Page 1

NEWS (3-5)


COMMENTS (15-16)

ARTS (17-18)

TO Budget Cuts Reversed 3

Food Revolution 8

Peace on Obesity 15

Review: We Feed the World 17

Wheat Board Bill 4

Guatemala Food Politics 10

Radioactive Food 15

Scare the Food Out of You 17

Egypt Protests 5

Foodie Must-Haves 12

Weight Managers 16

Review: Captive Genders 18

Winter Issue 3, 2012

Your Alternative News Magazine at York

Food for Thought and Praxis

Volume 4, Issue 3




Food for Thought and Praxis F

ood is essential to our nourishment, our cultural celebration, and our physical and mental well being. Although we are all passionate about what we eat, here at the YU Free Press we are also concerned with the injustices that are increasingly born of the globalized food system. On Canadian soils and beyond our borders, the production of food is a source of pain, suffering, and human and animal injustice. Welcome to the third issue of our fourth volume: Food for Thought and Praxis. In this issue we explore a diversity of thoughts and perspectives on food, and we investigate implications to the current globalized food system. We also venture into the realities of food as praxis in our everyday lives. Our Features articles include Maryam Adrangi and Laura Lepper’s look at food issues through the lens of migrant justice; in this piece, entitled ‘Food for All! Food Justice Needs Migrant Justice,’ the authors challenge the existing structures that prevent marginalized peoples from attaining sufficient sources of food. Devlin Kuyek discusses the intensifying corporate control dominating our food system in ‘Time for a Food Revolution.’ From Mexican Walmarts to land-grabs in the Congo, Kuyek covers the ways in which corporate interest effectively strips people of food security and sovereignty, and denotes vulnerability. Our Features Section is not entirely bleak, however, for we do offer an array of articles that focus on regaining local agency within the food system through reclaiming land and food. ‘Land, Food, and Politics in Guatemala’ brings to focus the experiences of rural Guatemalan communities that are part of the campesino movement. In this photo essay, Simon Granovsky-Larsen shares with us moments of hope as members of the communities are finally accessing land for farming after years of conflict and struggle. Nathan Nun discusses the urban agriculture movement of inner city Detroit and the benefits of collaborative garden efforts in ‘The Transformative Possibilities of

Community Garden Projects.’ In ‘Drawing a Line in our Land,’ Darcy Higgins recaps on the successes of FoodStock and how Ontario communities created a peaceful foodminded protest against a mega-quarry on some of Ontario’s prime agricultural land. While resistance is happening on all these fronts, readers interested in combating current food politics may wish to start small. Jacob Kearey-Moreland investigates the benefits of an overlooked yet abundant food in ‘Rhubarb Revolution.’ In ‘Five Foodie Must-Haves to Occupy your Life,’ Jenelle Regnier-Davies offers a selection of accessible recipes to address the decline of food knowledge, and explores the ramifications of purchasing pre-packaged foods. Finally, Drew Woodley shares the historic context within which York’s own Absinthe Pub became the student favourite it is today. We send a special nod to ‘The Ab’ as being a stomping ground for many of the members of YU Free Press Editorial Collective.

rhetoric used to frame eating practices. Author Andy Bellatti recommends that our food movements coalesce in honour of a cause – whole, minimally processed alternatives to what he calls the “Big Food” industry – rather than against the poorly defined concept of obesity. Further, Jen Rinaldi explores how fatphobia permeates modern Western culture in ‘A Reflection on Weight Management, and our Managers.’ Rinaldi identifies political and social pressures to control one’s weight, ranging from policies that would d e p r i v e overweight parents of their children, to the medical incarceration of the underweight. Both articles ask readers to critically reflect upon

Our exploration of the food industry is not limited to Features alone. In our News Section, the National Farmers Union explains how Bill C-18 seeks to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board in ‘The Attack on the Canadian Wheat Board: Seven Reasons Non-Farmers Should Care...And Act.’ The article goes on to explain the tremendous value of the CWB, as well as the politically problematic ways in which its existence is threatened. In our Comments Section, ‘Call Off the War on Obesity’ questions the militaristic

Sorry, Our Mistake... Assault Not at Absinthe The text in the ‘Around Campus’ map in our Disorientation Issue (Vol. 4, Is. 1, pg. 13) indicates that a homophobic assault occurred in The Absinthe Pub. The incident did not occur in the pub, but rather in an adjacent corridor in Winters that is not a part of The Absinthe and was not under The Absinthe staff supervision. The assault victim sought refuge in The Absinthe, a TBLGAY-friendly establishment, and was assisted by the pub staff who contacted security. YUFP Editors apologize for misrepresenting these events. For more information on The Absinthe Pub, see pg. 6.

the equating of body weight with health, and also to consider who has profited from this conflation. Our Arts Section offers an exploration of films that explain and interpret food politics. Léa Lefevre-Radelli reviews the documentary film We Feed the World, in which Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer characterizes global food distribution patterns and how those patterns starve peoples unnecessarily. Lefevre-Radelli notes how our eating practices have political ramifications, and claims that we are complicit in food waste and deprivation. Aaron Manton also delves into the world of cinematography, presenting documentaries and fiction films alike that provide keen insight into our food industries. In addition, this section includes the poem, ‘Kitchens.’ In this work, Giles Benaway ties food to his Indigenous heritage, remembering days he spent with his gookum as she cooked and told stories. We thank Jen Rinaldi for taking the lead on Administrative tasks, and we welcome Alexandria MacLachlan as our next Copy-Editing Coordinator. As always, we also invite you to participate in the paper by contributing articles, poetry, art, or fiction, or by joining the Collective. We are excited to begin our work on the upcoming issue, where we will focus on Science and Technology. We strongly encourage all of you to join us as we attempt to go where no York student-based collective has gone before! Yours in Solidarity, The YU Free Press Collective

COVER IMAGE Artist: Tessa Helweg-Larsen Title: “We Become What We Eat”



News Police Crack Heads as Major Budget Cuts Reversed

The YU Free Press is a free alternative monthly newspaper at York University. Our principal objectives are to challenge the mainstream corporate media model and provide a fundamental space for critical analysis at York University and wider community.

Justin Saunders


oronto residents are breathing slightly easier after a long awaited City Council vote on large cuts to core city services took place Jan. 17. The cuts, part of the proposed 2012 city budget, have loomed over Toronto since Mayor Rob Ford manufactured a budget crisis upon taking office. In a major blow to Mayor Rob Ford’s austerity agenda, many of the most significant cuts are reversed, in large part thanks to a surprising move from the council’s Centre, led by Josh Colle. An omnibus motion, which used some financial slight-of-hand to make increases to the budget in the sectors threatened by the proposed cuts, passed 23–21. Colle defended his position in an interview after the vote stating, “We made tough decisions... it’s not reckless spending. We settled on a prudent budget that was fiscally responsible and addressed some of the concerns that people had brought up.”


During the session, in response to the results of a vote on the privatization of custodial services, three observers shouted about the police repression outside and chanted “Stop the cuts.” They were forcibly ejected from council. “This is just a bunch of elites who claim to represent us, but they don’t bother

“Attempts to enter the building for the vote resulted in violence, as a number of individuals were hit and pepper sprayed.”

Deputy Mayor Holyday tried to play down the defeat, noting the narrow margin by which the votes on several of the most crucial cuts were defeated. “It’s far from the end of the world,” he said.

Approximately 200 people were in chambers for the vote; almost ten times that number remained outside, prevented from entering by a line of police officers mixed with City Hall security. Attempts to enter the building for the vote resulted in violence, as a number of individuals were hit and pepper sprayed. A small horse-mounted riot squad moved on the crowd. Several arrests were made, people were beaten and choked, and an elderly man was thrown to the ground. At least one person was taken to St. Michael’s hospital. Aiden Hennings from Stop the Cuts described the scene: “I was at the front, trying to get into City Hall. [The police] started grabbing people outside the barricades. I was grabbed by my hair and they tried to drag me through their lines, but other people took me back. About five minutes later I was pepper sprayed from a foot away – the officer smiled while he did it, and my two little sisters were punched in the face by police as well.”


“I didn’t expect it to be one of ‘those kinds of rallies’” said Ryan of Occupy Toronto. “[The police] threw a lot of people around. They should have just let us in; they said they wouldn’t because it was such a big group.” There was, however, room in council chambers for more people, with a large standing area behind the 250-seat gallery sparsely populated.

to consult us,” said one, to applause from many in the observation area. She later told the Toronto Media Co-op: “Security and Toronto Police brought us down the elevator to the first floor. Elise started to move toward the main exit, instead of the side exit that the police were taking us to. Police grabbed her, and she went limp. They dragged her down the hall to the door.” Council Chair Frances Nunziata directed security to remove the protestors, and had a low threshold for any perceived disruptions from the floor; he threatened to clear chambers after a few boos were heard from the gallery. As the motions wrapped up, City Hall’s head of security announced that councilors would have to exit from the side and rear doors of the building, as the Toronto Police were “currently dealing” with the protest. An Occupy Toronto contingent was also present outside, setting up several tents in the middle of the square, and later moving to the boundary of city and provincial land to “avoid a trespass bylaw.”

Science and Technology Issue

Submission deadline: Sunday February 26th, 2012 Please email submissions or inquiries to



WEBSITE Hennings was upset about the police response to the rally: “We wanted to have our voices heard at city hall. We wanted them to hear that Toronto is against the cuts.” Later, a small contingent of demonstrators marched to 52 Division, where several arrestees were held. One of the men, Derek Soberal, is due to appear for a bail hearing at Old City Hall Wednesday morning. The remainder of those arrested were released from the station. Many activists are wondering whether the night’s events constitute a victory or a defeat. Although the widely despised cuts to libraries, social services, and other core services were averted, the loss of jobs within city ranks and privatization measures still culled millions from the city budget. The cancellation of some of the cuts is testament to months of mobilization by community groups, labour, and many adhoc committees across the city who came together to save specific city services in their communities. Colle acknowledged the impact of these efforts, saying the budget had generated “more discussion amongst the public and councilors” than he had ever seen before. The fight against Ford’s austerity agenda will likely continue, with a near certain lockout of CUPE 416 coming in February, as the union refuses to accept their jobs being farmed out to private contractors. With files from Megan Kinch. Syndicated from the Toronto Media Co-op: toronto.

