CRTC to OK web metering


INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Steve Anderson and Lindsey Pinto


As I write this column, I’m doing what I often do when I’m on deadline; I’m surfing the web! It’s like any other day on the Internet; people are finding creative ways to express themselves by making YouTube videos, posting on Facebook, connecting through Twitter and conversing on public forums.

But if you look a little closer, you’ll notice a heightened urgency around the Internet these days. It turns out much of the recent noise online is the result of people flooding the Internet with information about the CRTC’s latest move, the decision to allow big telecom companies like Rogers, Shaw and Telus to implement what’s called usage-based billing.

Usage-based billing (UBB), which has also been described as Internet metering, means that users are charged a penalty on top of their regular monthly bill for exceeding a predetermined threshold of bandwidth use.

Those who produce art, independent news or Internet video or use the Internet as a research tool, along with people who use video services like Netflix or iTunes or play online games, may already have a special bill in the mail waiting for them.

The hit to the average Internet user’s pocketbook is one thing, but perhaps just as important is the question of how Canada’s next online innovator will afford to pay for this metered Internet. This question reveals what usage-based billing really is – a tax on creativity, innovation and free expression.

Maybe all the innovators will move to the US, but many suspect Canada is just a test bed for big telecom control. If they can pull it off here, the US telecoms can’t be far behind.

To make matters worse, many suspect these impending overage fees are actually the first step toward ISPs charging us per byte, as they currently do with data plans for smart phones. Imagine sharing your Internet connection in your home or workplace, as many do now, and having to pay for every byte each person uses.

If you’re thinking of switching to an indie ISP, that’s a good idea for other reasons, but keep in mind the recent CRTC decision allows big telecom companies to force small independent ISPs to adopt the same pricing scheme as the big players. So if the CRTC’s decision prevails, Internet users will have no choice to pay these new usage fees. They’ll have nowhere to turn.

One student in Montreal has already been charged $1,800 in “overage” fees after her Internet connection was hacked by her neighbours.

Stories like this have Canadians in a bit of a frenzy. Since the Commission’s decision, nearly 40,000 people have signed the online petition – possibly the most popular campaign targeted at a telecom issue in Canada’s history.

Politicians are starting to pick up on all the online activity. Late last year, the City of Vancouver, led by Councillor Andrea Reimer, adopted a motion calling for the CRTC to prevent big telecom companies from imposing UBB on Internet users. On January 20, MP Charlie Angus and the NDP put out a release calling for new rules to protect consumers from usage-based billing.

The CRTC has allowed UBB to enter our communication system, but its decisions can be reversed and legislation can be passed that safeguards independent ISPs and Internet users. Canadians can come together and participate in campaigns, such as the petition at, and show politicians and regulators that they won’t accept anything less than a fully open and affordable Internet.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times andAdbusters.

Arthritis, allergies & raw food diets


Arthritis, allergies & raw food diets

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina





Can changing your diet help with symptoms of arthritis or fibromyalgia? Research shows that a change in diet can definitely help some people with these conditions. I am pleased to see the Arthritis Society’s online material now mentions Scandinavian studies that show links between diet and an improvement in health.

At this point, the research is limited and the groups studied are small (typically fewer than two dozen people). Below is a summary of the findings from Finland, Sweden and the US:


When people fasted, their symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis decreased. Of course, fasting is not a choice you can adopt for long. Your symptoms will vanish – but so will you! However, the decreased symptoms did alert researchers to the possibility that certain food culprits can trigger reactions. The list included dairy products, wheat and other gluten-containing grains, animal products, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers) and citrus fruits. Trigger foods were not the same for every person.

Rheumatoid arthritis and vegan diets free of trigger foods

When people adopted vegan diets that were free of all of the foods listed above, more than half of the participants reported reduced shoulder pain and improved flexibility and quality of life.

alfalfa sproutsYou might wonder what they ended up eating. Participants’ diets consisted of plenty of vegetables (apart from those in the nightshade family), fruits (apart from citrus), gluten-free ‘grains’ (such as oats, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, wild rice and millet) and beans, peas and lentils. People did lose a little weight, but they considered this a bonus. At the end of the study, a number of people continued with their new food regimen, whereas those who returned to their non-vegetarian way of eating experienced a return of symptoms. In Finnish studies, participants had ‘living food’ raw diets, with plenty of sprouted foods. These people experienced reduced morning stiffness, joint swelling, pain and other symptoms. Lab tests and X-rays provided objective evidence of some improvements.

