Tag Archives: Food Security

Monsanto and Cargill’s Plan for Soy-based Factory Aquaculture Industry

Monsanto and Cargill’s Plan for Soy-based Factory Aquaculture Industry


Read this story from commondreams.org on corporate food behemoths Monsanto and Cargill’s plans for a large-scale, GMO soy-based aquaculture industry. (July 2, 2012)

Agribusiness behemoths including Monsanto and Cargill are set to cash in big from industrial fish farming or “aquaculture” as the soy industry spreads its reign to the seas, a new report from environmental and consumer watchdogs shows.

The new report, “Factory-Fed Fish: How the Soy Industry is Expanding Into the Sea” from Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Europe, shows how the use of soy as feed in aquaculture — branded as “sustainable” — is an environmental disaster, harming fish both wild and farmed as it pollutes the oceans and brings unknown effects to consumers eating the soy-fed fish.

“Our seas are not Roundup ready,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, referring to the 93 to 94 percent of soybeans produced in the United States that are genetically modified by Monsanto to tolerate the application of its Roundup herbicide.

The growing of Monsanto’s soy has led to an increase in the use of herbicides, the report states, and its planting on large scales has led to massive deforestation, which exacerbates climate change and displaces indigenous communities.

“Soy is being promoted as a better alternative to feed made from wild fish, but this model will not help the environment, and it will transfer massive industrial farming models into our oceans and further exacerbate the havoc wreaked by the soy industry on land—including massive amounts of dangerous herbicide use and massive deforestation,” stated Hauter.

Once grown, the soy feed continues its adverse effects. Not being the natural food for fish, the farmed fish excrete more waste, which pollutes the open waters.  In addition, some of these soy-fed fish will escape and breed with wild fish, affecting natural populations.  Excess feed will escape as well, causing unknown damage to wild populations.

Despite these risks, soy has been touted as a more ecologically-sound alternative to feed in aquaculture, notably by the American Soy Association.

According to the report, “the rising use of soy in fish farming industries will mean that notorious agribusinesses like Monsanto, which has sponsored feed trials with genetically modified soy and salmon, and Cargill, which has an aquaculture feed division, will play a hand in seafood production.” The report notes that half of the seafood consumed globally is through aquaculture, creating a potential gold mine in profits for these companies.

Read original post: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/07/02-2

Rick Mercer

XL Too Big for Food Safety – Rick Mercer Rant Nails It


The tainted meat scandal that continues to dominate Canadian news headlines has provoked harsh criticism of XL Foods – the company at the centre of the nation’s largest ever meat recall – regulator the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Federal Conservative Government. Yet, as humourist and political commentator Rick Mercer astutely underscores in a recent video rant (see below), the most important question the crisis raises relates to the whether it is safe for up to 40% of the country’s beef to be processed by a single plant.

The XL scandal is but the latest and most dramatic wake-up call for Canadians as to the direction successive federal and provincial governments have pushed the Canadian food system – legislating smaller, locally run farms and processors out of business in favour of monolithic, centralized corporate food producers.

In the aftermath of this tainted meat debacle, as our politicians point fingers, attempt to derive lessons and develop policy changes to help prevent this situation from repeating itself, the primary focus needs to be on addressing this overblown corporate food system run amok. We are frequently told small operators can’t safely produce and process our agricultural products, yet the system our governments have imposed on us in their place is clearly proving the opposite is true.

Check out Rick Mercer’s prescient rant on the subject below.


In-Depth CBC Report: Food Lobbies Have Been Controling Canada’s Food Guide, Nutritional Info for Years


Check out this in-depth report from CBC on the history of manipulation of Canada’s Food Guide and nutritional recommendations for the public by power food lobbies. (July 30 ,2012)

The 1992 food guide marked “a new era in nutrition guidance in Canada,” according to Carmen Connolly, then the chief of the Nutrition Programs Unit at Health Canada.

The title changed to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and the design changed to a rainbow graphic to display the four food groups. The major change was a shift in philosophy to a “total diet approach” for meeting both energy and nutrient requirements, replacing the minimum requirements approach of earlier guides.