The modern world is largely defined by science and technology. Driven by a benign human curiosity and ingenuity or a passion to accumulate and dominate, science and technology condition our worldviews and mediate our economic, political, and social existence. Narratives of progress seem inevitably tied to it, whether they be of a continued development and expansion of the world of gadgets or a leap into the realm of freedom. While the benefits of science and technology are numerous, new discoveries can also unlock new possibilities of domination and have unintended or unfavorable consequences. For our next issue of YUFP we welcome submissions that critically engage topics related to science and technology whether it be a political, ethical, or economic critique of a new technology or a comment on the pure awesomeness of a new discovery. We are also interested in your reviews, art, poetry, and other creative works, especially when they are relevant to our issue theme. As always, we welcome your news and comments on any issue or perspective concerning social justice. Suggested word counts: News: 100 - 750 words; Features: 1000 - 2000 words; Comments: 500 - 1200 words; Arts: 500 - 1500 words.

EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE Simon Granovsky-Larsen Ashley Grover Evan Johnston Canova Kutuk Alexandria MacLachlan Aaron Manton Theresa McGee Nathan Nun Jenelle Regnier-Davies Jen Rinaldi Amy Saunders Gina Webb

COPY EDITORS Megan Kinch Stefan Lazov Rob Parker

CONTRIBUTORS Maryam Adrangi & Laura Lepper, Diana Barahona, Andy Bellatti, Giles Benaway, Simon Granovsky-Larsen, Darcy Higgins, Evan Johnston, Jacob Kearey-Moreland, Devlin Kuyek, Léa Lefevre-Radelli, Stefan Lazov, Aaron Manton, Ali Mustafa, National Farmers Union, Nathan Nun, Jenelle Regnier-Davies Jen Rinaldi, Justin Saunders


The YU Free Press Collective The opinions expressed in the YU Free Press are not necessarily those of the editors or publishers. Individual editors are not responsible for the views and opinions expressed herein. Images used by YUFP under various creative commons, shared, and open media licenses do not necessarily entail the endorsement of YUFP or the viewpoints expressed in its articles by the respective creators of such images. Only current members of the Editorial Collective can represent the YU FreePress.


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The YU Free Press welcomes typed, articles and letters and short creative works and visuals. All submisions must be accompanied by the author’s name (with relevant affiliations). Materials deemed libelous or discriminatory by the YU Free Press Collective will not be printed.

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The Attack on the Canadian Wheat Board: Seven Reasons Non-Farmers Should Care...and Act National Farmers Union


aving the Canadian Wheat Board matters to you. Losing the CWB will affect the food you serve to your family, your community’s economy, and Canada’s democracy. On Oct. 18, Prime Minister Harper introduced legislation, Bill C-18, to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The majority of farmers oppose the Prime Minister’s plan – farmers have repeatedly voted for a strong, effective CWB. Farmers are organizing and protesting. But to save our democratically controlled marketing agency, farm families need your help, and the help of the organizations you work with. The loss of the CWB will hurt every Canadian family. Here are seven reasons why non-farmer Canadian citizens should act to help protect the Wheat Board: 1. Privatization and loss of economic control Few sectors of the Canadian economy are 100% owned and controlled by Canadians. But one is: our multi-billion-dollar western wheat and barley marketing system. If the Harper government destroys the CWB, it will turn over to transnational corporations (most of them foreign) a critical sector of our economy that Canadian citizens currently own and control. What C-18 takes away from farmers and other Canadians, it gives to grain giants such as Cargill. 2. Genetically modified food In 2000, Monsanto moved to introduce genetically modified (GM) wheat. Farm organizations, environmental groups, and citizens’ organizations banded together to stop Monsanto and to keep GM wheat out of Canadian fields and foods. United, we succeeded. The CWB was a crucial ally. Many people and organizations believe that had it not been for the work of the CWB, Canadians would now be eating food made from GM wheat. Lose the CWB and we may lose the fight to stop GM wheat. 3. Food Sovereignty As an alternative to a globalized, long-distance, corporate-controlled food system, many Canadians are advocating Food Sovereignty, wherein farmers and all citizens collectively shape the food system we want for our families. The CWB is a good example of Food Sovereignty in action: a democratic agency controlled by food producers and citizens. By attacking the CWB, this government is pushing back hard against Food Sovereignty, serving notice of a future food system that is more far-flung and corporate controlled. A government hostile to the CWB is hostile to Food Sovereignty.

Sarah Gilbert (flickr) 4. National sovereignty Today, Canada has its own grain production, processing, handling, and transportation systems. Our Canadian Grain Commission sets and enforces quality standards – equal to the highest in the world. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulates new seed varieties, keeping harmful ones out and ensuring farmers have access to seeds that grow well in our climate. Most of our grain flows ‘east-west,’ hauled by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways and loaded onto ships at Canadian ports by Canadian workers. If we destroy the CWB, we will see the destruction of other parts of our Canadian grain system. As the government empowers USbased grain transnationals, those corporations will chafe against Canadian regulations and push for the destruction of our Grain Commission, seed regulations, and the rest of our quality and regulatory systems. Destroying the CWB accelerates the Americanization of our grain and food systems. Worse, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Chapter 11 gives US-based grain companies a veto over future attempts to rebuild our CWB. If we destroy it, we cannot get it back. 5. Your economy The CWB is the cornerstone of our Canadian wheat and barley marketing, handling, and transport systems. Those systems create jobs: • in Winnipeg where the CWB, the Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute, and other agencies are headquartered; • in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Churchill, Manitoba; Vancouver, BC; and Montreal, Quebec; where Canadian export grain is cleaned, blended, and loaded onto ships; and • across Canada as money is retained in this country and spent in rural and urban centres. The CWB raises farmers’ revenues by $500+ million annually, money largely from foreign nations spent in urban and rural businesses across Canada. PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated the CWB’s total

benefit to the Canadian economy at more than $850 million annually. Without the CWB, citizens and communities across the nation will suffer financially. 6. Our democracy The vast majority of farmers want a strong, effective CWB. Farmers have reaffirmed that support in ten votes – three plebiscites and seven sets of Directors Elections. Despite this, the Harper government is pushing forward to destroy the CWB. And it is doing so illegally. Section 47.1 of the CWB Act requires that farmers must vote in favour of major changes to the CWB. The government is ignoring that law and refusing to hold a vote. Also, the government is ramming its legislation through Parliament, using closure to limit debate, refusing to let the Agriculture Committee examine the Bill, and instead setting up an ad hoc committee to review the Bill, but limiting that committee to just five minutes per section. Prime Minister Harper has announced he will “walk over” the farmer majority supporting the CWB, and he has called his drive to dismantle the CWB a “train barreling down a Prairie track.” Our federal government is sneering at democracy, evading due process, and bending the law to its breaking point. If we do not challenge these antidemocratic tactics, they will be repeated. 7. Farms and the land The CWB raises farmers’ prices and incomes, while providing equitable access to the market for all farmers, big or small. Losing the CWB will accelerate the loss of family farms. In so doing, it will concentrate farmland ownership in fewer and fewer hands. A blow to the CWB is a blow to familyfarm agriculture, and the men and women who produce our food. You can help protect our food supply, sovereignty, economy, and democracy. Time is short. We need to act fast. Action takes just 15 or 20 minutes. What is needed right now is for Canadians to write two short letters: • One to Prime Minister Harper, asking him to scrap

Bill C-18, his destroy-theCWB legislation, and to instead enact policies that foster Food Sovereignty and a strong Canadian nation and economy; and • One letter to Canadian Senators, asking them to resist pressure to fast-track Bill C-18, and to instead give careful and adequate consideration to this detailed and far-reaching legislation; to hold meetings of their Agriculture Committee; and to hear presentations from farmers, workers, businesspeople, and other Canadians who will be affected by this legislation. Contact information for the PM

Hon. Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada 80 Wellington St. Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2 FAX: (613) 941-6900 Contact info for Senators is: Canadian Senators c/o the Clerk of the Senate Parliament Building Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4 FAX: (613) 992-7959 If you have the capacity, please send your letters to Ottawa via fax. And please fax a copy to the NFU office: (306) 664-6226. PLEASE MARK “SENT” ON THE COPY YOU SEND TO US.

News in Brief Evan Johnston Thousands Attend Day of Action Against Caterpillar On Sat. Jan. 21, thousands of people came out to support the Day of Action Against Caterpillar in London, ON. Organized by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), and the London and District Labour Council (LDLC), the Day of Action was an attempt to organize a more militant fight against attacks being made on workers by Electro-Motive Canada. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, “Electro-Motive Canada, a subsidiary of US industrial giant Caterpillar Inc., wants to strong-arm workers into a pay cut of over 50%, dropping hourly wages from $35 to $16.50. It has also leveled devastating cuts to benefits and pensions at the members of CAW Local 27 even though the company has enjoyed billions in profit and a 20% boost to production over the last year.” Ontario Austerity The Ontario government is expected to implement deep cuts of up to 30% to most ministries over the next few years. The cuts are recommendations from the commission to reform public services appointed by Dalton McGuinty, which is headed by the former chief economist at TD Bank, Don Drummond. Post-secondary education is also expected to face new pressures and ‘performance obligations.’ The Toronto Star reports that “[Drummond’s] ambition is to enforce new ‘mandates’ while limiting postsecondary increases to 1.5%, with elementary and high schools scaled back to 0.5% increments.” The final version of Drummond’s report is yet to be released, but is expected to be released soon. Federal Cuts Result in Major Job Losses: CCPA A new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) reveals that the cutbacks announced in the 2010 and 2011 federal budgets will result in more than 60,000 job losses. According to the author of the study, CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald, “No matter how the cuts take shape, the job losses will be significant. They will be biggest if cuts are focused exclusively on the federal public service.” Whereas the RCMP and the military are unlikely to face any cuts, the study identifies areas that will face further cuts such as on-reserve Aboriginal housing, health care, environmental programs, and programs supporting low-income people. Environmental and Aboriginal Groups Seen as Enemies, Adversaries According to a recently released internal government document titled “Pan-European Oil-Sands Advocacy Strategy,” Aboriginal groups are seen as “adversaries” of the federal government in the battle over the tar sands. By contrast, the Mar. 2011 document cites the department of Aboriginal Affairs as a key ally. Additionally, according to the affidavit of a former employee, the non-profit environmental group ForestEthics was referred to as an “enemy of the government of Canada” and an “enemy of the people of Canada” by senior government officials. This more explicit targeting comes in the wake of recent battles on the part of the federal government to push forward various tar sands projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline.




Egypt Revolution in Photos

A year after an uprising led to the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, protests against the military coalition are gaining momentum - as is repression against the movement. Ali Mustafa, a former member of the YU Free Press Editorial Collective, has accompanied the crowds and shares these photos. More of Mustafa’s words and images can be found at A boy poses with an Egyptian flag in front of the ruins of a truck.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians filled Tahrir Square in one of the largest demonstrations since the Jan. 25 uprising.

He had his mother’s eyes. Symbolic caskets representing victims of the battle of Mohamad Mahmoud St. where at least 42 Egyptians were killed.