Fibromyalgia and vegan diets free of trigger foods

A US study of people with fibromyalgia found that 75 percent showed improvement when they ate mostly vegan and raw foods. In Finland, those on ‘living food’ diets had better pain scores and less morning stiffness. Symptoms returned for those who returned to their standard diet.

Reasons why gluten-free, vegan diets are beneficial for arthritis and fibromyalgia

Researchers propose these diets:

  • are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
  • are low in inflammatory compounds and pro-oxidants.
  • eliminate foods such as wheat (gluten) and dairy products that commonly trigger sensitivity reactions.
  • change our intestinal bacteria so that we have more ‘friendly bacteria’ that support health.
  • generally result in weight loss, taking stress off joints.

Many questions arise. Can we survive on such diets or enjoy them? To derive a benefit, must our diet be 100 percent raw? Are cooked foods toxic? What does a nutritionally adequate raw diet look like? For answers, I invite you to visit the Wellness Show (February 18-20) in Vancouver. See sidebar.

Raw food @ The Wellness Show

The Wellness Show runs February 18-20 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, West Building Exhibit Hall C, 1055 Canada Place.

Raw food presentations

Saturday Feb. 19, 1:30pm: Raw Food Diets: What’s True, What’s Not? Sunday Feb. 20, 12:30pm: Food Allergies: Health and Healing. Come by booth 930 (The Book Publishing Company) and say hello.

References: Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated With Vegetarian Diets by Dr. Jens Kjeldsen-Kragh.

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Becoming Raw, Raising Vegetarian Children,the Food Allergy Survival Guide and the Raw Food Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visit

sprout photo © Marius Jasaitis |


Growing a gastroeconomy


ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

As we look to create greater food security by expanding regional food production, we will inevitably be drawn into new ways of making a living, something I refer to as the new “gastroeconomy.” This describes the myriad ways people can earn an income by putting more regionally produced food on the table.

There’s a great deal of room for expansion on Vancouver Island and the Coastal Islands where we currently produce no more than 5% of the food we consume. Even if we aimed at producing only 50% of our own food, we’d have a massive expansion of opportunities in the field of agriculture, both traditional and non-traditional (urban farming). There’s a lot of money to be made by growing a gastroeconomy, which not only feeds us, but also puts us on the map as a destination location for gourmet artisan foods. Once we have created the Vancouver Island Diet, everyone will benefit from the value-added spin-offs.

Making a living from the land has been given such a bad rap that many people have become skeptical about it being possible or worthwhile. Twenty years of experience has taught me not only can you make a good living from the land, but it also provides a good life. It’s hard work, which gets easier as the years go by, offering rewards over time that are well worth the effort.

Many years ago I had to come up with a name for a business, which began when I borrowed one-quarter of an acre of land from a neighbour in town to grow food for my family. “The Garden Path” was the name I chose because everything I was then doing was connected to growing plants and planting gardens. After 10 years, my organic nursery business became so well known for its spring sale of heritage food plants and quarter-acre demonstration food garden that we had to expand to two and a half acres of agricultural land, 25 minutes away. The nursery expanded, as did the garden, and I grew more seeds for my certified organic seed business Seeds of Victoria.

From 15 feet of clay fill, we created a beautiful edible landscape that inspires visitors to grow food, without a word being said. The garden provides us with fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetables year round, the majority grown with seeds we have saved. As the garden developed so did the range of educational programs and workshops offered, which eventually led to me becoming a writer and author. All this from 15 feet of clay fill!

How can we change a culture that tells our young folk it’s futile to enter the world of farming? A restructuring of the whole system might help because there is very little investment or incentives for the next generation of farmers. We will need training, education and mentorship programs to encourage more people to get involved. We could support aging farmers and keep them on their farms by providing keen, young farmers to take over their work, for which we’d only have to change a few by-laws. We’d have to rebuild a supportive infrastructure, which has all but disappeared, for cooperatives, distributors, processors and packagers. When we begin to realize it’s not only about the money, but also about a quality of life, more farmers, foragers and fisherman will jump on board to get the gastroeconomy growing.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet, a Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). She grows ‘Seeds of Victoria’ at The Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC.