When the draft guide was sent out to food industry groups for comment, they didn’t like what they saw.

The draft guide had a small, fifth food group in a corner, called “extras,” with this description:

There is no recommended number of servings for these foods since they have little nutritional value. They provide taste appeal but are often high in fat and calories. The less you eat of these foods, the better.

The Grocery Products Manufacturing Council found it disturbing “that ‘extras’ continue to be presented negatively and inappropriately, creating a good/bad food scenario.”

In the final version of the guide, “extras” was gone and that corner of the rainbow was white. Replacing it was a box on the second page of the two-page guide called “Other foods,” with this description:

Taste and enjoyment can also come from other foods and beverages that are not part of the other four food groups. Some of these foods are higher in fat or calories so use these foods in moderation.

Check out full report – including audio clip: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/07/27/f-food-guide-70.html

Deconstructing Dinner creator Jon Steinman

Deconstructing Dinner: BC Food Broadcaster Launches Fundraising Campaign for New Series


For five years, Jon Steinman broadcast and podcast his radio program Deconstructing Dinner from the Nelson studio of Kootenay Co-op Radio to audiences around North America. The show, which delved into the serious questions surrounding food security, agriculture, health and environment, wound down in late 2010. Now Steinman is teaming up with James Beard Award-winning television producer Declan O’Driscoll to wit a follow-up “6-part documentary series deconstructing the origins of our food and celebrating efforts which are inspiring new food cultures.”

In order to help fund the series, Steinman is using a popular “crowd-funding” tool, Kickstarter.com, to raise $60,000 by July 20. With Kickstarter.com, which has helped fund hundreds of documentary, television and interactive projects over the past several years, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition – so Steinman needs support to raise the full $60,000 in order to make the show a reality.

According to Steinman, “Each episode will feature one food and go behind the scenes of the food system to identify some of the key issues to consider when purchasing that food.”

The audio predecessor to Deconstructing Dinner probed a wide-range of topics – such as aquaculture, local food production, organic farming – blending entertaining broadcasting with incisive investigative journalism.

Steinman’s partner in the latest incarnation of Deconstructing Dinner is Declan O’Driscoll, who produced the award-winning television special Milk War, about the legal battles faced by raw-milk farmer Michael Schmidt. Says Steinman, “I’m thrilled to partner with Declan and see the radio show evolve into something new. Our hope is that this series will become a critical resource which groups can utilize to inspire the growing interest in the US and Canada to cultivate more resilient and vibrant local food systems.”

The production team is offering some inventive prizes to donors – from pre-release digital downloads of the program to horticultural advice from the show’s experts and a private catered screening from Steinman himself.

Check out the demo for the show below – and the Kickstarter.com page for the the project, where you can help make it a reality.




Attack of the Biotech Guys


In the late 1980s, executives at Monsanto were told,genetic engineering offered the best prospect of preserving the commercial life of Monsanto’s most important product, Roundup, in the face of the challenges Monsanto would encounter once the patent expired.”

Monsanto’s guys in lab coats began working wildly to modify as many crops as possible to survive saturation in Roundup (trade name for the herbicide glysophate). Meanwhile, guys in lab coats at corporations like Bayer and Syngenta were splicing bacillus thuringiensis (Bt – a naturally occurring bacterium previously used in organic agriculture) into corn and other crops. 

Canada and the US were asleep at the switch. By the time activists in Europe were ripping out field trials of GM crops and the EU was implementing a ban, GM canola, corn and soya were in widespread commercial production in North America. How did this happen? Merda taurorum animas conturbit. (Google it.)

Our regulators bought the biotech industry’s argument of “substantial equivalence”. In other words, if it looks and tastes like its non-GM predecessor, it must be the same thing. Therefore, the industry implied, there could be no environmental or health risks. Great – except the tests used to establish this supposed equivalence dealt only with known toxicants and could not properly address potential allergic reactions and other issues of concern.