Despite claims by SCAF that live round fire has not been used on protesters, these shell casings from the scene show irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

Egyptian Women’s March Takes the Streets Demands End to SCAF Violence Diana Barahona


omen march in Cairo, Dec. 20

Angry over the military’s abuse of women during recent protests in Tahrir Square, an estimated 10,000 women marched through the streets of Cairo on Dec. 20, demanding an end to military rule. Video and still images of women being stripped, beaten, and kicked by soldiers during protests over the previous weekend have circulated throughout Egypt, sparking widespread indignation among women. Many of the women in the streets had never protested before. One image in particular has become iconic – that of a young woman whose outer garment has been ripped off, revealing her blue bra. One soldier has his leg raised

just as he is about to kick her in the chest, and in addition, videos show soldiers beating both her and the bystanders who tried to help her.


“Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” chanted the protesters. They also demanded to see the head of the military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chanting, “The daughters of Egypt are here!”

Egypt’s military rulers were already under fire from human rights groups for performing ‘virginity tests’ on several women arrested after a protest in March. Soldiers repressing protests on Dec. 17 and 18 evidently thought that by shaming and injuring women they would discourage others from

protesting. However, the strategy backfired and many more women have been galvanized into action.

put the military government on the defensive, forcing it to take back some of its rhetoric.

the dictatorship continues. For FY2012, the Obama administration has requested $1.551 billion in total aid to Egypt.

“Video and still images of women being stripped, beaten, and kicked by soldiers during protests over the previous weekend have circulated throughout Egypt, sparking widespread indignation among women.” Women were at the forefront of the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last February, although few women won seats in the early rounds of parliamentary elections. During previous weeks, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has portrayed protesters as thugs, vandals, and arsonists. However, the unexpected size and militancy of the women’s march

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its utmost sorrow for the great women of Egypt, for the violations that took place during the recent events,” the council said in a statement. “It stresses its great appreciation for the women of Egypt.” Even Hillary Clinton was forced to denounce the Egyptian military’s abuses; however, US aid to

The march against SCAF’s violence represents a significant increase in the participation of women in the ongoing Egyptian revolution. The women in Cairo chanted, “The daughters of Egypt are a red line.” This is reminiscent of a slogan from the South African struggle against apartheid: “Now you have touched the woman, you have struck a rock, you have dislodged a boulder and you will be crushed.” Reprinted from LiberationNews. org.



Features Food for All! Food Justice Needs Migrant Justice


Maryam Adrangi & Laura Lepper


n 2009 immigration enforcement entered a community garden outside a Toronto food bank and deported one of its users. The deportation was but one of the 70-odd sweeps, detentions, and deportations that happen in Toronto every single day, and underscored one of the barriers to food access for undocumented migrants in this country. While foodies throughout Canadian cities harness innovative ideas to create alternative food systems through urban and rooftop gardens, food share programs, community-supported agriculture, and more, the food movement rarely considers the radical political organizing necessary to make food justice possible for marginalized populations such as undocumented migrants in Canada. Barriers to Food Justice As Prime Minister Harper’s antiimmigrant agenda intensifies, access to food, along with critical services such as health care and education, becomes increasingly difficult for undocumented migrants. Harper’s government is pushing for policy that criminalizes immigration, such as Bill C-4 which would punish an undefined group of refugee claimants by detaining them for one year without possibility of independent review. The Conservatives have cut immigrant and refugee acceptance rates but increased the number of temporary foreign workers. In




“Many with precarious status are either deterred or actively turned away from food banks that ask for identification.”

Worker Program (SAWP), foreign workers are not allowed to file for status. As a result of destroyed livelihoods in their countries of origin due to free-trade-facilitated corporate expansion (in which Canadian multinationals are often complicit), thousands of farmers come from Mexico, Guatemala, and elsewhere to work in Canada’s SAWP. Canada creates and perpetuates an unjust situation for these farm workers, who are usually poorly paid, given harsh accommodation, and denied access to services. Numerous studies show high rates of malnutrition and hunger for SAWP workers. In Canada’s urban centres, food injustice is exacerbated when nonstatus people face obstacles that others do not. Many with precarious status are either deterred or actively turned away from food banks that ask for identification. Additionally, the monitoring and infiltration of food banks and community gardens by immigration enforcement and police officers presents the food movement with a significant challenge and responsibility: how do we make these spaces safe for the most marginalized among us while also building an effective resistance to the systems that create and perpetuate food injustice? Working toward Solutions It was with this challenge in mind

those who love The Absinthe Pub and Coffee Shop, and those who have never been there.

On a campus subjected to florescent lighting and poured concrete, The Absinthe (or simply ‘The Ab,’ if you’ve been there more than once), is fashioned with dark wood walls and brass fixtures, giving it genuine warmth, otherwise hard to find at York. At a university where corporate culture dominates, The Ab stands as an oasis of independent thought. Much of its décor, paintings, and classic absinthe advertising came from students. In essence, the studentowned business has stood the test of time, and continues to leave a mark on the countless people who

Food for All recognizes that food injustice is a structural, not an individual, issue. “It is important to understand how larger systems perpetuated by colonial Canadian governance…manifest in ways that create barriers to accessing food in the city,” says Yogi Acharya, an organizer with the campaign.

walk through its doors. The Ab sits in a quiet corner of the basement of Winters College. It boasts an excellent draft beer selection, including a solid combination of microbreweries and pub staples like Guinness. It offers a variety of options, ranging from fresh sandwiches, to nachos, to an impressive and ever growing array of healthy, tasty entrees and specials. If you’re interested in plastic cups and another deep-fried meal, look elsewhere. If you want a pub in the truest sense, good food, good drink, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, The Ab is the place you are looking for. At its heart, The Absinthe is a student pub. Fifteen years ago every undergraduate college

Justin Langille / Tyee Solutions Society Lord Abbey is the greenhouse coordinator at The Stop, a community food centre that takes a comprehensive and inclusive approach to food justice and offers an array of programs including a drop-in food bank, a perinatal program, and food systems education. No One Is Illegal’s Food for All Campaign is partnering with organizations like The Stop to ensure that all people have access to healthy food regardless of immigration status.

“It is not only about getting rid of barriers but also about dismantling the institutions that create barriers to food justice in the first place,” adds organizer Hannah Peck.

a variety of front-line services such as a food bank, a perinatal program, community advocacy, and education on food production and sustainable food systems. Food for All seeks to help spread the centre’s strategies to other food banks and spaces of food provision in the city. In late Sept. 2011, Food for All and The Stop collaborated on an educational event that made connections between the struggles of migrant farm workers and urban hunger.

Toward this end, Food for All is building alliances with organizations like The Stop, a community food centre in the Davenport-Perth neighbourhood in Toronto that has implemented a strategy to ensure that people can access food regardless of immigration status. Seeing its work as part of a long-term strategy to decommodify food, The Stop offers

Food issues are but one of the many platforms for promoting dignity and self-determination of all people. Looking at food issues through the lens of migrant justice – freedom to return, freedom to move, and freedom to stay – shows us that food justice is about much more than just what and how we eat. Food injustice is a symptom of repressive systems and capitalist


“If you want a pub in the truest sense, good food, good drink, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, The Ab is the place you are looking for.”

council on the Keele campus had its own bar. Today, only The Absinthe remains. This in no small part is a reflection of its friendly, welcoming atmosphere and a shared understanding that it is more than just a business; it is a part of the community.

Drew Woodley

IYork, n the years since I graduated from I meet two kinds of students:

that migrant justice group No One Is Illegal Toronto started the Food for All campaign in early 2010. The initiative aims to ensure that undocumented people and those with precarious status can access food regardless of immigration status and without fear of detention, deportation, or being denied these services. Food for All has taken steps to push immigration enforcement out of food banks and help create access without fear in food spaces.

Owned by the Winters College Council and supervised by a board of current and former students, there is a belief that The Ab is as much a service as it is a business. Most staff are students, who themselves frequent the bar when not working. It is a place to work, to study, and to relax. It also serves as a central meeting point for the Winters community. The relationship between the student body and those who manage the pub goes both ways. There is a deep sense of devotion among its clientele. In difficult times, students have rallied to protect it. During the strike of 2000/01 Winters residents organized a grassroots campaign to encourage students to eat and drink at The Ab to help keep it afloat

until classes resumed. A positive aspect of the drawn-out strike was that it pushed the school year well into May – time enough for patrons to see the beautiful magnolia tree on The Ab’s patio in full bloom. As other student bars have been unable to survive, The Ab has managed to increase its clientele, welcoming a number of students from across the Keele campus, all the while staying true to its studentfriendly mandate. If students are the heart of The Absinthe, then its soul is its general manager, Ian Pedley. A former York student, Ian has been with The Ab for over 20 years, seeing it through good times and bad. A rock-loving, tattooed guardian, he has welcomed innovations that have strengthened the bar and its connection to the York community, while resisting the pull to mediocrity. He encourages students to organize events at the pub, like Friday Jazz Nights (in addition to the regular rotation of Wednesday

and colonialist agendas. Political organizing must therefore build the community power needed to resist these systems. Food for All begins its organizing from a recognition that food for all means access to healthy food and personal agency in the food system, regardless of immigration status. Maryam Adrangi is a researcher, writer, and organizer involved in struggles for environmental justice, Indigenous sovereignty, and antiwar. She is an anti-capitalist who believes in you. Laura Lepper organizes in Toronto with No One Is Illegal and the First Nations Solidarity Working Group. She is a graduate student in Geography at York University. This article first appeared in the Sept./Oct. 2011 issue of Briarpatch Magazine. band nights), but eschews cover charges for any reason. He creates mix drinks unique to The Ab, but resists calls to put in a deep fryer, reasoning that good quality food is what a student pub should be serving. On his watch, The Absinthe has built and maintained the reputation of a friendly, safe, and sociable bar. More than just another campus restaurant, The Absinthe remains a lively and welcoming place distinct from the day-to-day blandness all too prevalent at York. It continues to stay committed to serving good food and drinks at affordable prices, and provides students a community home. Drew Woodley (York BA 2003, MA 2006) is a former Absinthe employee and current chair of The Absinthe Management Board.




the patch. Sprouting from seeds means we can have hundreds of plants to give away to people, letting the rhubarb grow free and wild. Try it yourself. Plant your rhubaby in full sun and next to your compost bin, as it is a heavy feeder requiring lots of nutrients. If you have an old patch, try digging some up, splitting the rootstock, and starting another patch where there is a demand.

