Tag Archives: local food

Rejecting GMO foods

Saanich bans use of genetically modified seeds
By Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Saanich council took a united stance Monday night in opposing the use of genetically modified seed crops in the municipality.

Councillors argued that the motion, which also included writing a letter to various senior levels of government asking for mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods, was the best way to protect local organic farms.

“I do believe (genetically modified organisms are) a real impact to our organic farmers, and we need to try and protect that new sort of business entity as best we can,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff.

Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs the Healthy Saanich advisory committee, which brought the motion forward, said there isn’t enough known about any possible health risks associated with consuming genetically modified foods, so he would rather err on the side of caution.

Labelling GMO products, he said, would at least give consumers the knowledge to make a choice.

“You’re going to be consumer, one way or another, of genetical modified foods, and that may or may not be your choice,” added Coun. Vic Derman. “We label whether food is kosher sensitive or not. That’s a choice, it’s probably not a health issue, it’s simply a choice.”

Saanich conducted public consultation earlier in October, and it was apparent from the turnout then that Saanichites overwhelmingly support the ban, except for one lone proponent of GMO crops who says Saanich made an uninformed decision based on unfounded fears.

“The councillors are not trained in the science, and they do not have the ability to differentiate between science and the pseudo-science,” said Robert Wager, who teaches at Vancouver Island University and has a background in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Wager argues farmers can benefit from using genetically modified seeds, which can be beneficial to the economy and can result in drastic reductions in the amount of insecticides and pesticides used to protect crops.

He says genetically modified crops that are drought and frost tolerant, and resistant to viruses and fungal infections. “There is so much research out there that rebuts any of the pseudo-scientific information (that informed council’s decision),” Wager said.

Coun. Paul Gerrard stressed Saanich should take the precautionary principle, and conduct more research to ensure council makes the most informed decision possible, which echoed the sentiment of the Peninsula Agricultural Commission.

While the Healthy Saanich committee sought advice from the agricultural commission, the report that came before council was worded much stronger against the use of GMO products, Gerrard noted.

Council supported the motion 9-0 to oppose genetically modified seeds crops and write letters encouraging mandatory GMO labelling.

Protecting farmland the right call

Saanich landowner feeling henpecked
Saanich News October 17, 2012

The chickens aren’t coming home to roost, yet.

A Saanich family’s plan to open a chicken farm on their agricultural land has hit a stumbling block at the municipal level.

Gordon Alberg said his hands were tied after Saanich council twice denied his family’s request to developing housing on property at 1516 Mount Douglas X Rd.

So the family – Gord and his siblings Don Alberg and Florence Davis – went the route council suggested, and proposed a poultry operation that would house 12,000 birds in four barns.

Saanich’s planning department has now denied the family building permits, which Alberg says is all politics.

“They’re trying to have jurisdiction over it,” he said of his property, which is protected in the provincial agricultural land reserve but now sits astride a number of residential neighbourhoods south of Mount Doug Park.

Alberg hired a lawyer, John Alexander, after Saanich staff denied building permits on Sept. 28 due to problems with building sizes and property line setbacks, but not the potential poultry operation.

“This is agricultural land reserve land, and the majority of the concerns that (Saanich) raised simply do not apply to … farm uses,” Alexander said.

Alexander said while Saanich’s lawyers appear to be of the opinion that a building permit should have been issued for the chicken farm, there are still concerns about permitted building sizes and setbacks.

“I’m not convinced Saanich is right about the setbacks. All they’re going to do is drive the project to taller, higher more intrusive barns and more intensive activity along the property lines,” he said. “It’s like ‘be careful what you wish for,’ so to speak.

“The Albergs want to do this in the least intrusive way possible,” Alexander added. “They are committed to getting some productive use of this land, and it really will be council that will determine what the form of that productive use is.”

Saanich’s director of planning Sharon Hvozdanski admits there is conflict between the property as designated farmland while being zoned as residential.

“The use of the land is brought into question based on the existing single-family zoning, and also in regard to the use of the land for farming,” Hvozdanski said. “It’s our opinion that (land-use issues) haven’t been adequately addressed.”

On July 23, Saanich council voted 5-4 to protect farmland and oppose removing the property from the ALR.

The four dissenting voters argued that keeping the land in the ALR could result in a farming operation that would be more intrusive on neighbours than 12 homes and a community garden.

“If you want to save farmland you have to live with it being farmed,” Mayor Frank Leonard said at the time.

Coun. Dean Murdock, one of the more outspoken of the five councillors who voted to reject the housing proposal, stands by the decision.