Open hearted communication

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young


Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication. 
– Stephen Covey

Imagine a kindergarten class about to have “show and tell.” Every student in the class has a hand up, waving excitedly because each wants to go first. When one finally goes first, a few pay attention, but many are thinking about what they will say when it is their turn. Others are just waiting for the speaker to finish so they can raise their hand quickly and maybe be the lucky one to go next.

When the speaker is done and the teacher tells the class they may now ask questions of the speaker, invariably some students will ignore what the speaker said and rather than ask a question, they simply tell a story of their own. Basically, everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen. After all, this is kindergarten and children that age are expected to be ego-driven.

Ironically, however, many adult conversations, especially disagreements, seem to be conducted much like our kindergarten students. Each person is arguing their point or position. Rather than really listening to the other or having a real conversation, the discussion is a battle to try to get the other to see things their way and change their mind. No wonder so many couples say they have communication problems.

The word “communication” comes from the root “commune,” which means to be in a state of intimate, heightened sensitivity and receptivity. This would imply a level of closeness and being very open and sensitive not only to the words, but to the intent and the feelings of the other. Being receptive is defined as: able or inclined to receive; especially: open and responsive to ideas, impressions or suggestions.

To truly communicate, we would need to be both sensitive and receptive to the other person. I would suggest that sensitivity and receptivity are higher-level qualities that need to be developed. Indeed, as in our kindergarten example, when very young children like what is happening and things are going their way, it is good. If not, it is bad. Their inner ego-response becomes their compass for assessing where they are in their world.

Of course, this also describes the ego energy often carried into adulthood. Growing up is not synonymous with being evolved. We live in an ego-based culture and one really does need to transcend the values and ways of the culture and often the family of origin to move forward.

We call people heroes when they go out of their way and perhaps even face danger to help another. Mother Teresa, for example, was a model of compassion and unconditional love.

There are countless less famous people who spend their lives listening, learning and understanding the needs of those who are suffering. To my mind, these are people with very open hearts. There is no ego involved here. They only want to help and they desire no recognition.

It is hard to talk to someone who is not open hearted about sensitivity and receptivity. Having meaningful, positive communication is not so much about how we talk, as who we are. For communication to be different, we need to be different. It is not about changing the other person, but striving to change ourselves.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit See display ad this issue.

Of Gods and Men


To stay or not to stay? That is the question at the centre of slow-burn, immersive drama Of Gods and Men (Des Hommes et Des Dieux). The men are eight monks living harmoniously in a local community in Muslim North Africa. As Cistercian-Trappists, they refrain from all proselytizing, practising a devotional life within their minimalist monastery, farming and providing support –medical support, in particular – to the local village.

However, as violence escalates, Islamic militants threaten to kidnap and quite possibly kill them. In such a situation, any peace-loving individual would probably head right back to France. But these are monks. And while self-preservation is very much at the forefront of their minds, and of the authorities that fear they will become pawns in the militants’ game, the brothers have a strong attachment to their monastery and a sense of responsibility to the local villagers who want them to stay.

The issue becomes not so much about life and death, but the quality of that life and death and, of course, the life after death their decisions will inform. The film is based on a real event – an imagining of the last days of a group of monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, who were kidnapped and killed in 1996 – so there is a certain inevitability to the conclusion. But the process by which the men choose their fate is fascinating, as each one’s faith, courage and humanity is brought into sharp focus by the threat of violence and their need to choose the appropriate, morally correct response.

I have to admit that, initially, the long scenes depicting the monks’ daily life made me a bit fidgety. The cinematography, in its look and composition, is perfectly austere as if a monk had got behind the camera. But these documentary-like scenes of chants and ceremony have a purity that evokes the pace and orderliness of the men’s lives that is in stark contrast to the sudden violence occasionally glimpsed beyond the peace of the sanctuary. Director Xavier Beauvois understands that these scenes of monastic rhythm and ritual illustrate, better than words can, the strength of the brotherhood’s bonds.

A high quality ensemble cast also ensures that, although there is little individual back-story, we get a strong sense of each brother’s conflicts through their meetings or “chapters” and interactions with local people. Michael Lonsdale, who incongruously also played the villain Drax in 007 flickMoonraker, gives a rich performance as the philosophical, elderly doctor Luc. Lambert Wilson, as the ascetic leader Christian, gives the impression of deep waters running within and Olivier Rabourdin gives a moving performance as the younger, energetic monk, who seems to have the most at stake. This combination of brilliant actors and a restrained, almost mystical directorial vision means that the film gradually grows in potency. The images it creates stay with you for a long time.