In 1999 substantial equivalence was dismissed in Nature as a “pseudo-scientific concept” and “a commercial and political judgement masquerading as if it were scientific. It is, moreover, inherently anti-scientific because it was created primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests. It therefore serves to discourage and inhibit potentially informative scientific research.”

By 1999, potential environmental risks associated with GM crops (e.g. cross pollination) identified by the Union of Concerned Scientists were already happening. Ongoing biotech industry claims that there could never be any human health consequences failed to persuade the British Medical Association which, in the same year, recommended a moratorium on the planting of GM organisms. This repeated call, reflected the BMA’s concerns “about the impact GM foodstuffs may have on our long-term health”.

Ten years later, as evidence about human health threats continued to mount, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued this warning: “Because GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health – and are without benefit – the AAEM believes it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle.”

Chemical and biotech (or, as they prefer to be called, “life science”) companies view the precautionary principle as an annoying impediment to quick profits. Without the precautionary principle, it is left to university and (in Canada increasingly endangered) government scientists to do this research – after the genie is out of the bottle and the damage is already being done.

In 2010, Watershed Sentinel reported that multiple and increasing allergies associated with GM crops have come to light since the guys in lab coats started running amok with Roundup and Bt. Links have also been made with organ failure and infertility.

Now, as Anne Sherrod reports in the current issue, scientists from the University of Caen report that the Bt toxin Cry1Ab from GM plants kills human cells. Previous research from the university documented DNA damage and endocrine disruption caused by exposure to Roundup/glysophate at concentrations currently permitted in food. 

Meanwhile, doctors from Sherbrooke Hospital in Quebec have found Cry1Ab in the bloodstream of nearly 80% of women tested. In the absence of any other identifiable exposure route, the doctors speculate that contamination may be the result of consuming beef fed on GM corn.

Nearly 20 years ago, geneticist Steve Jones warned: “The triumph of human ingenuity has not been unalloyed: because living organisms can deal with new challenges by evolving to cope, genetic engineers, unlike those who build bridges, must face the prospect that their new toys will fight back.”


Salmon biologist Alexandra Morton

Alexandra Morton: Farm Disease Secrecy Act Quietly Withdrawn by Minister


The following is a press release from Alexandra Morton

Victoria (May 31, 2012) For Immediate Release.

In the face of enormous public outcry, agriculture Minister Don McRae quietly withdrew his Bill 37 that would have made disease reporting in animals an offence punishable by two years in prison and $75,000.  The stated intent of the Bill was to encourage greater disease reporting by farmers in BC.

On May 3, Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham wrote a highly critical letter calling Minister McRae’s bill “extreme”, pointing out Bill 37 “would override the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act” saying “this is a matter of deep concern considering the importance of disease management” and tying it to salmon farming.

Citing the debate in the House between Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture, Lana Popham and McRae, arguing the definition of the word “person”, Andrew Gage of West Coast Environmental Law wrote McRae, “I strongly advise that you seek legal advice…”.

A change.org petition continues to grow targeting supermarket chains Loblaws, COSTCO and Safeway asking them to stop selling farm salmon that have tested positive for viruses.

On Tuesday, McRae began to retreat telling the media that he was going to amend his Bill to suggest that it would not apply to media or the public, only to government workers, but he left that on the order paper, never standing in Parliament to bring it forward.
“If Minister McRae wants higher disease reporting compliance, why didn’t he create a Bill to make it mandatory that all farmers in BC report disease, instead of attempting to take away free speech in violation of the Constitution of Canada,” says biologist Alexandra Morton. “I am deeply grateful for all the people who wrote McRae and signed the change.org petition, this was an extremely close call with oppression.”
Bill 37 could rise when the BC Legislature sits again.



New BC Liberal Law Would Make Discussing Farm-related Diseases Illegal


Read this story from The Province on the new “Animal Health Act”, which would make it illegal for anyone to discuss publicly farm-related diseases, overriding the Privacy Commissioner’s powers in the process. (May 22, 2012)

B.C.’s Liberal government is poised to further choke off the flow of public information, this time with respect to disease outbreaks. The Animal Health Act, expected to be passed into law by month’s end, expressly over-rides B.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, duct-taping shut the mouths of any citizens – or journalists – who would publicly identify the location of an outbreak of agriculture-related disease such as the deadly bird flu.

