Commentary: Canada’s Food Supply – the good, the bad, and the ugly

No doubt we’ve made you smile with our funky cover design this month, which captures the fun and beauty of food as art. Eating well is a big theme in this issue as we bring you our popular Annual Guide to Organics. With a record total of 53 organic entries, this has got to be our yummiest issue of the year. Here you will find many of the farmers, storekeepers, and suppliers who make up the flourishing organic movement in Ontario. Their success is thanks to you, the consumer who spends extra effort and money to support this important agricultural sector.

For those aiming to prevent disease or recover from it, organic foods can be a matter of life and death. So every time you choose organic over conventional, you add strength to a health-promoting industry, which in turn adds political clout to the clean food movement. With every bite, the personal becomes political.

Meantime, in conventional agriculture the poisons keep piling up. In his feature this month: “How Safe Is Our Food Supply?”, Dr. Shiv Chopra discusses the five most toxic products that are legally allowed in modern agribusiness. These include pesticides (especially bee-killing neonicotinoids), growth hormones, antibiotics, slaughterhouse waste (fed to livestock), and GMOs. This is an eye-opening account of tactics used by the food and drug industries to maximize profits at the expense of both human and animal health, while regulators look the other way. In fact, Chopra concludes his article with the question: Whose interests do the regulators serve – those of industry or public health?

As a side note: Two months ago, Chopra, who is a former Health Canada scientist and whistleblower, participated in a March Against Monsanto after which he gave a speech urging us all to become whistleblowers for food safety. He encouraged the audience to not only march against Monsanto, but also to march against Health Canada for allowing carcinogenic products into the food supply. He says that Monsanto can only do what government regulators let them do, and believes that Health Canada has lost its power to protect public health because the Canadian government is now occupied by big business. In his speech he went on to say that North America’s food supply is “the most toxic on earth.” (View the video at: http://tinyurl.com/njvgw6v)

Whether you agree or disagree with Shiv Chopra, there is one truth that can’t be disputed – chronic disease has now reached epidemic levels, especially cancer, heart disease, and obesity, and much of it can be traced to what we are feeding ourselves. This begs the question: are we digging our graves with our knives and forks? Certainly it appears that government cannot be relied upon to guard the safety of our food supply, so it’s up to us.

Fortunately, an avalanche of new research coming down the pike points to the power of nutritional medicine to prevent and even cure disease. This month, resident journalist Michael Downey brings us the latest reports on new research findings, such as: “Vegetables and Fruit Lower Mortality Rates in Prostate Cancer Patients,” and “Good Nutrition is Crucial for Mental Health.” There’s also a report on the link between heartburn medications and increased heart attack risk, something that is not common knowledge amongst consumers.

But probably the most bizarre of Downey’s Briefs is the report on flame-retardants being found in cats diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Apparently the flame-retardant chemicals – which are widely used in furniture such as couches, beds, and chairs – are released into household dust over time, and then enter the cat’s body when they lick their fur. This begs the question: If flame retardant chemicals are being found in the bodies of pets and impacting their thyroids, then surely they are also entering the bodies of children and adults. Are these chemicals having an impact on human thyroid glands as well?  For those who wish to avoid chemical-saturated beds and chairs, there are some good alternatives. See the ad on page 119 to learn about organic beds and bedding. And for more information on flame retardants, see the CBC video posted at: http://tinyurl.com/pxc4dhq

Meantime, the number of subscribers to our new digital magazine is increasing daily (now at 970) as more people opt to get Vitality dropped into their inbox every month free of charge (to get your free subscription, send your name, email address, and city to: subscribe@vitalitymagazine.com or use the order form on our home page). And while we’re thrilled that the digital magazine carries with it terrific expansion opportunities beyond our established routes, we still value all of the outlets in our print distribution network across Ontario. Many of them are small businesses working hard to bring natural health products and services to their community, and they have earned our appreciation. To express our thanks to these businesses, some of which have carried Vitality magazine for years, we have started a new section that will put the spotlight on a different region in each issue. This month, the spotlight is on our Guelph/ Kitchener/Waterloo/Milton outlets, which you can find listed on page 112 in our July/August issue. If you find yourself in their neighbourhood, stop in and check them out.

Meantime, summer is a good time to nurture ourselves. In coming days, show yourself some love – relax, daydream, ponder the meaning of life. Self love can take many forms… bodywork, yoga, meditation classes, cleansing drinks, healthy organic foods, or detoxing your home environment of hazardous cleaning chemicals. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy yourself and have a great summer!

Julia Woodford