Look out also for A Drummer’s Dream (Vancity, February 4-10 and, a documentary following a retreat of sorts of master drummers on a remote farm in rural Ontario. It’s obviously got huge appeal for drummers, but reviewers say the passion and virtuosity of the drummers will win over mainstream audiences too.

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike He writes at

Returning to the sacred balance


SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

We’ve come through the first decade of the 21st century and it seemed appropriate to revisit a chapter marking the new millennium in my book, The Sacred Balance (Greystone Books/DSF, 1997). The following is from the final chapter: “Humanity is an infant species, newly evolved from life’s web. And what a magnificent species we are; we can look out and feel spiritually uplifted by the beauty of a forested valley or an ice-coated Arctic mountain, we are overwhelmed with awe at the sight of the star-filled heavens and we are filled with reverence when we enter a sacred place. In the beauty, mystery and wonder that our brain perceives and expresses, we add a special gift to the planet.

But our brash exuberance over our incredible inventiveness and productivity in this century has made us forget where we belong. If we are to balance and direct our remarkable technological muscle power, we need to regain some ancient virtues: the humility to acknowledge how much we have yet to learn, the respect that will allow us to protect and restore nature, and the love that can lift our eyes to distant horizons, far beyond the next election, paycheque or stock dividend. Above all, we need to reclaim our faith in ourselves as creatures of the Earth, living in harmony with all other forms of life. What a sign of maturity it would be for our species to acknowledge the profound limitations inherent in human knowledge and the destructiveness of our powerful technologies.

The ebb and flow of organisms – fish, birds, mammals, forests – across the Earth’s expanses reflect built-in territorial rhythms that are worthy of respect. The elements that have sparked life onto this planet and continue to fuel it – air, water, soil, energy, biodiversity – are sacrosanct and should be treated as such. There is no ignominy in admitting ignorance or in confessing our inability to manage wild things, to control the forces of nature or even to grasp the cosmic forces that shape our lives. Recognizing and accepting these limitations with humility is the birth of wisdom and the beginning of hope that we will finally rediscover our place in the natural order.

When we acknowledge our dependence on the same biophysical factors that support all other life forms, believing that we have the responsibility for “managing” all of it becomes a terrible burden. But if we look at the world through the lenses of all of life together, we may recognize the origins of our destructive path and realize that we are not the “managers;” there is wisdom enough for self-management in the web of living creatures that has survived for more than 3.6 billion years. Instead of trying and failing to manage the life-support systems of the planet, we… can manage the effect we have on those systems.

Knowing how to act is the first big problem. Many people who are eager to work towards personal and public change feel increasingly baffled by the often contradictory messages from experts, as well as the mantras repeated over and over by the media. We no longer trust our innate common sense or the wisdom of our elders. At this critical juncture in our history on Earth, we are asking the wrong questions. Instead of “How do we reduce the deficit?” or “How do we carve out a niche in the global economy?” we should be asking, “What is an economy for?” and “How much is enough?” What things in life provide joy and happiness, peace of mind and satisfaction? Does the plethora of goods that our economy delivers so effectively provide the route to happiness and satisfaction or do the relationships between human and nonhuman beings still form the core of the important things in life? Is the uniformity of food and other products that we now encounter everywhere on the globe an adequate substitute for the different and unexpected?

We seem to have forgotten the real things that matter and must establish the real bottom line of non-negotiable needs in order to regain a balance with our surroundings.

HEALTHBITES-It’s Heart Month: eat more garlic!

by Krystyna Chocyk-Wasiatycz


In herbal lore, the humble garlic bulb has a huge reputation for curing almost everything from the common cold to the plague. Now, it has been shown to lower blood pressure. A new study out of Australia shows that aged extract of garlic might be able to help lower blood pressure in the 3.7 million Australians who suffer from hypertension.

A 12-week study of 50 people, conducted by Dr. Karin Ried from the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of General Practice, showed that garlic could be used as a complement to conventional drugs for high and low blood pressure. The results of the study were published in the international health journal *Maturitas, which focuses on midlife and elder health.

According to Dr. Ried, “There is a large proportion of people out there who are on medication and some people are on four different types but they still have high blood pressure; it is uncontrolled. When we gave them this garlic supplement we were able, on average, to reduce their blood pressure under the hypertension threshold so garlic might be a good complementary treatment option to control hypertension. Raw, cooked and garlic powder aren’t as effective as carefully aged garlic extract. You know what is in there and it is stable for a long period of time. Garlic powder is not as stable and you don’t know the dose you are taking and garlic oil doesn’t contain the active substance.”