“A person must refuse, despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to disclose . . . information that would reveal that a notifiable or reportable disease is or may be present in a specific place or on or in a specific vehicle,” Section 16 of the Act reads.

It is quite conceivable that the provincial government, in the event of a disease outbreak at a farm, would delay releasing a warning in order to protect the farm in question or the industry it’s part of.

In that event, should you as a citizen hear about the outbreak, or if you were an employee at an affected farm, you would be breaking the law by speaking publicly about it or bringing concerns to the media.

Citizens or journalists breaking the Animal Health Act but not charged with an offence can be slapped with “administrative penalties,” which are fines. And the legislation contains an additional attack on rights of citizens: if you don’t pay your fine, a government representative simply files a paper in court that is the same, according to Sec. 80(2) of the Act, “as if it were a judgment of the court with which it is filed.”

Except for the absence of a judge or any semblance of due process.

Ultimately, this legislation aims to protect businesses from disclosure of information that may harm their financial interests.


Metro Vancouver Pushes Back on Secret Land Deal in Delta Which Would See 600 Acres of Farmland Converted to Port Use


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on Metro Vancouver’s reaction to news of a secretive deal orchestrated by the Emerson Real Estate Group to buy 600 acress of prime farmland in South Delta and convert it to rail yards and other uses connected with the expansion of Deltaport. The story was broken this week by Independent MLA for the region, Vicki Huntington. (April 5, 2012)

The battle to save Metro Vancouver’s agricultural land is heating up, with regional officials pushing back at the potential loss of 600 acres of prime south Delta farmland for port expansion.

Directors at Metro’s environment committee Wednesday agreed unanimously to have staff investigate an option-to-purchase agreement for the active farm land, which is now in the Agricultural Land Reserve but is tagged for a logistics and rail yard for the province’s Gateway Project.

Metro directors argued Wednesday that the 11 parcels of farmland, between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way are protected by the ALR, are not zoned for industrial use, and are earmarked as green space in Metro’s Regional Growth Strategy.

The opposition voiced by Metro directors Wednesday may well be at odds with the province’s plans to expand port operations in Delta and increase road and transportation routes for goods.

Lawrence Frank, Bombardier chair at the University of B.C., said the situation comes down to a trade-off between health and quality of life versus preserving agricultural land and there should be a special plan in place to determine where and why expansion is happening in a certain area.

He noted Metro Vancouver is affected locally by a national objective to move goods and supply the economy and Deltaport has been tagged as the gateway for good movements. Having logistics facilities next to Deltaport, he added, would create health benefits for the region because goods would not need to be trucked across the Port Mann Bridge and Knight Street, reducing traffic congestion and impact on residential areas.

“We have to be very careful of the loss of any agricultural land at this point; it’s critical,” said Frank. “But there’s a need to deal with competing interests and regional planning around logistic and goods impacts.

“Our local economy benefits from being a port city. We’re going to have to take the good with the bad.”

Metro directors insist there are alternatives. They also suggested staff examine the possibility of barging containers from wharfs in Surrey, New Westminster and Port Rupert.

“It’s a real blow against agriculture when that much land is taken out,” warned Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, vice-chairman of the committee.

Directors argue the regional district has already lost thousands of acres of farmland to senior government developments such as the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty settlement and the provincial government’s Gateway Project, which includes the four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road — a 40-kilometre transportation route that would run along the south side of the Fraser River from Highway 1, around Port Kells in Surrey to Deltaport Way in South Delta.

The provincial government claims the Gateway Project will reduce truck traffic and increase the movement of goods and services throughout the region.

The BC Gateway Transportation Strategy, released earlier this week, also supports private-sector investments in new “transload” and integrated logistics facilities, along with $2-billion in improvements to the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2.


