The Tyee every Friday afternoon.

"Most discussion of food by media focuses on health and diet, a very individualistic connection to food," explains Steinman. "Deconstructing Dinner looks at the well-being of all people involved in the process of growing and preparing and enjoying food."

This week's offering, for example, examines the debate over genetically modified foods (GMOs). (More about the episode below.)

Since its launch two years ago, "Deconstructing Dinner" has been picked up by dozens of radio stations in North America, England, Australia and New Zealand. It's mostly a volunteer effort, with start-up money from B.C.'s Ministry of Health and contributions from listeners as well as the Kootenay Country Store Cooperative, West Coast Seeds, New Society Publishers and Ryerson University's Centre for Studies in Food Security.

While at the University of Guelph studying the hotel and restaurant business, Steinman found strange the "disconnect" between his industry and local farmers. He spent a year in France seeing how they do it so much better, and considers B.C. a hotspot for groups working on local food security.

Local eating is hot. Just over two years ago The Tyee launched the 100-Mile Diet Series by James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, a concept that's become a movement. This month "Locavore" was named 2007's word of the year by The New Oxford American Dictionary. "The word 'locavore,'" explained an Oxford Press editor, "brings together eating and ecology in a new way."

If that's to your taste, come to The Tyee every Friday afternoon for a delicious helping of "Deconstructing Dinner."]

THIS WEEK: THE COLONIZATION OF THE CANADIAN FARMER
Saskatchewan organic farmers vs. Monsanto/Bayer

If you were told that organic farmers are giving up growing organic crops, would you be concerned? Organic standards prohibit the presence of genetically engineered organisms within a harvest, but since outcrossing between plants is unavoidable in nature, genetically engineered canola is so easily crossing with non-GE varieties being grown organically, that these crops are unable to be certified as organic.

Monsanto has long been at the forefront of controversy around genetically engineered plants and, most notably, when their hired hands began trespassing onto farmers' properties, taking samples, and then accusing farmers of stealing their technologies. One farmer who has now become world-renowned for his defiance of such actions is Percy Schmeiser, whose field of non-genetically engineered canola became the unwilling host to Monsanto's patented GE variety known as Roundup-Ready Canola. It was this case that eventually set the precedent that a company can indeed own life forms (the plants) that inadvertently make their way onto a farmer's field. But if a company maintains ownership of the seed and hence the plant, then should that company maintain responsibility for the damages that their property causes?

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate has since 2002 been seeking compensation for the damages caused by the property owned by American-based Monsanto and Germany's Bayer. A class action lawsuit was chosen, as the issues raised by the two plaintiffs are no different than those faced by any organic farmer operating in Canada. In May 2005, the lower court in Saskatchewan denied the group such class action status, and subsequent appeals were also denied in May 2007 and then again in December 2007 by the Supreme Court of Canada. This exhausted all legal avenues for such a case. But while the denial of acquiring such status is a blow to the farmers, it's far from being the end to their fight.

GUESTS

Sean Gardner -- Monsanto Canada Inc. (Winnipeg, MB) -- Monsanto's Canadian operations are part of the larger, global Monsanto company headquartered in St. Louis, MO. The company produces canola, corn and soybean seed products, and a range of herbicides most often found under the brand name Roundup-Ready Canola. Sean has been with the Canadian operation since 2005 and in his current position since August 2006. He previously worked as Monsanto's country lead for the Mediterranean area, comprised of Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Sean joined Monsanto in 1998 when the company acquired PBI Cambridge. Prior to joining Monsanto, Sean worked at Unilever.

Arnold Taylor -- Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) (Kenaston, SK) -- Since 1991, SOD has acted as an umbrella organization for organic producers, certifiers and processors. The organization maintains a membership of 600-700. Arnold operates Taylor Organic Farms with his son. The 3,000 acre farm has been certified organic since 1992. Arnold is the president of the Canadian Organic Growers and the chair of the Organic Federation of Canada. He is also the chair of SOD's Organic Agriculture Protection Fund Committee.

Marc Loiselle -- Saskatchewan Organic Directorate's OAPF (Vonda, SK) -- Marc farms on a century-old family farm. The Loiselle Organic Family Farm grows cereal, oilseed, pulse, clover and hay crops. They raise chickens, goats and cattle. Marc has worked with certified organic and biodynamic practices for 22 years. Marc is one of a few farmers in Canada growing Red Fife Wheat.

OTHER VOICES

Denise Dewar -- CropLife Canada (Toronto, ON) -- CropLife Canada is the trade association representing the manufacturers, developers and distributors of plant science innovations -- pest control products and plant biotechnology -- for use in agriculture, urban and public health settings. Denise is now in the same position for CropLife International.

Mischa Popoff -- isitorganic.ca (Osoyoos, BC) -- Mischa was an organic inspector until 2003. Popoff was a nominee in the 2007 federal Conservative Party candidacy for the BC Southern Interior riding.

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