Dr. Ried’s team found those with systolic blood pressure above 140 who took four aged garlic extract capsules each day experienced an average systolic blood pressure 10.2mmHg lower than the control group, who took a placebo.

Garlic is thought to have an antihypertensive effect because it stimulates production of nitric oxide and hydrogen sulphide, which helps relax blood vessels.

References: Aged Garlic Extract Lowers Blood Pressure in Patients With Treated but Uncontrolled Hypertension: A randomized controlled trial, 18 June 2010 Karin Ried, Oliver R. Frank, Nigel P. Stocks Maturitas October 2010 (Vol. 67, Issue 2, Pages 144-150)

Krystyna Chocyk-Wasiatycz is a researcher and a health food and wellness consultant.

Garlic Lore

Thousands of years ago, aged garlic extract preparations were recommended by physicians and used by common people for many of the health problems we experience today. One of the first recorded garlic preparations was made by Dioscorides, a Greek physician and pharmacologist in the first century. Long before the scientific understanding of circulation was established, he prescribed garlic preparations to clean the arteries. In 1971, a recipe for “the elixir of youth,” a type of garlic extract preparation dating back to between the fourth and fifth century BC, was found by a UNESCO team in a Tibetan monastery.

Today, a growing body of scientific evidence validates the benefits of garlic and aged garlic extract as a powerful nutritional agent. Amongst other benefits, garlic eliminates accumulated fat in the body, removes insoluble calcium, improves metabolism, cleanses blood vessels, prevents heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, and paralysis, eradicates the sensation of buzzing from the head, improves vision and regenerates the entire body.

garlic photo © Mailthepic |

Millennium Development Goals


Love in Action
by Marianne Williamson

I hear a lot of people say we have to wake people up, convince them of the urgency of this moment, make them realize that the planet is headed for disaster!

Marianne Williamson

But I don’t see it that way. Anybody who needs to be woken up at this point is so deeply asleep that they’re not the target audience for global activism. We don’t need to wake the sleeping so much as we need to harness the energy of those who are already awake. Enough people know we’re in trouble; what they want to know is what to do about it.

We’re living at a time when whole systems break down, calling for a whole systems response. It’s not just outer change but also inner change that’s called for. It’s not just that this is wrong or that that is wrong. The entire direction of human civilization is wrong, as we have placed economic principles before humanitarian values and in so doing have placed the very survival of the human race at risk.

Human civilization as we know it is like the Titanic headed for the iceberg, whether the iceberg be nuclear, environmental or terrorism-related. The probability vectors for the next 20 years are grim and our job is to turn the probability vectors into possibility vectors – in other words, we have to turn this ship around.

In every advanced mammalian species that survives and thrives, a common anthropological characteristic is the fierce behavior of the adult female of the species when she senses a threat to her cubs. The lioness, the tigress and the mama bear are all examples. The fact that the adult human female is so relatively complacent before the collective threats to the young of our species bespeaks a lack of proactive intention for the human race to survive.

Yet how things have been has no inherent bearing on how things have to be and I think we’re living at a time when Western womanhood is just a moment away from emerging into the light of our collective possibility. Especially given the relative lack of power – even basic rights – given to millions of women in other parts of the world, we have a particular responsibility to speak up not only for ourselves but for them as well. And we are ready. Maybe not all of us, but enough of us. Western women should be a moral force on this planet. We should not be infantilized; we should not be pretending we don’t know what’s going on; we should not be giving in to the various and ubiquitous temptations to anesthetize ourselves. Quite the opposite, we should be taking the wheel of human civilization and saying to anyone who will listen: We’re turning the ship around and we’re turning it around NOW.

One thing we should all be aware of is the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals signed on to by all 189 members of the United Nations in the year 2000. The goals are important because they speak to the underlying causes of so many of our most important problems, addressing them on a global level and giving everyone the chance to monitor how we’re doing as a species.

The goals are a road map to cutting absolute poverty in half, improving health, getting children in school and reducing disease by 2015. When we think of “women’s issues,” we should be thinking of these issues. They should be our concern as the mothers of the world, the lovers of the world and the leaders of the world.