Cross-Border Deal’s Grave Threats to Canadian Food Security


The following is the third installment of a three part investigation by Nelle Maxey into the wide-ranging environmental and socio-political implications for Canada of the recently signed US-Canada cross border security deal and ancillary agreements related to the Regulatory Cooperation Commission. Read part 1 and part 2 here.

To introduce the third article in this series on the Regulatory Cooperation Commission (RCC), let’s begin with a brief reminder of the Martin-era Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP. The SPP met with significant public opposition on both sides of the border when it became known. Then it seemed to disappear. The Border Security deal and the RCC are simply a continuation of the SPP under new names. This is readily apparent from this statement in the RCC Joint Action Plan introductory comments:

The United States and Canada will seek, to the extent possible, to coordinate the RCC’s activities with the work of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Regulatory Cooperation Council when the three governments identify regulatory issues of common interest in North America.

These policies have been transacted by government bureaucrats and private business leaders behind closed doors with no involvement of parliament or public debate. This excellent background video, End of Nations, from Global Research in Toronto gives a great overview of the subversion of the SPP into the current Harper Border Security and RCC policy deal. Please do not kid yourselves. This deal IS about national sovereignty and the formation of a North American Union.

Nowhere will Canadians be more personally affected by this deal than at their own dinner tables. That is the subject of this article — the agricultural trade sector and what the RCC Joint Action Plan reveals is in store for us as “misalignments” (their word) in regulatory “processes, practices and activities” are “fixed” by the swell deal.

The first section of the Agricultural initiatives concerns “Food Safety”. The justification for this portion of the deal is stated as follows:

“Food produced under the regulatory systems in both countries is some of the safest in the world, and it should usually not be necessary to apply additional inspection or testing requirements, simply because it is crossing the Canada-U.S. border.”

While many Canadians may take exception to this statement about the safety of our food supply as teenagers drop dead from energy drinks, the elderly keel over from their listeriosis-laced sandwiches, and obesity and illnesses like cancer and diabetes rage in the general population, the fact remains that the government is sold on its business-friendly policies regarding food additives and contaminates, GMO crops and foods, lax food labeling, lax inspection procedures and opposition to natural supplements and locally-produced foods. I present here the most worrisome of the specific details provided in the Joint Action Plan and its supplementary document, The Consultation Report.

Here are the specific initiatives (emphasis added):

  • Develop common approaches to food safety, in light of food safety modernization efforts in both countries, to jointly enhance the safety of the Canada-U.S. food supply and minimize the need for routine food safety surveillance inspection activities in each other’s country (applies to products within the mandates of both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Food and drug Administration).
  • Enhance equivalence agreements for meat safety systems to streamline, simplify, and, where possible, reduce import and administrative procedures, while maintaining public health outcomes.
  • Establish mutual reliance on jointly acceptable food safety laboratory recognition criteria, test results and methodologies to ensure that food safety laboratory testing conducted in one country is acceptable to regulators in both countries and facilitate cross-utilization of laboratory results by industry and regulators (applies to products within the mandates of both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration).
  • Streamline the certification requirements for meat and poultry, including, where possible, the reduction or elimination of redundant certification, data elements and administrative procedures for shipments flowing between Canada and the U.S

The second section concerns “Agricultural Production”, with the following initiatives listed (emphasis added):

  • Further align crop protection product (e.g., pesticides) approvals and establishment of maximum pesticide residue limits/tolerances in both countries.
  • Further align marketing application submission and review processes for veterinary drugs, including efforts to establish identical maximum drug residue limits/tolerances in both countries.
  • develop a perimeter approach to plant protection with a view to leverage each country’s efforts to mutual advantage and, where possible, streamline certification requirements for cross-border shipments.
  • Work towards a common approach to zoning of foreign animal diseases.

The third section is “Marketing” and is the only section we heard anything about in the press, namely the initiative to adopt a common approach to naming meat cuts for labelling and inventory purposes. The other initiative in this section regards adopting similar “financial risk mitigation safeguards” for nonpayment of producer bills.

