An Open Letter to Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay

Dear Minister,

I met you personally prior to the election at an event sponsored by Karen McCrimmon, MP for Kanata Carleton.  Five generations back, my ancestors came from PEI, and a cape near Fortune Bay bears the Abell name.

I have an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Acadia and Education from UNB, together with postgraduate level training in science, statistics, and data analysis, as part of my Ph.D. in science education from the University of Alberta. I have extensively studied the science related to current agricultural practices for the past 5 years, and I am concerned Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s new policy framework for agriculture is not recognizing the importance of thriving farmers, vibrant rural communities, a wholesome and varied home-grown food supply and a clean and healthy ecosystem.

In my literature research, what I have found is a consistent pattern of industry-funded studies that – in my scientific judgement – lack the independence and scientific rigor of good science, and instead whitewash clear indicators of problems.  This government promised to base decision making on science.  I want to see oversight and regulation of current and new Bio-economy products and players, and I want to see truly independent science-based decision making.

Everyone knows that the tobacco industry “led us down the garden path”, hiding the negative impacts of tobacco smoking which were first identified in Germany in the 1920’s but failed to get traction with regulators until over 50 years later.  Canada did lead in blocking the use of bovine growth hormone in Canada, one of the factors that has lead to widely differing public health profiles between Canada and our southern neighbours.  Just this week, Health Canada raised serious concern about neonicotinoids.

Meanwhile, prominent and very highly competent independent scientists have raised serious concerns over herbicide use, the increased use of which is strongly correlated with a whole range of chronic conditions that have been on the rise in North America since the 1990s and are costing us billions in additional Health Care costs.  I have substantial documentation at my disposal concerning these issues – virtually all of it seriously at variance with agribiz industry proclamations of safety.

I have also talked to major retailers, who are finding that humane and organic products are the fastest growing segments of their business.  Please don’t formulate policy that is going to be at variance with what has become a clear trend – as people around the world begin to realize the incredible cost of industrialized farming to security of our food supply, protection and regeneration of soils, and the financial and human costs of toxins in our environment, our soil, and our water.

Please take this opportunity to hit the pause button and reframe your policy proposals. Canada’s National Food Strategy must be at the centre of our next 10 year plan for agriculture. You must be sure to seriously consult with representatives of family farms, organic farming, environmental, health, food and food security organizations – and commission and support the independent research needed to ensure the health and safety of Canadians across the country.


Dr. Bob Abell, Ph.D., B.Ed., B.Sc.

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