Specifically, the goals are these:

  1. Cut Extreme Poverty and Hunger in Half
  2. Achieve Universal Primary Education
  3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  4. Reduce Child Mortality by Two-Thirds
  5. Cut Maternal Mortality by Three-Fourths
  6. Halt and Reverse the Spread of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB and Other Diseases
  7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development

We are four years away from 2015, the year we are supposed to achieve the Millennium Goals. We are making progress but not fast enough. We need an accelerated sense of urgency from our decision makers. And nothing would make that happen more effectively than for the women of [North] America to learn this information, to take it to heart and to refuse to shut up about it. No matter what else you’re doing to make the world a better place, add a P.S. about The Millennium Goals.

Facts to consider: Putting a child in school is one of the most powerful things we can to do to reduce poverty. An educated child earns more later in life, knows how to keep their own children from dying, produces more food, is less likely to get AIDS, and in the case of boys, is less likely to engage in armed civil conflict. And we already know how to address the problems of AIDS, TB and Malaria; we just need to do more of it via mechanisms like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Educate yourself. Look at Use your own platform or create one. Consider ways to help spread the word. Use Facebook and Twitter and every other way you have of building a buzz about something that could matter to the lives – even the survival – of millions of people. And some of those people might someday be your own grandchildren.

Then, when it’s all handled, when 17,000 children a day are no longer dying of hunger; when the ecosystems of the planet are well on their way to restoration; when nuclear bombs are scarce if not completely gone; when females of the world are no longer treated like chattel; and the nations of the world are beginning to achieve a real and lasting peace; then, we can celebrate. But until then, we should mourn.

Anyone who’s looking at the world and not grieving isn’t conscious; but anyone who’s looking at the world and not rejoicing in the possibilities for how we can turn all this around is underestimating what human beings can do. We can learn to love each other. We can be conduits for the miraculous. We can stop playing small and start playing large. We can stop giving in to our weaknesses and start claiming our strengths. We can tell truth to power. We can act like we mean it. We can never, never, never give up. We can be the mothers and the fathers of a new and better world. And all of this is possible because human beings can decide. We can decide to say something. We can decide to write an email. We can decide to step up and participate. But we must decide now, not later. There is no more time to waste.

Marianne Williamson speaks at the I Can Do It event, March 12-13, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver.

5 years of GMO contamination in Canada


by Lucy Sharratt


Over the past 15 years, Canadian farmers’ experience with contamination from genetically engineered (GE) crops has exposed the seriousness of the problem. One of the earliest arguments advocating caution in the release of GE plants into the environment was based on the fact we cannot control or recall these living, self-replicating organisms. Our inability to fully predict the path of contamination and its consequences is one reason why genetic engineering is still referred to as one large, living experiment.

Contamination from GE crop plants or other GE organisms can occur through a number of different means, including insect or wind pollination, seed mixing and human error. Commonly, the contamination is not examined before GE crops are approved, partly because the social and economic impacts of contamination are not taken into consideration when government creates regulations. Bill C-474, which will be voted on early this month, would recognize the possible economic cost of contamination by requiring that the government assess export market harm before a new GE seed is permitted.

Contamination from GE crop plants is a reoccurring, predictable problem that can have serious impacts on the livelihood of farmers and the future of organic crops. For example, because of GE contamination organic grain farmers on the Prairies lost organic canola as a market and rotation crop; GE canola contaminated non-GE canola to such a degree that, most, if not all, pedigreed seed growers in Saskatchewan could not warrant their canola seed as GE-free and most, if not all, grain farmers could not warrant their canola crop as free of GE contamination, even if it was planted with GE-free seeds.

For six years, Saskatchewan organic grain farmers tried to establish a class action suit to receive financial compensation from the Monsanto and Bayer corporations for loss of organic canola. Unfortunately, their class action was not certified so the case itself never came to court. Organic canola can now only be grown in a few geographically isolated areas in Canada, Prince Edward Island being one of them.

Farmers in Canada are still suffering the impacts of the recent GE flax contamination crisis. The long line for testing flax for contamination is delaying delivery of the harvested crop and costing farmers money. In late 2009, our European market for Canadian flax was closed due to the discovery of contamination with a GE flax that was not approved in any of the 36 countries where contamination was reported. Ten years earlier, flax farmers successfully requested the GE flax be taken off the market because they foresaw this exact scenario. Since 2001, it has been illegal to sell the GE flax seed in Canada. Unfortunately, this was not enough to stop the GE contamination.