The implications of the entire Agriculture section raise the following questions. Please click on the links so you understand fully what is at stake here as regulations, testing, processes and procedures (like inspections) are harmonized.

There was a hard-fought, 10-year battle to keep Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) out of Canadian dairy products because it had not (and still has not) been proven to be safe for human consumption. The concern is risk of breast and colon cancer in humans. So, will Canadians be forced to drink milk and eat cheese containing this genetically modified veterinary drug now as happens in the US under FDA approval?

Will Canadians see higher levels of pesticide and herbicide residues than we already see on our vegetables and fruits as American standards are adopted?

Will we see a proliferation of GMO crops which are dangerous to human and animal health and are producing resistant insect and weed strains, not to mention actually killing the crops themselves?

Will more GMO foods begin hitting our dinner plates? Specifically, will Canadians see toxic but FDA-approved Gulf Coast seafood, or genetically modified and ISA-contaminated salmon, or GM pigs on our dinner plates soon?

Will levels of veterinary antibiotics increase in our meat supply so even more antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria will appear in the Canadian population?

Will we see raids on small farmers, organic co-ops and health food stores as documented in the movie Farmageddon? These raids are being carried out under the US Food Safety Modernization Act. The RCC Consultation report says:

Develop common approaches to food safety requirements and policies, aligning new regulations and guidance—specifically, implementation of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act requirements.

Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions seems to be “YES”, as regulations are harmonized. Think about what this may mean for our food security, the right to choose what foods we eat, the sustaining of small, local farms, and above all for our health and our children’s health. Then consider taking political action on this vital matter.

Nelle Maxey is a grandmother who lives in the beautiful Slocan Valley in south-eastern BC. She believes it is her obligation as a citizen to concern herself with the policies and politics of government at the federal, provincial and local level.

A representation of Port Metro's Planned second terminal at Deltaport

Prominent Fish Biologist Questions Port Metro’s Expansion Plans


The following is a letter from retired senior Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologist and manager Otto Langer to Port Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Director:

Dear Mr. Desjardin – Sustainability Director – Port Metro Vancouver:

As someone that has spent 42 years of my life protecting the Fraser River Estuary I find the Port Metro Vancouver’s latest phase of its upgrading of the Roberts Bank Port facilities including the transportation infrastructure to be of great concern and is again another setback in protecting this globally significant estuary. Continued development in the Roberts Bank area and on the bank itself will reduce options for future generations to benefit from our natural environment and will again degrade the habitats of vast populations of fish, wildlife and harm public recreation and livability. Further much of the new development is dependent on encroachment on some of the best farmland in Canada and that is yet another nail in the coffin in our ability to protect our base to grow food near this large metropolitan area.

The original development of the Roberts Bank Facility in the late 1960’s was one of the greatest impacts that the Fraser River Estuary has ever suffered since the construction of the many dykes around the estuary in earlier times and after the 1948 flood. That dyke building destroyed vast habitat areas and cut off much of the estuary from what was a large and extremely productive ecosystem.

We are only now protecting a small part of the original estuary and any new development will have an incrementally larger toll on estuary health and survival. Expansion of the port facility a few years to increase coal exports and then container facilities has allowed this port facility to extend across this unique and highly productive mudflat and marsh estuarine complex like a cancer. This present proposal is not a major development but it helps set the stage for major new expansion just over the horizon.

For the concerned public to now have to face and comment on yet another round of industrial expansion is truly unfortunate especially when one considers the a state of world economic uncertainties and a present myopic drive to increase an overly exploitative phase of resource development and the export of as many raw resources as possible and then import most of our manufactured goods. The port planning seems to see no limits to future development and that should be of concern to anyone concerned about our future and quality of life.

It appears the port authority has not learned much from our history and is ignoring all signs that indicate that we must pay more attention to the issues of sustainability and respond to global warming and generally our over exploitation of the earth’s resources. I see none of that thinking in this new phase of development at Roberts Bank. The PMV seems to show little insight as related to the global picture of over development as it relates to our sustainable future as dependent on a clean and healthy environment and the protection of the limited but extremely valuable farmlands we find in this area.  The Port again seems to be driven by a development at any cost agenda and again the overall development by PMV in the estuary has to be put into its proper temporal and estuarine ecosystem context. This project is just one small impact as supported or promoted by PMV.