The Rhubarb


Mike Chaput (Flickr) Jacob Kearey-Moreland


ast spring I learned that rhubarb is my kindred vegetable, and I have fallen deeply in love with it since. I am addicted to it, like a drug. Our community garden gang has started pushing it wherever we can, and we have profited greatly from the economics of rhubarb. It is our greatest outreach tool and perhaps, more than any other veg, best represents the spirit of the times. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic, and hopefully, by the end, you too will be inspired to invest in the stalk market this spring! Ode to Rhubarb Oh Rhuby, my heart yearns for you in the cold, dark, winter sleep. I think about and taste your sweet sourness sparingly whenever you are defrosted. You are the jam over my morning toast. When you are gone, I mourn, yet I do not forget. When spring has sprung and you are back, I rejoice in what I had lacked. Soon you will rise triumphantly in the frosty spring days when everyone else is afraid to be seen. In the morning I’ll pull thin red stalks of you from the perennial grandfathered patch; you are older than me. The taste of you raw in the morning is enough to wake the dead; your punchy elixir jolts me with life. Who needs coffee when I’ve got you? In the hot spring sun, paradise is found with you in the shade. Your shape is exotic, so primal and tropical. You are dangerous, your leaves are poisonous. I love having you for dinner, spending time with you at the table with my family. You are my breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert; you are everything for which I yearn. When you are not in my hand, this I cannot stand. I love taking your beautiful slenderness for walks along canopied city streets and presenting you at the market for all to see and delight. So full of life, colour, and flavour,

your beauty breathtaking.



Far too often you are forgotten, undervalued, and overlooked. No longer will you be left to grow and wilt without ever being touched. The more we talk about you with our friends, family, and communities the less these atrocities will be so. Hunger growing side by side with abundance: does this make sense to any of you? Rhuby, your squandered potential growing under our noses, growing right in our back yards, is an injustice. But for the life of us, and a love that’s true – there is something we can do for you…

At first I thought of you as just another spring fling, just another young love; we were so naïve then. In our short time together you have become something so much more to me. You represent the world to me. Whatever you want me to do, I will do it for you. I will get the youth of the village to rescue you! We’ll call together a search party to locate and save you, before it gets hot and you get woody and knotty. Our crew will happily adopt, love, and nurture you, and then, without regrets, we’ll eat you. But seriously, we are creating an inventory of all the rhubarb in the city. Our goal is to liberate the rhubarb. If you so desire, we can come harvest your overgrown patch. We will make pies, cakes, crumbles, jams, and juices. We will make everything there is to make, and more. We will give you some, nibble on some ourselves, and give the rest to others who are hungry for Rhuby. Rhubarb is a seasonal staple; it is something that brings much joy and asks so little in return. Why not celebrate, promote,


explosion renders the user temporary stunned. After the face relaxes from the intense puckering, a feeling of ‘wow that ain’t bad’ washes over. It is the perfect spring and summer veggie snack, a true delicacy. Caution: rhubarb is a ‘gateway veg’ and will lead to much harder veg down the road, like beets and rutabaga.

“As the debt crisis unfolds, we’ve been encouraging people to invest in stalks of rhubarb.” and share it? Rhubarb is one of the easiest and earliest growing perennial vegetables, and is stuffed with nutritional goodness, all likely reasons why it is seen growing in yards all over the city. Until we meet again, dearest Rhuby, you will forever be in my heart. A Natural High Last year I discovered rhubarb. It was like nothing I had ever tried before, and by mid-summer I was an addict and a pusher. Our community garden gang dealt rhubarb all season, then froze little baggies (rhubaggies) for the winter. We market the highest quality home grown, organic, heritage rhubarb this side of Line 13. We push at various community events: farmers’ market, downtown, uptown, backyards, storefronts, nightclubs, day clubs, beaches, community gardens, and wherever else people meet. Last summer at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, we gave away over 300 hits of rhubarb, which

The Economics of Rhubarb Rhubarb grows so abundantly that the plan is to plant it everywhere, and simply give it away for free to everyone. It is so addictive that people, especially youngsters, often become hooked and will rush back to the garden looking for their next hit. In order to ensure sustained growth in the rhuby business, we plan to continue diversifying our produce, growers, distributors, partners, and eaters. We harvest the seeds when the rhubarb season comes to a close, to teach people about seed saving and diversity. The seeds are those brown flakey things where the white flowers used to be. As with most seeds, they will germinate and grow when dried, placed in dirt, and have enough water and heat. I’ve also germinated the seeds in small plastic bags, in moist paper towel and then transplanted the sprouts into pots full of compost or a rich soil mixture.

“Rhubarb is best raw, jammed, juiced, pied, fried, crumbled, caked, baked, sauced, and stewed.” is garden slang for a bite size of raw rhubarb. I travelled to other summer festivals and, as the sole supplier, became the Rhubarb Guy. “Hey man did you try the rhubarb?” A ‘rhuby snack’ as it is commonly referred to offers a full-body high lasting three to five seconds. The bitter, sour hit and subsequent juice

When the rhubarb plant has grown a few inches I then distribute baby rhubies to others in the community, who then raise them as their own. It takes an extra year or so to establish your rhubarb plants from seed compared to splitting, but I find the wait is often worth it. The extra time and care strengthens the bond and sweetens

As the debt crisis unfolds, locally and globally, we’ve been encouraging people to invest in stalks of rhubarb. My grandparents invested in rhubarb over 40 years ago, and, now overflowing, I give away my inheritance to anyone who’ll take it. Obviously rhubarb is a sustainable and worthwhile investment that will pay increasing dividends for many generations. When we reach Peak Rhubarb in mid-summer, the supply falls dramatically while the demand remains stable. As demand outstrips supply, the value of rhubarb stalks grows exponentially. This is when we dealers make a killing. There are many strategies for extending the rhubarb season. When grown in shade, growth is stunted yet can last longer into the year. Cutting back flowers helps prolong growth. Rhubarb is best raw, jammed, juiced, pied, fried, crumbled, caked, baked, sauced, and stewed. You can chop and freeze them and then hand the rhubaggies out in winter. As long as the rootstocks remain healthy, the value of the stalk is sure to rise every spring. It is perverse how fresh rhubarb is one of the most expensive vegetables in grocery stores, and it often looks withered and sad, considering how easily it grows all over this land. Everyone used to grow rhubarb, asparagus, berries, and fruit trees among other permanent edibles. Our city was greener and healthier because of it. There is a lot we can learn from the economics of rhubarb and how it applies to our own economy. Currently our collective investments are unstable and surely can’t be sustained. Our investments lose value over time, while humanity and nature’s abundance are exploited and depleted. We ought to invest in the basics, like food, water, education, health, shelter and renewable energy. Once we adopt the economics of rhubarb we can sit back and watch our investments gain in value as the years go on. It’s time we invest in the real stalk market. Vive la Rhubarb! Just as the abundance of air makes it free for all to enjoy, so too can food be available in such abundance as to render the sale of it obsolete. May rhubarb be a symbol for this most radish revolution. Let it bring us together to celebrate love, transcendence, harmony, and abundance. If you want to be a part of the Rhubarb Revolution peas connect with us online. We can be reached at occupygardenstoronto@, Facebook at Occupy Gardens Toronto, or Twitter @ OccupyGardensTO. This spring, turnip to the garden and grow with us!




Time for a Food Revolution and in Asian countries, like Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Papua New Guinea. Australia, Russia, and Eastern Europe are also big targets. Canada is also on the radar. Canada is one of those countries that is both a source and a target of foreign farmland investors. While Chinese investors have been looking at canola production in Saskatchewan and hog farms in Quebec, Bay Street investors like Sprott Resources and Lawrence Asset Management have been buying into farmland in Uruguay and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as on the Canadian prairies.

Ted Barker Devlin Kuyek


spike in food prices in 2008 pushed the number of hungry people in the world past the one billion mark. It was not a temporary phenomenon. Those record prices are now back on international markets. Most of today’s hunger happens in the countryside. About 80% of those without enough food to eat are the people who produce food – farmers and rural labourers. People are not starving because of a global shortage of food, but rather because they do not have the money to buy the food they need or have access to the resources they need to produce it for themselves – land, water, animals, fish, etc. And things are set to get much worse. By 2080, under a business as usual scenario, climate change is predicted to reduce global agricultural yields by a staggering 16%, while the population continues to grow. The worst effects will be felt in the South, in countries like Senegal. Already beset by high population growth and severe food insecurity, Senegal is predicted to see a 50% decline in agriculture productivity before the end of the century. To this we have to add an increase in extreme weather, such as droughts and typhoons that will severely disrupt agricultural production and leave twice as many people living in highly water-stressed environments. In this context, the world desperately needs a food system that can ensure that food is distributed to everyone, according to need. The food crisis of 2008 should have driven home the message. But the governments and corporations that manage the dominant food order have refused to change course. So, three years later, things have gone from bad to worse for the poor while the rich pursue a ruthless grab to turn the food crisis into a profit bonanza. Making a killing from hunger The ugly truth of the 2008 food crisis was that the corporations that control the global food system made a killing. Farmers saw little change in their income,


“Most of today’s hunger happens in the countryside. About 80% of those without enough food to eat are the people who produce food.”

but the largest grain traders, the seed and pesticide companies, and the fertilizer corporations made record profits. Decades of structural adjustment, neo-liberal trade and investment policies, and Green Revolution programs had provided these corporations with immense power in the food system, and they used their positions to hold the world hostage to their price demands. In Apr. 2008, when the food crisis was at its peak, Cargill, the biggest agribusiness company in the world, was making nearly US$500,000 profit an hour.

The boom times are still on. This year’s numbers for the grain traders and input suppliers are breaking the 2008 records. US-based ADM’s third quarter profits for 2011 were up 37% from the year before, at $578 million, while Cargill tripled its second quarter profits this year, pulling in a hefty $1.5 billion.


systems to bet on price swings, as the Swiss company Glencore did just before Russia imposed on wheat export ban last summer. The financial sector is also investing directly in agribusiness corporations, which then use these cash injections to buy up smaller firms, expand production, and take over new markets. These inflows, combined with support from home governments, have led to the emergence of a new crop of agribusiness giants based in the South. The world’s largest meat company, JBS, is Brazilian. The largest agribusiness company is the Malaysian palm oil and rubber corporation Sime Darby. China, India, Singapore, Thailand,

Two types of actors are essentially driving this land grab. On the one hand, there are cashrich, but food-poor, countries, like Saudi Arabia and South Korea, who were badly burned by the food crisis and lost faith in the global market to provide for their food needs. Their strategy: bypass the Cargills and Glencores by acquiring farmland overseas to produce food and ship it back home.