“We have to stop carving up our farmland and turning it into asphalt-paved subdivision,” Murdock said.

“Our hope was that whatever farm process that might occur there would be a less intrusive farm practice (than a poultry operation) … and I regret the frustration and anxiety this has likely caused the neighbours, but retaining the farmland was the right decision.”

Sustainable Saanich Food Fest

Saanich hosts local food fest
Saanich News September 25, 2012

The Healthy Saanich advisory committee will host an event next weekend to help promote locally grown food.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase local food and local food producers. There will also be opportunities for people to learn more about growing their own food in their own yard or garden,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs the committee.

The free, family-friendly Sustainable Saanich Food Fest will include displays, lessons and presentations – on gardening and cooking – from Haliburton Farm, Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers, Lifecycles, Donald Street Farm and Saanich Organics.

“Healthy Saanich is keenly interested in local food and promoting local food, supporting our local growers, and we thought this was a great way to walk the talk,” Murdock said.

“I think it’s really important for people to get exposure about growing food and preparing local food, and knowing what’s available locally as part of the lower Island harvest.”

Kids will have an opportunity to learn some cooking skills, through Thrifty Foods’ Young Chef program.

The Saanich food festival happens Sunday, Sept. 30, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., where Darwin Avenue meets the Lochside Trail, behind the Saanich municipal hall.

Murdock says the location is a demonstration site for future trail-side pocket markets.

Last October, Saanich council discussed offering more opportunities to local growers to sell their goods, and the Lochside Trail off municipal hall was suggested as a prime spot for a makeshift market.

“I think (the Sustainable Saanich Food Fest) is a great way to open the door to having pocket markets at the municipal hall, which is really the community’s gathering place,” Murdock said.

Murdock wants Saanich’s green roofs for urban farming

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release
November 15, 2011

Murdock wants Saanich’s green roofs for urban farming

Victoria – Saanich Councillor Dean Murdock thinks one of the best places to grow crops in Saanich could be up on the roof.

Murdock wants to see Saanich Council introduce rooftop gardens as a suggested amenity for large-scale developments in major centre development permit guidelines.

“We can turn acres of asphalt into green space and vegetable gardens,” he said. “Green roofs allow urban residents to grow their own food, and help reduce our carbon footprint.”

Port Coqutilam and Richmond are the only BC municipalities with green roof bylaws. Saanich has a community allotment garden policy for public lands. The policy does not include rooftop gardens.

“It’s a great way to provide food security, to ensure we can grow enough food for ourselves,” Murdock said. “It’s a great place for neighbours to meet neighbours. Green spaces and open spaces are increasingly rare in urban settings. Why not put them up on the roof?”

The Capital Region Food & Agricultural Initiatives Roundtable (CR-FAIR) estimates that 5 to 10 percent of the food consumed in our region is grown locally.

The first-term Councillor is seeking re-election to Saanich Council and a seat on the CRD Board.

Municipal elections are November 19.

Making local food more accessible

Saanich Council has taken another step toward supporting local farms, increasing our food security, and making local food more accessible.

Councillors unanimously voted to create a Local Food Procurement Policy. This will give preference to local food producers when purchasing food for municipal events and food services. So, instead of buying tomatoes or cherries that travel all the way from California or Mexico, we’ll get them from Saanich or Vancouver Island farmers.

The University of Victoria’s highly successful local food program has been in place for almost a decade. Feeding nearly 20,000 students and teachers local food choices every day is a big shot in the arm for local producers. Saanich doesn’t buy a lot of food, but when we’re spending local dollars, we want to use them to support local farms and help to bolster local food production and the local marketplace.

I am confident that by following UVic’s example, Saanich will inspire other municipalities and local businesses to set up their own ‘buy local’ food policies. Our collective buying power will help to grow the local marketplace. Selling more fruits and vegetables means more profitable, productive farms – that’s more local jobs and fewer ‘For Sale’ signs on agricultural lands.

Buying local also cuts our greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint by saving the long-haul truck trips that bring food across the country (or countries). Local food is healthier too because there are fewer, or no preservatives needed when food comes straight from the farm to the dinner table in the same community.

The Local Food Procurement Policy is just a small step. There’s more that we can do. Let’s work together to create more community food markets closer to home. Giving local producers a place to sell their fruits and vegetables at our recreation and shopping centres puts them in direct contact with consumers. It also gives consumers a chance to find out where their food comes from and how it’s grown.

By choosing local food, we’re getting healthier, low-carbon choices and supporting our farmers. That’s how we’ll make our community more sustainable and food secure.