The above statement is not made without any foundation. The recent comments by the PMV CEO ( Mr. Silvester) in BC Business hi-lites the indifference and insensitivity and the total lack of understanding of the value of the natural environment and our agricultural land in the Lower Fraser Valley. My response to Mr. Silvester’s recent comments are attached. It is unfortunate that his comments seem to symbolize what PMV stands for and that is definitely not for future sustainability. It is indeed rather odd that Port Metro Vancouver would even have a position on staff that they call Director of ‘Sustainable Development’. Maybe that has to be defined because the Port concept of sustainability seems to leave out many aspects of the social and environmental legs of the sustainability stool. Maybe it is sustained industrial development that PMV is dedicated to.

What is most disturbing about any development at Roberts Bank is the disjointed approach PMV is taking in this new development phase at that site and indeed in the entire estuary. To make matters worse, why in earth would the Federal Government have delegated any environmental review / screening delegation under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) to a port agency that is the developer that will gain financially from this development i.e. why and how can we get a proper unbiased environmental assessment when it is abundantly clear that PMV’s pro-development stance and mandate puts the Port in a total conflict of interest?

As part of the above and key to this review is the PMV ambush style of public consultation. I am informed that a few months ago Nature Vancouver invited PMV to appear at their October meeting to outline PMV expansion plans at Roberts Bank. PMV spokesperson agreed to appear some three months ago but two weeks before the event PMV backed out of the event saying their plans were not ready for public discussion. However, at about the same time the Port then listed this project for public comments and have given the public only two weeks time to respond to the planned development.

This approach should be embarrassing to any Port staff that have environmental, social sustainability or public consultation responsibilities.  This is totally unacceptable and it appears that PMV have not learned from the less than stellar environmental review PMV is conducting in harmony with the BC Environmental Assessment Office in the VAFFC Jet Fuel Delivery Proposal to ship jet fuel into the Fraser River Estuary.  In that review the PMV joint review only allowed the public 2 minutes of speaker time at the ‘public hearing’ last spring and limited written public input to a very short time period.

After protests by the public and local government, the comment period was expanded another two weeks. Despite an expedited process that was to be done about now, the public is left in the dark as to what has happened and above all doubt the sincerity and adequacy of that partnership review. Also in that project the Port is conducting the review with a more junior level of government. This is not proper when the issues related to the port, airport, fishery, navigation, wildlife, shipping, etc are all federal responsibilities. How can we trust a PMV environment assessment of any sort?

I do not know how PMV can with any degree of conscience believe they can conduct an impartial environmental review / screening process. The public and certain local governments including the City of Richmond have strongly stated that PMV cannot do environmental assessments when they benefit from the approval of the project.  Accordingly a group that is examining the joint BC EAO and PMV review of the VAFFC Jet Fuel Delivery Project has launched a petition to the Environmental Commissioner of the OAG of Canada to raise the issue of PMV’s obvious conflict of interest (attachment). This jet fuel project is very relevant in that that the conflict of interest noted in that project also is relevant here. The PMV is the wolf in charge of the sheep and that can mean the continued environmental degradation and eventual destruction of the Roberts Bank and other parts of the Fraser River Estuary.

The container and transport project now being screened is just the tip of the ice berg as related to Roberts Band port expansion. To review this part of the project in isolation of any work on the bank proper (Terminal 2) is akin to getting your foot in the door – again. This is not an acceptable review procedure in that it is obviously piecemeal and does not address the cumulative impacts of all development planned at this port facility, including the Gateway Highway Project,  as is required by the intent and spirit of the cumulative impacts provisions of CEAA. Further an environmental ‘screening’ is the lowest level of CEAA review and considering that the future of what is left of Roberts Bank natural environment and considering the impacts on the adjacent communities a higher level review (i.e.  a full Public Panel Review) is necessary.