The other key actors are from the financial sector. Reeling from the financial crisis of 2008, hedge funds, pension managers, and the other financial players starting looking for a safe and profitable refuge from the crumbling stock market. The argument for farmland was pretty clear: population is going up, people need to eat, and the global farmland area is pretty much at its limit already. A large number of farmland funds were launched that year and their numbers continue to swell. In Oct. 2009, GRAIN identified 120 of them, and each week a new one seems to come on the scene. Some of the more recognizable players include the Carlyle Group (buying oil palm and sugarcane plantations in Latin America), Goldman Sachs (investing in hog farms in China), AIG (taking over farmlands in Brazil), George Soros (acquiring rice, soybean and cattle operations in the Southern Cone of Latin America), Cargill (buying dairy farms in China), and the Alberta Investment Management Co, manager of the province’s largest pension funds (scoping out agricultural land in Australia).

“Supermarket expansion, land grabs, and financial speculation: it all adds up to a huge expansion of the agribusiness frontier.”

Such profits have attracted the sharks from Wall Street, Bay Street, London City, Singapore, Dubai, and other financial centres. Over the past decade they started making big bets on speculation in agricultural commodities, as have pension funds and other institutional investors. In 2000, around US$5 billion were involved in speculation on the trade of commodities but by 2007 it surged to US$175 billion dollars. The huge influx of cash, nearly all of it going into futures or ‘long’ positions, creates a bubble-like phenomenon, encouraging overall upward price movements and periodic bursts. The result is a grain market that is both completely out of sync with supply and demand dynamics, with grain price movements now following the price curves of nonfood commodities like copper. The volatility makes life miserable for farmers who crave stability but it’s ideal for speculators, who profit from price movements, especially since some of the biggest speculators are in fact the transnational grain merchants, able to use their global information

and the Gulf States also have their own emerging agribusiness transnationals. The agribusiness push is no longer just North-South. The global land grab Perhaps the most brutal expression of this new corporate food order is the rush for farmland that was triggered by the food and financial crises of 2008. According to the World Bank, from the start of 2008 to the end of 2009, foreign investors acquired, either through purchase or long-term lease, over 56 million hectares of farmland. The International Land Commission now puts that number at 80 million hectares. The activist research group Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) has been tracking the global farmland grab since it began in 2008 and we estimate that over $100 billion has been mobilized by investors to purchase farmlands overseas for the production of foods for export.

Africa is a main target for these land grabs. Sudan and Ethiopia have given foreign investors over a million hectares each, typically for less than $10/hectare. Hundreds of thousands of hectares occupied by peasants and pastoralists have been handed out in Mali, Tanzania, Zambia, the Congo, Gabon, the list goes on. But the land grabs are also happening in Latin America, especially in the Southern Cone,

Governments play a big role in all of this. The governments of India, China, South Korea, Libya, Singapore, the Gulf States, and even Bangladesh are all actively backing plans for foreign investment in overseas farmland. They work out investment agreements with the host countries and supply part or all of the necessary capital to their private sector companies. But it is the private sector that runs the show. To give an example, the Mauritian government negotiated for 20,000 hectares of land in Mozambique, as part of a plan to ensure its own food security, but those lands were then signed over to a Singaporean company, operating out of Mauritius, that intends to use them to produce rice for export. Supermarket storm There’s another piece to this emerging picture of corporate control that needs to be mentioned. Since the 1990s, supermarkets have been expanding rapidly into the South and Central Europe – places where they were hardly present before. Their growth in these areas, made possible by free trade and investment agreements, is occurring five times as fast as it did in North America and Western Europe. Mexican food markets were essentially local ten years ago – controlled by small grocery stores, street vendors, and farmers. But today, three out of every ten pesos spent on food in Mexico is spent at a Walmex (owned by Walmart). The impacts are obvious for the small-scale vendors but are equally severe for food producers. Walmart only buys from preferred suppliers that ensure that the food is produced according to the standards set by Walmart. Walmart dictates the exact shape of the fruit, the seeds that are used, even the number of toilets each farm operation must have, while the grower pays for all the costs of certification and compliance. The Walmarts of this world are thus completely inaccessible to small growers. So as Walmart and other retailers expand into the South, farmers lose access to markets, while the big suppliers move to set up their own farms and consolidate exclusive





Line in Drawing a the Land Darcy Higgins In 2011, an application for a giant quarry by an American hedge fund came to light in Melancthon Township, near Orangeville ON. The project would be the second largest open-pit mine in North America and has been strongly opposed by residents due to its threats to local farmland, groundwater, and ecosystems.


“ Their greatest support is now coming from a burgeoning movement comprised of people who consider food the primary reason to put their booted feet down.”

The company bought 8,000 acres of land, informing local farmers that they intended to create Ontario’s largest potato farm. In reality, they applied to build a quarry. The project needs provincial approval to go through, but after significant efforts by Ontarians, the provincial government announced that a rare “full environmental assessment” would be required to assess the impacts of the quarry before a decision is made.


f there’s something we learned from our province’s 30,000+ person contribution to World Food Day, FoodStock, it’s that Ontarians (both urban and rural folk) strongly value their farmland, local food jobs, and the delicious dishes we make from it all. This shouldn’t be taken for granted. Not long ago, we didn’t have the type of food culture and economy we do today. Although we did have many more farmers, it is unlikely that we would have found tens of thousands of people making their way to a distant land on a chilly autumn afternoon just to take a political stand regarding their local food. In the past, a proposal for a giant open-pit mine would have brought

about concerned environmentalists focused on water quality and land degradation, alongside concerned locals who worry about environmental threats to their community. While these groups have again led the opposition, they have found that their greatest support is now coming from a burgeoning movement comprised of people who consider food the primary reason to put their booted feet down. Our present food system allows corporations, speculators, and hedge funds to make growing profits from higher food prices, land ownership, and destruction of the commons, while farmland loss, levels of food bank use, and atmospheric carbon continue to skyrocket. As the food movement grows, links are being made

Food Revolution


contracts with a few large-scale producers. Supermarket expansion, land grabs, and financial speculation: it all adds up to a huge expansion of the agribusiness frontier and a massive transfer of lands (and water!) from peasants and pastoralists to the rich. In the process, the small-scale sustainable agriculture that supplies local food markets is displaced by large-scale industrial plantations that supply food to global markets controlled by corporations. None of this is about producing more food or feeding more people; it’s all about who gets to control and profit from the production of food and who gets to eat. Time for a food revolution Despite the alarming expansion of the corporate food order, there is every reason to believe that we can turn things around. It is now crystal clear that the dominant model is bankrupt – it cannot fulfill the most basic function of feeding people and it is doing a miserable job of providing for

people’s livelihoods. Governments and corporations have no palatable solutions on offer either. Change has to come from us. And there is a growing global movement pushing back on the corporate food system and building the foundations for an alternative model, what many call food sovereignty. Across the planet, food has become a central issue for social movements and a source of inspiration. In Korea, for instance, millions of people occupied the streets two years ago in protest against the free trade agreement with the US. The focus of their rage was the removal of restrictions on US beef protecting Koreans from BSE. It wasn’t so much a fear of mad cow disease that united and mobilized Koreans as it was a rejection of a model of factory farming and food culture that most Koreans strongly oppose. We have many examples that show how food systems work when they are in the hands of local communities. With dairy, for instance, 80% of the milk consumed in the developing world is provided by the ‘informal sector,’ by people heading deep into the countryside on bicycles

among a spectrum of stakeholders from farm labourers to those who experience urban poverty.

counter the economic forces that push farmers to sell rather than keep their land.

The ‘Stop the Mega-Quarry’ team has the strength to be a winning one. This large and diverse group should also lend their attention to other ongoing battles to halt the loss of farmland, no matter the jurisdiction. It is important that they focus on expanding and strengthening the Greenbelt, and pushing for provincial legislation to limit the scope of gas plants, mines, and sprawl. The Greenbelt, though good for the land, has failed to bring much benefit to farmers in the region. Through discussion of a variety of possibilities, Sustain Ontario and their partners could potentially help farmers more effectively feed cities and themselves, while also helping to

Alliances are needed between with farmers, farm workers, and food processors in order to create policies that work for all aspects of the commodity chain. This movement, brought about by tens of thousands of people, is capable of not only shifting the political tide, but might also lead to more democratic discourse and policy change. We need to work to preserve farmland, and to create or improve programs and jobs that help to provide local, just, sustainable Ontario food to all.


The cue has come from the food sovereignty and food democracy movements of our southern neighbours. We must take food

“There is a growing global movement pushing back on the corporate food system and building the foundations for an alternative model.”

and motorbikes to collect milk from farmers with one or two cows and bring this into small towns and major urban centres. The milk generates livelihoods for millions of people (farmers, vendors, cheese makers, etc.) and provides fresh, nutritious food to billions of poor consumers at a fraction of the cost of the pasteurized milk sold in tetrapaks at the supermarkets. The safety of the milk is assured through relations of trust and knowledge on the part of both consumers and producers about how to handle it. People are fighting to protect such systems from corporate take-over. In Colombia, about two million people earn a living supplying leche popular (the people’s milk) to around 20 million Colombians. But looming free trade agreements with the EU and the US will open up the country to the dumping of powdered milk imports that companies like Nestle will use to undercut local milk production. And the government is pursuing legislation to prohibit the sale of pasteurized milk in urban centres, saying that the country’s dairy

sector must be modernized to meet its WTO obligations and compete in the global market. But Colombians are resisting. They have taken to the streets and organized sophisticated campaigns that have blocked the government’s attempts to enact the legislation on several occasions. Here in Canada, we now have a People’s Food Policy to serve as a reference point for activism and new visions for our food and agricultural system. Broad, collective visions are crucial if we are going to successfully work together on such disparate but intimately connected struggles as those for the rights of migrant farm workers, for the maintenance of the Wheat Board, for the banning of GMO crops, or for the reduction in type-two diabetes among First Nations communities. We can also link the struggle for food sovereignty to the struggle against climate change to build movements. At least half of all greenhouse gas emissions come one way or another from the current food system. We can turn

power back and return it to the hands of the people. With local and global sentiments for change and a stronger, burgeoning food movement, there could not be a better time to draw a line in our land, to raise our voice, and to say what we stand for. Darcy Higgins is the founder of Food Forward and is a long-time advocate, writer, and organizer on sustainability issues. He has advised politicians and officials at institutional, municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Darcy maintains key interests in diversity, community engagement, and social media and enjoys exploring Toronto’s natural and built environments. He can be reached at: darcy@ Food Forward is a Torontobased food advocacy organization that works to provide food that is healthy, local, sustainable, ethically produced, and accessible for all. Food Forward welcomes you to join the growing peoplepowered food movement. Become a member at: www.pushfoodforward. com/join. For more information, and to sign the petition against the mega quarry, visit http://www. To learn more about Sustain Ontario, please visit http:// this around to make agriculture a carbon sink. Industrial agriculture has depleted around 1-2% of the world’s soil organic matter over the past 50 years. We can easily rebuild that soil organic matter, by moving to ecological practices that enhance soil fertility (mixed cropping, composting, livestock integration, etc.). In doing so we could capture over a third of the current excess CO2 in the atmosphere. And we could continue building up the organic matter from there. But that kind of shift can only happen when we have farmers doing the farming and local markets that support dynamic rural communities and biodiverse farming. The solutions to the food crisis are thus deeply intertwined with solutions to the climate crisis and the larger question of global poverty. The steps to get there are not so complex: genuine agrarian reform, local markets, biodiversity, a decentralization of decisionmaking, all things that social movements have been demanding for decades. There are no technical hurdles standing in the way, only political ones. Devlin Kuyek is a researcher with GRAIN, a small international organization based in Barcelona, Spain. This article first appeared in the May/Jun. 2011 issue of Canadian Dimension.