In two separate incidents of contamination from experimental-stage, unapproved GE pigs in Canada, human error was the cause. In 2002, 11 GE “Enviropig” piglets from the University of Guelph were accidentally sent to a rendering plant and turned into animal feed instead of being destroyed as biological waste. The then university VP of research told the Globe and Mail, “Things you don’t expect to happen can happen.” In 2004, a similar contamination incident happened in Quebec, with pigs that were genetically engineered to produce pharmaceutical compounds.

While certified organic farmers take strong measures to protect their fields and our food from contamination, this will be virtually impossible if GE alfalfa is planted in North America. The threat of GE alfalfa in 2011 is the most pressing reason why Members of Parliament should vote in support of Bill C-474. The final debate on this Bill is scheduled for February 7 and the final vote should happen later that week.

Lucy Sharratt is the Coordinator for the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. Take action on Bill C474 at

flower photo © Lucian Milasan |

Explosives found in World Trade Center dust


by Elizabeth Woodworth


For Dr. Niels Harrit, nanotechnology expert and a recently retired University of Copenhagen chemistry professor, it all began when he watched the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Building 7. Harrit watched it come down in amazement, noting, “I had to watch it again… and again. I hit the button 10 times and my jaw dropped lower and lower.”

The 47-storey structure, with a base the size of a football field, was not hit by a plane, but collapsed at free-fall speed seven hours after the Twin Towers, at 5:20 PM. “I had never heard of that building before and there was no visible reason why it should collapse in that way. Straight down, in 6.5 seconds. I have had no rest since that day,” Harrit says.

Dr. Niels Harrit

Dr. Harrit is the lead scientist of a European, nine-author, peer-reviewed study*, which found millions of microscopic red-gray chips in the World Trade Center dust. These chips, at first thought to be paint, were ignited and determined to be unburned nanothermite – an ultra high-tech incendiary explosive, produced by the military and capable of slicing through steel beams. Nanothermite contains more energy than dynamite and can be used as rocket fuel.

In light of the new discovery by the Harrit team, the mysterious and disturbing features of the World Trade Center collapses can now be explained: buildings WTC 1, WTC 2, and WTC 7 all fell symmetrically, straight down into their footprints at nearly free-fall speed, producing thousands of tons of pulverized concrete dust.

New York Fire Department Captain Philip Ruvolo reported “molten steel running down the channel rails, like lava.” Weeks later, cranes were pulling red-hot girders, dripping steel, from the rubble piles.

A WTC building engineer was convinced that a bomb went off. He saw a 50-ton hydraulic press in a deep sub-basement of the North Tower “reduced to rubble” by an enormous explosion and a 300-pound steel and concrete door wrinkled up “like a piece of aluminum foil.” The explosion occurred as the plane hit the 95th floor, 92 minutes before the building collapsed.

TV anchors Dan Rather, Wolf Blitzer and Peter Jennings likened the collapses to controlled demolition. Dr. Harrit’s in-depth chemical analysis, combined with the visual and physical features of the collapses, now supports these early impressions. Yet the Harrit team’s paper, which made front-page headlines six times in the major Danish newspapers during the first week of February 2010, was never reported in North America.

The subject continues to haunt the European news. A January 2011 poll by the prestigious Emnid Institute for Welt der Wunder magazine showed that almost 90% of German respondents doubt the official account of 9/11.

When asked on Danish national news why he thinks nanothermite caused the collapses, Harrit replied, “Well, it’s an explosive. Why else would it be there? You cannot fudge this kind of science. We have found it. Unreacted thermite… [mixed with the concrete dust from the collapses of the three World Trade Center buildings].”

The issue of how the buildings fell is central to our rationale for being in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dr. Niels Harrit lectured for 34 years at the University of Copenhagen, and has published more than 60 articles in major science journals. He has delivered 90 lectures on the World Trade Center in Sweden, Norway, England, Holland, the US, Australia and Spain.

Cross-country tour & talks: 
Feb 24: Dr. Harrit speaks at UBC, Geography Bldg, Rm 100, 1984 West Mall, 7pm. 
Feb. 26: UVic, David Lam Auditiorium (A144), 7pm. 
Admission $10 both cities. Tickets in Victoria available from Ivy’s, Sorenson’s, Tanner’s and Cadboro Bay books. He also speaks in Edmonton, Toronto, Hamilton and London.