I strongly recommend that PMV go back to square one and develop a complete proposal and an objective business case for significant expansion at this time in the face of port tonnage handled in the recent past, a realistic projection of increased port needs and relate that to the significant port development at Prince Rupert that will compete with this port. Also an objective review of the conservation future of this part of the estuary is long overdue.  Once these issues have been addressed, only then can the Federal Government, through a higher level FEARO Public Panel Review, do an objective environmental assessment that we can trust.

To date PMV has caused catastrophic damage to Roberts Bank habitats and fish and wildlife populations. Many of these populations are global in nature and truly unique and are under great pressure from past development. Further PMV has not shown that it has significantly mitigated the impacts from past development on Roberts Bank including the massive loss of habitat due to massive filling, fuel and coal dust spills, killing of wildlife by inappropriate power lines over the water directly in the paths of migratory bird populations and in the blocking of natural ocean currents, sediment transport and fish movements by the causeway.

To propose more development when past impacts have not been addressed is a way of saying that we will continue to develop regardless of environmental or agricultural or resident concerns and as we do more damage to new areas we will promise to mitigate the damage of the past. This is wishful thinking and a line must be drawn on the map because what has taken place in past development is well beyond the concept of what is sustainable development at that key estuarine habitat area.

In summary:

  • The Roberts Bank Port development as started in the late 1960s has caused catastrophic impacts on Roberts Bank natural processes, habitat and fish and wildlife populations. To date, these impacts have not been properly mitigated.
  • This environmental screening review of improved transport infrastructure at Roberts Bank Port Terminal is out of context with what is next planned and a proper review of what is planned for this area must be addressed as a comprehensive review of a complete package.
  • A proper review that can best address the intent of CEAA must be much
    more comprehensive and done at a higher level (i.e. Public Panel Review)
    and include all planned development at Roberts Bank Port to address
    perceived needs up to 2030. Anything less than this is a piecemeal short
    term review and undermines the cumulative impacts intent of CEAA and
    the public trust.
  • The stated opinions of the Port CEO in the press are bound to affect the
    thinking of all working staff at PMV including those on any
    environmental assessments conducted by PMV. Allowing an agency with a
    gross insensitivity to farmland and natural world values is bound to be
    not trusted by an informed public and that is not in the interest of the
    estuary, its life and federal responsibilities.
  • PMV is in an obvious conflict of interest due to their gain if the
    project is approved and this undermines an objective and unbiased review
    and greatly lowers public trust and the possibility of maintaining
    natural values on the remaining  and undeveloped portions of Roberts
    Bank and its backup lands.
  • The Federal and BC environmental agencies must draw a line on the map as
    to what government is willing and must protect in this valuable and
    essential part of the Fraser River Estuary. Continued piecemeal losses
    associated with an improvement of infrastructure such as this project
    must be put into context of what PMV has planned for this port site.
  • The environmental screening as applied to this project by PMV as per
    CEAA is inadequate especially as related to how the public was informed
    and the extremely short time given to evaluate and comment on what is
    indeed taking place and about what is to next take place considering
    known PMV expansion plans and attitudes stated for natural values in the
    Roberts Bank area.
  • PMV does not seem to appreciate that the Fraser River Estuary, including
    the Roberts Bank area, is an estuary of international significance and
    is one of handful of estuaries of global significance on the West Coast
    of the Americas. This alone requires an attitude of greater insight into
    how that legacy must be protected.
  • The PMV should withdraw from a leading any environmental review when
    they are the primary developer and beneficiary of the approved project.
    The Federal Government must re-evaluate why and how this terrible
    arrangement was ever allowed under CEAA. This bad precedent is now
    taking place in several projects in the Fraser River Estuary and it now
    appears that the estuary is simply treated as a port that is
    unfortunately entering a new era of industrialization. This will
    incrementally harm a very rare and unique Pacific Coast natural
    environment and promote the continued loss of some of our best

 Sincerely yours,

Otto E. Langer MSc

Fishery Biologist and Aquatic Ecologist

Richmond, BC.