A land occupation in the Polochic Valley. Occupying groups usually plant corn to stake out the area of their claim and to produce food on the contested land.

73-year-old Bonifacio Valle Soto dries coffee on the Salvador Xolhuitz plantation he and 88 other families bought in 2004. Bonifacio and hal of the families had lived most of their lives on the same plantation a indentured labourers before becoming the new owners.

Land, Food, an

Simon Granovsky-Larsen


uatemala is an agricultural it is one of the few countries in most Guatemalans, and especia generations, and attempts to co Over the last 15 years, however essay highlights a number of co

Since the late 1990s, hundreds legal title to large pieces of lan purchased their land through a debt and often stuck with remote action to support historical land struggling to obtain land are su strategizing, lobbying, and prot

Dried coffee being processed in Salvador Xolhuitz, Retahuleu. The group has tried to sell their coffee to a fair trade co-operative but have been held back by an internal community conflict, a common difficulty after moving to new land.

The struggle for land in Guatem Indigenous groups fought land agricultural expansion. An attem coup, and was followed by four earth campaigns. Today, econom bio-fuel production, are behind The period since the end of the

Some groups move to new land with no infrastructure. Here, the new community of Cablajú Tziquín from Finca La Moca in Alta Verapaz starts to put together a communal assembly hall.

A boy holds young chickens in the community of San José La Pasión, Alta Verapaz. Before moving to their new land, the community fought two land occupations over eight years, even after the assassination of one community leader and the jailing of another.




z lf as

Harvesting a cash crop of green beans in Don Pancho, Escuintla.

A fish pond under construction in the community of Victorias III, Retahuleu. The men are explaining their progress to Juventina López Vásquez, an organizer with the CONIC campesino organization that supports the community.

nd Politics in Guatemala


country. Its soil is rich, its economy has historically been based in farming, and n the world where the majority of the population still lives in rural areas. Still, ally the majority Indigenous population, have been denied access to land for orrect unequal distribution of resources have been met with violent repression. r, communities have managed to gain access to large tracts of land. This photo ommunities with new land and the role of food in their social movement.

of organized groups of small farmers (campesinos) in Guatemala have gained nd, much of it being former plantation areas. Around half of the groups have World Bank-sponsored loan program which has left the groups saddled with e or unproductive land. In other cases, campesino communities have used direct d claims through occupations and legal battles. In nearly all cases, communities upported by campesino-based social movement organizations, which help by testing together with the country’s small farmers.

mala has never been easy. Over hundreds of years since the Spanish conquest, theft through community-based resistance, but have still lost much territory to mpt at state-led land re-distribution in the 1950s was reversed through a military r decades of increasingly brutal state terror, culminating in genocidal scorched mic ‘development’ projects such as mining, hydroelectric dams, and crops for a new wave of forced eviction of rural communities. 1996 Guatemalan armed conflict has been characterized by the organization of

Corn planted deep within the Laguna Lachuá National Park. Guatemalan authorities consider the community of Xya’al ’obe’ to be in ‘occupation’ for refusing to leave their own land after the park was created.

a massive campesino social movement. However, violence against the movement continues. State forces and private plantation guards are known to routinely evict land occupations, burn communities to the ground, and occasionally kill community members. In addition, campesino leaders are also frequently killed in targeted assassinations. The campesino movement and its organized communities also experience difficulties. The dozens of campesino social movement groups have failed to come together into a unified national movement and are constantly contending with the nefarious co-optation offered by neoliberal governance. In the communities, each group with new land is left to its own devices, and they often have a hard time making the transition from landless agricultural labourers, to collective landowners whose fate rests in their ability to manage substantial crop areas. The photos collected here show the hopeful side of this social movement – those communities that managed to gain access to their own land after years of struggle. They also highlight the role of food in the movement. Corn is especially important, as it is the staple crop of the Guatemalan diet and a core element in Maya cultures. Communities that emphasize corn crops tend to do better in the years after moving to new land, as people’s basic needs are taken care of by producing their own food and, hopefully, some surplus for market sales. Coffee, poultry, fish, and other crops also show up in the photos, as each community experiments with different approaches to agricultural production as they move from being social movement actors demanding land, to new communities working their own soil in order to survive. Simon Granovsky-Larsen studies Political Science at York, and eats a lot of corn and beans. If you added another 70,000 words to this article it would look something like his PhD dissertation.

Herlindo Hernández inspects his corn field in Salvador Xolhuitz. His hat bears the acronyms for a Guatemalan campesino organization (CCDA) and the left-wing FMLN political party from El Salvador.




Foodie Must-Haves to ‘Occupy Your Life’ Jenelle Regnier-Davies


uring winter holiday break, I finally had the chance to crack open a book I had been carrying around for months. Although Vandana Shiva’s Stolen Harvest was published 12 years ago, I can’t help but feel that it is an imperative read for passionate (and nonpassionate) eaters alike. Regardless of my passion for Shiva’s written word, my intention is not to write a review on any one of her pieces of work (or to rant about the wrong doings of Cargill or Monsanto); rather, it is


to speak to our current climate of food crisis. More specifically, my purpose is to bring attention to the food we eat, and relate it to the recent Occupy movement, which shook city streets across the globe during 2011. After recent talks in Los Angeles, Joanne Poyourow published an article about an event where she spoke with Shiva herself. In the article, when asked about what she would say to those involved in the Occupy movement, Shiva simply nodded, gently smiled,

and commented, “I’d tell them… Occupy your Life.” Similar to Poyourow, these words from Shiva’s mouth resonated with me. If we should look to the Occupy movement for any lessons, it would be that there are areas within our everyday lives which we can utilize for the fight against political injustice. After speaking with my friend and YUFP colleague Aaron Manton about these ideas, he connected Shiva’s words to those

WINTER ISSUE 3 2012 of Ralph Waldo Emmerson. A transcendentalist, Emmerson spoke about living deliberately, and the concept of being completely invested in everything we do. By being aware of the ramifications and the significance of every aspect of our lives, we can bring food into a broader political context. Similarly, situationists express that politics are not a separate sphere from other aspects of life. With this in mind, we can recognize that the politics of justice is intrinsically related to the food we eat, and that political revolution must take place within the scope of the everyday. Most politically driven foodies would agree that this is not easy to do. In almost every direction we look, the very companies we wish to fight against market the ‘ethical’ food choices we may be attracted to. The Canadian labelling system (or lack thereof) prevents consumers from making informed choices, and refuses to enforce any

element of transparency that would allow consumers to know what really is in their food, and who benefits from its purchase. However blasphemous this may be, there are solutions. The real solution we need to focus on is training ourselves to be more self-resilient, self-reliant, and sufficiently capable of feeding ourselves apart from a system that insists on harming us. By learning some basic food skills and refraining from purchasing processed and packaged foods, we are limiting the amount of money that will eventually be stuffed into the pockets of that 1%. With this in mind, I share with you a couple of food tips that have helped me in recent years, and I hope you, our faithful readers, will benefit from them. Here are my top five foodie must-haves that every activist should place on their culinary agenda, in an attempt to ‘occupy their lives.’

to make it extra flavourful, add some garlic, pepper, or other herbs like rosemary or thyme to the mix. Place the pot on high heat to bring to a boil. After it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, or a gentle boil. You do not want to break down the vegetables by boiling; but rather extract the flavours, aromas, and nutrients slowly. This will take only 30-40 minutes. After, strain using a fine sieve, and cool. I like to keep old yogurt containers to divide 1L portions of the stock and freeze.

Make Stock

Method for Chicken Stock: If you eat chicken, and happen to purchase it on the bone, keep the bones in the freezer until you have collected a substantial amount (enough to fill a soup pot half way). I am not encouraging you to buy KFC and keep the bones after you have gnawed off the meat. But if you happen to roast a chicken, keep the carcass and use it for stock. Alternatively, many grocers and butcher shops have a large number of animal bones in their inventory. If you ask at the counter they will often sell chicken, beef, or fish bones for very little. Sometimes they will even give bones away to get them off their hands (much becomes waste…trust me, I worked in a butcher shop!).

To be a politically minded cook, the first step is to become more aware of the waste we create in our day-to-day lives. Consumer culture, which many of us fall victim to, influences us to see very valuable things as waste. The reason I list stock as a primary ‘foodie must-have’ is because I feel it is an integral step to utilizing more and reducing waste. It will help you spend less, eat better, and be more conscious of the value of the foods we are privileged to have access to. My advice is to show your food the respect it deserves, and to get as much as possible out of it. Stock can be used in your kitchen in a variety of ways. It can be a base for homemade soups, or a cooking liquid for grains, legumes, or even pasta. Using stock adds additional flavour and nutritional value to your food, and can be helpful for those who are refraining from salt or other synthetic flavouring agents.

Place the chicken bones in a pot and cover with cold water, leaving room to add vegetables later. It is important to use cold water, as it helps to slowly extract impurities (blood and minerals) while the liquid comes to a slow simmer. A murky foam will form on the surface. Skim this off, and then add vegetables, herbs, and pepper. Let simmer on a low temperature for at least an hour. The same general time is needed for making turkey or other poultry stock. General Stock Tips: Most people who make stock routinely suggest that you include three main vegetables: carrots, onions, and celery. This blend is called a mirepoix, which is used to make the base flavour for any soup or sauce. If you intend to make soup with your stock, consider adding some or all of these for a better, more well-rounded flavour.

Method for Vegetable Stock:

If you want to make fish stock, the general process if similar. Avoid making stock from the bones of greasy fish, like salmon, however; the result will be overwhelming and unappealing. It generally takes around 45 minutes of simmering time to make fish stock.

Throughout the week, keep the ends and bits of vegetables that you don’t include in your everyday meals. Good examples would be onions ends, brussels sprout cores, mushroom stems, woody asparagus stems, and the like. Keep these in a bag in your vegetable drawer, and at the end of the week, place all of it in all in a pot, and cover with water. If you want

For beef stock, the simmering process is substantially longer. Since it takes approximately three to four hours to extract the flavour and collagen from beef bones, refrain from adding vegetables until the last hour of simmering. For a robust, flavourful beef stock, roast bones before submersing in water.

4 Cook Grains and Cereals

A few weeks ago, I was in Loblaws and came across a ready-made ‘lunch kit’ for kids that contained pre-cooked white rice in one plastic compartment and a syrupy-looking ‘vegetable’ sauce in another. To my horror, this product was on the shelf far from any fridge, sitting in a warm isle. I was completely taken aback, not only by the sheer fact this product exists, but also that people actually purchase it. It is understandable that time is a constant issue for people when it comes to cooking. However, buying such products contributes to own ‘de-skilling’ in food preparation. By purchasing ready-made food products, we are giving companies our hard earned food dollars when we could be using them to purchase whole, unprocessed, and healthier foods. Do not allow these companies to convince you that you do not have the skill to cook your own food; you do. The pilaf method is one of the most time-effective ways of cooking grains and cereals, not to mention one of the tastiest. My favourite dish these days is quinoa. A few weeks a ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that “quinoa is the new rice.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that quinoa isn’t a grain at all. Rather, it is a seed from a plant that is related to both beets and spinach. If you look closely, the seed looks like a small spiral. If left to soak in water at room temperature overnight, it will sprout, making it easier to digest and higher in nutritional worth. Like actual grains, quinoa is delicious when cooked as a pilaf. The pilaf method involves gently toasting the grain/ seed, and then cooking it with some form of liquid. By using the exact measure of liquid to make the grain tender (rather than boiling in a large amount of water and draining it), the nutritional value is retained, as is the flavour. This method also requires limited supervision and provides fail-safe results; pilafs are always fluffy, tender, and delicious.


WINTER ISSUE 3 2012 Recipe: Basic Quinoa Pilaf 1 cup 1 and ¾ cups 1 1 tbsp.

dried quinoa vegetable stock (If you have handy. Water or orange juice can be used as a replacement.) small onion, diced pure olive oil, or vegetable oil

Method: In a medium pot, gently sauté the onion in oil on medium to low heat. When translucent, add and toast the quinoa, stirring occasionally. Toast for about a minute, then add liquid and bring to a boil on high heat. When boiling commences, cover with a lid and turn down to low, cooking for approximately 20 minutes. Lift lid and stir. Check the bottom of the pot to see if any liquid remains. If so, leave to cook for several more minutes. If not, then shut off heat and let rest, covered, for 5-10 minutes. After resting, fluff with a fork and serve. Pilaf goes great with stews and curries. Tips: This method also allows for some creativity. I like to toast spices and herbs while I toast the grain. Try making this recipe with turmeric, coriander, and cumin to make a ‘curried’ version. Another flavourful option is to use juices, such as orange juice or apple cider. Keep in mind that each grain or cereal requires a different amount of water in order to be cooked to a tender state, so please pay attention to the water-to-dry-ingredient ratio on labels or online. Most long grain white rice is cooked at a ratio of 1:1.5 (one cup rice to one and a half cups of liquid). Brown rice is much more time consuming, and requires much more liquid. However, whole grains are much tastier, and higher in nutritional content.


FEATURES At one of the lowest points in my life, I was living on College Street with not a penny to my name and an empty apartment. Jobless, phoneless, and back in the Toronto after a two-year hiatus, I found myself hungry and alone. Luckily, the last tenants left behind some old flour, and I scraped together some change for a package of yeast. I made focaccia.


Because I was in Little Italy, I had a back yard, which was overgrown with mint and basil amongst a meadow of dandelions. Hidden were a couple ripening tomatoes that the last tenant had planted and left, unloved. I plucked a bit of this and a bit of that, and made a gourmet snack for myself that my grandmother would be proud of. I thank her today for teaching me the art (and simple craft) of making my own bread.

Make Bread

Making bread is one of the easiest and surprisingly quick things to make. After getting the feel, it is relatively simple to make without even a recipe. It is also completely and utterly satisfying to know that you can sustain yourself, if need be, for a minimal amount of money. Recipe: Basil, Mint, and Tomato Focaccia 1 tsp. white sugar or honey 1 package active dry yeast (¼ ounce) ⅓ cup warm water (110 degrees…think slightly warmer than body temp) 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil ¼ tsp. salt (coarse is best, but table salt works fine) 1 handful basil and mint 1 ripe tomato (preferably scavenged), sliced Method:


Turn on the tap and run the water on warm, holding your hand under it. When it starts to feel slightly hotter than your hand, measure ⅓ of a cup. Feel free to use a thermometer, but I find the bowl and measuring devices often cool down such a small amount of water. It’s better to do it by feel. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the water, in a large bowl. Let stand until it begins to foam – about 10 minutes. Now, combine the yeast mixture with flour; stir well to combine. Stir in extra water a little at a time, until all of the flour is absorbed. When the mass starts to look like dough, empty it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about a minute. Wash and dry the bowl, then oil it lightly. Coat the doughy mass in the oil, and cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Salad Dressing

Everyone, I mean everyone, has the time to do this. I cringe when I see bottles of salad dressing made by Kraft (or the like) in people’s fridges. I swear, those companies have brainwashed the entire world into thinking salad dressing is a complicated and un-doable thing, convincing people to pay $5 a pop for a plastic bottle of goo that tastes like…plastic. I swear it has become my life’s goal to convince people otherwise. Making your own dressing is really very easy.

Preheat oven to 475ºF (245ºC). Flop dough on a lightly floured counter and knead a bit more. It will deflate but that’s okay, it’s supposed to happen. Squish the dough into a flat disc and place on a greasy baking sheet. Olive oil is delicious…just sayin’. Using the tips of your fingers, poke indents all over. Brush a bit more oil over top, sprinkle on some salt, and throw on some of that sliced tomato. Bake in preheated oven for 10-20 minutes, depending on desired crispness. If you like it moist and fluffy, then you’ll have to wait only about 10 minutes. Pull it out and let rest for a few minutes. Rip up the mint and basil by hand and sprinkle on top. Now eat!

The ultimate way for people to really grasp their selfsufficiency in this consumerist, capitalist society is to learn how to grow food. I know, I know…in the city it is hard, and there really is no time between classes and work to manage…a garden! But by taking the time to at least know how to sprout a seed or plant a tomato plant, you will see some level of financial benefit while also gaining that liberated feeling.

Recipe: Basic Emulsified Dressing ½ cup olive oil, or any other oil you have kicking around ½ tbsp.

mustard (can use yellow, Dijon, or grainy… same diff)

1-2 tbsp. vinegar: best to use balsamic, apple cider, or white wine vinegar. Avoid white pickling vinegar – far too acidic To taste salt/pepper Method: Place mustard in the bottom of a bowl (any bowl…a cereal bowl will do). I like to put a moist towel under the bowl to prevent it from flying when whisking. Now, slowly whisk the vinegar in. Next, slowly – very slowly – whisk the oil into the mustard/vinegar mixture. You will see the mixture thicken slightly. A secret protein is hidden in mustard that blends the molecules of the vinegar to the oil, binding them together. This creates a smooth, velvety-like dressing without the added stabilizers and other crap the big companies feed you in those plastic bottles. If you want, make a butt-load and keep it in a jar in the fridge. Tips: Note that some vinegars bind better with oil than others due to their acidity levels. Balsamic vinegar holds the best and the longest. It is definitely my favourite. If you are feeling creative and/or have extra ingredients on hand, this recipe can be modified easily. If you have aging, soft fruit, feel free to use it in the dressing. Often, I peel and seed pears that are not looking so good and puree them with a hand blender. Just put fruit in an old (oh so handy) yogurt container, and blend with a hand mixer. Then, add the ingredients listed above. You can do this with any softer fruit, frozen berries, tomatoes, or avocadoes. Be creative.

1 Grow Food!

In Toronto, there are plenty of opportunities to purchase or exchange seeds with fellow food lovers. This year, the infamous Seedy Saturday event spread over the course of three days in five different communities, a new precedent in our city. Not only is there the opportunity to obtain interesting seeds, but there is a number of seminars and workshops for both new and experienced gardeners. Visithttp://www. for the schedule. In addition, the spread of community garden plots has become a viable way for people without space to get their hands into some soil. Only a few short months ago I witnessed gardeners harvesting corn from the plots of land they occupied between railroads and in ditches. On campus here at York, Maloca Gardens offers space for students to learn from one another and the space needed to cultivate edibles. Get in touch with them; I hear they are a pretty nice group of people:

A child of a prairie agricultural community, Jenelle was raised understanding the importance of food. After 12 years working in kitchens across Canada and overseas, Jenelle left the culinary world to make positive social change in the realm of food. She currently studies at York in Environmental Studies and Geography. Photographer bio: Katie Lysakowski was raised in Ontario, but currently lives in Vancouver, where she cooks for a living and for pleasure. Several years ago, she traded her corporate job to chase her dream of being a professional cook. Today, she is a photographer, a wannabe cheese maker, a gardener, a butcher, and has recently begun fermenting apples in an attempt to make booze. For explorations of Katie’s food photography, visit




Community Garden Projects Grow Transformative Possibilities and consumption, and has such an allergic reaction to the fluid and often dirty processes of life.

Nathan Nun


e tend not to think of our consumption being conditioned by domination, but decisions of what kinds of foods to consume are for many not simply choices made in an environment of freedom. Working times, costs of food, available space, location of food sources, and all kinds of knowledge from food preparation to poisonous industrial practices condition whether one is able to acquire healthy and pleasing foods. Changing attitudes about food are difficult when people are besieged by the psychological treachery of advertising and the physiological effects of engineered food products themselves. The poisonous practices of the food system are not easy to individually escape, by buying organic at your local market for instance, when access is conditioned by wealth. Even access to processed and less than desirable produce is an issue for poor North Americans – who are now using food banks and food stamps at record-breaking proportions. On the other end, the destructive practices of large-scale corporate food production, from chemicals fertilizers, to terminator seeds, to land destruction, cannot be avoided. As it becomes more obvious that our current models of food production and consumption are ultimately unsustainable, and already failing many populations, the question arises as to which alternatives to large industrial farming and corporate dominated food system are viable. A promising alternative model is community gardening: grassroots efforts to grow food in urban green spaces, managed by community participants. One might assume that these local operations would be ineffectual and inefficient in providing urban populations with food, but participation in existing gardens and research about urban gardening is showing not only that they can be economically efficient and environmentally practical, but that they also provide numerous individual and community benefits to health and well-being. They foster relationships with nature and community, provide a space, which gratifies aesthetic needs, and offers a different model of work. Community gardens may have a role to play in larger social transformation if we pay attention to their potential, especially when they are self-consciously made a food sovereignty project. Researchers at the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State researched the potential of urban gardens in Detroit with some surprising results: with extended infrastructure such as greenhouses and adequate storage facilities, biointensive urban agriculture

Michael Barera (Wikicommons) A hoop house, a kind of inexpensive, flexible greenhouse, at the D-Town Farm in Detroit. grown by experienced producers has the potential to provide 76% of all vegetables and 42% of all fruits needed by the city. This sounds even more impressive when we consider that the carbon footprint of food production and distribution is reduced because of less oil intensive methods of farming and less energy consumption in transportation. While these benefits alone might make us take a closer look at urban agriculture as part of an alternative food system, the social and individual benefits of having and participating in urban gardens are also coming to be acknowledged.


together, and builds a sense of responsibility and self-worth. M o r e o v e r, i n t e r- g e n e r a t i o n a l conversation and learning occur in communal preparation of food and eating at a common table. The cooperative process of growing food contributes to enjoyment with others, as well as developing social relationships

“urban agriculture . . . has the potential to provide 76% of all vegetables and 42% of all fruits needed by the city.”

While more research is needed, empirical studies into green spaces and community gardening have pointed to numerous ways in which interaction with such spaces contributes to individual and community well-being (without forgetting the difference between well-being and wellbeing under domination). These range from cognitive health benefits, to managing stress, to health rehabilitation. Research also suggests that gardens foster relationships of care. Positive correlations between green environments and stronger social ties, along with a sense of safety, participation, and neighbourly assistance have also been shown.

based on reciprocity and trust. A 2011 study in Social Science and Medicine (James Hale et al.) based on interviews with community gardeners found that they tend to be proud of the appearance and productivity of their gardens and tend to be motivated by this – a commitment to being responsible and productive. While some relationships of garden activity are formalized, others are based on forms of interpersonal trust. The community garden comes to be a place to share work, company, and produce – some gardeners end up giving away more than they consume. Typically, community gardeners find the work itself enjoyable and sociable. In all, some community garden projects point to the possibility of humanized production and human fulfilment by being sites of non-alienated production and exchange.

Community gardens promote healthy eating, but in doing so also build healthy individuals and communities. Studies suggest that those with links to community gardens are more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables more often. Participation in gardens increases aesthetic and emotional appeal of food and expands dietary possibilities. The C.S. Mott researchers found that youth participating in Detroit urban farming programs are more likely to try new things, and there is recognition that the type of gardening done promotes deeper relationships with food; including the ways that food brings people

Participation in gardens also fosters ecological learning, an appreciation of nature that goes beyond understanding its usevalue, the recognition of an inextricable attachment to the non-human biophysical world, and development of an understanding that this biophysical world has a tempo (a kind of subjectivity) all its own that we neglect at risk to our own health and the health of the non-human world. This sense of time and respect for biophysical processes is all the more important in a culture that has so separated itself from non-human nature, anaesthetized its human bodies for the sake of cycles of production

Discussions on community gardens often turn to the case of Detroit, and for good reason. Once a booming auto industry centre, Detroit City had become synonymous with industrial decline and urban decay in North America, long before the recent financial crisis – a decline often marked by unemployment and poverty for an intercity majority Black population. The wake of population exodus and deindustrialization has meant social and economic decline and a negative impact on the food system. While reports that there are no grocery stores in Detroit are unfounded, Mari Gallagher’s 2007 documentation of Detroit ‘food deserts’ has relevance insofar as it highlighted areas in which economic and physical barriers limit access to affordable food. Detroit has many outlets with food, but this does not mean that distribution of food is not a problem because of access and quality – access and quality that also highlights the racial inequality in the city. For a number of factors from the availability of vacant land to the continuing poverty and unemployment, a vibrant urban and community farming movement has, for some years, filled a vital needs void and will play a larger role in the years ahead. As suggested above, participants in urban garden projects tend to see them as more than mere food production projects. They can be a rejection of processed food options and low quality produce and fill a demand for healthy food from sustainable environments. For groups like the D-Town Farm, the largest urban garden project in Detroit, the project is a rejection of the established food system itself, a way to produce and distribute food that prioritizes community ownership and environmental sustainability. Run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), D-Town is framed as a food sovereignty political project. In a Democracy Now interview, Malik Yakini, the DBCFSN Chair, defined the project as a Black self-determination project that insists that any plan for urban agriculture in the city benefit the black majority. The community, he stated is “not interested…where the corporate sector comes in and only uses the majority of people as workers. We’re concerned about control and ownership.” The farm is meant to be a model not only of sustainable agriculture, but a model for social, economic, and political projects appropriate for the city. Monica White, a sociologist participating in the project, interviewed farmers deeply involved in the project and found time and again that the project “dealt with their efforts to be agents of their own transformation,

and the city of Detroit by claiming the human right to food.” The project consciously “challenges the social structure that is supposed to provide access to healthy foods” – a challenge that rejects both government and the market and claims control of responsibility for itself. Yakini and other community garden activists are opposed to the potential of capitalization of urban gardening and the establishment of large, for-profit agricultural enterprise even when money managers promise productivity, tax revenues, and ‘decent jobs.’ Too many of the qualitative benefits, the phenomenological experience of aestheticproductivity, the layers of personal and community relations and the reciprocity it fosters would inevitably be destroyed – a return to wage, corporate, and other dependencies and all they entail. While the urban food movement will have to find ways of embracing those who value the gardens differently (not all in any community agree with them or see them as long term projects) and those cynics who have yet to discover their value, a picture of the objective possibilities of these environments as part of a transformation certainly seems to be becoming clearer. It is time, even for we foodie outsiders, to consider how these decentralized, local food projects may initiate or enable a process of disintegration of capitalist mass food production, its system of unsustainable industrial farming and corporate supermarkets, not only because alternatives are becoming more necessary, but also because they appear to work better both economically and qualitatively. As suggested, a challenge to the way food is produced and consumed is a challenge to the way we understand and experience nature and our own aesthetic being; these most basic needs, as the social philosopher Marcuse stressed, “are the claims of the human organism, mind and body, for a dimension of fulfillment which can be created only in the struggle against the institutions which, by their very functioning, deny and violate these claims.” They can have a subversive quality and can therefore be a challenge to a whole way of life when germinated in the right climate. While urban garden projects are in no way sufficient for transforming the world, they can certainly have a positive role not only because of their material potential, but also because they foster relationships and sensibilities that challenge domination and open up new possibilities for human being. Nathan Nun is a graduate student in Social and Political Thought at York University




Call Off the War on Obesity Andy Bellatti


he war on obesity’ has become a familiar battle cry.

This neutrality makes it challenging to define the collective ‘we,’ giving Big Food ample room to foster the insidious illusion that it – not just its products, but its practices and tactics – does not contribute to the problem at hand.

A population that is of normal weight? While there are certainly some medical and health risks that accompany obesity, it is possible to be at a ‘healthy weight’ while subsisting on minimally nutritious foods. Health goes beyond weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol values. Thinness does not imply one eats enough fiber, gets a sufficient amount of minerals, or limits added sugars. Rather than an aimless war against obesity, efforts should instead be used toward a movement for something. Such a movement can’t afford to be vague. A movement for health, for instance, can too easily appropriated by the food industry (“Baked Cheetos are healthy!”) and quickly nosedive.

It serves as the basis for professional health conferences or a ‘motivational’ extremeweight-loss shows like The Biggest Loser, and is referenced almost daily. Despite the intent “Obesity is too abstract of an enemy. Instead, it needs to increase awareness of to be acknowledged as the most visible symptom of a public health issue, it is plagued with problems various socio-political diseases – including, but not limed that severely impede to, industry lobbying, Big Food predatory marketing, progress.


War, by definition, requires the identification of at least one enemy, something the war on obesity has failed to do. The absence of precise targets helps explain why so many discussions on the topic are blandly apolitical. The rhetoric surrounding this anti-obesity crusade is so neutral, in fact, that the food industry considers itself part of the dutiful troops, whether it’s with ‘commitments to physical activity’ or reduced-calorie, minimally nutritious processed foods that feature artificial sweeteners and ‘fat replacers’ made from genetically modified corn.

We need to make intentions clear and voice support for concrete concepts, such as sustainable agriculture, accessibility to healthful and misguided agricultural subsidies.” foods for disenfranchised communities, and Obesity is too abstract of an enemy. Instead, it regulations that don’t make it so easy for Big needs to be acknowledged as the most visible Food to have almost unilateral control on symptom of various socio-political diseases health messaging. – including, but not limed to, industry lobbying, Big Food predatory marketing, Of course, the success of such a movement hinges on a crucial point – the bridging of and misguided agricultural subsidies. the many currently fragmented nutritional Unfortunately, most discussions on tribes. obesity don’t make these connections. We are instead encouraged to applaud A raw food vegan and a Paleo enthusiast ‘solutions’ like 100-calorie packs of cookies may, on the surface, appear to exist on two and complimentary pedometers at fast food ends of the dietary spectrum. At their core, though, both advocate for whole, minimally restaurants. processed foods, and have a keen sense The war on obesity also lacks a clearly defined of how industry lobbying has affected goal. What, exactly, does victory look like? government nutrition recommendations.

Something is Radioactive in the State of our Food Canova Kutuk


e live in an age where food goes hand in hand with technology. Recently, I stumbled across information highlighting the dangers of radiation in our food. From legal techniques to lethal nuclear accidents, our food, and consequently our bodies, are in danger. Irradiation and Food If someone had told me a few weeks ago that the vegetables in my dinner were exposed to ionizing radiation prior to hitting the shelves in the supermarket, I wouldn’t believe it. But believe it or not, most foods are “irradiated.” Irradiation is the process of exposing food like fruits, vegetables, and meat to high levels of radiation in order to kill off bacteria and other unwanted microorganisms. Using short wavelength gamma rays, our food is ‘cleansed’ of harmful organisms… However, the very rays that change the atoms of bacteria and kill them also have the

potential to change the structure of our food. Irradiating microorganisms like salmonella and E. Coli give rise to more dangerous, radiation resistant bacteria, which become resistant to very high levels of radiation (high enough to kill a human being). There have also been laboratory studies that document irradiated foods damage chromosomes in children. Irradiation also kills friendly enzymes and bacteria, rendering our food “dead” and almost useless to our bodies. A 20-80% loss of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids is also common in irradiated foods. So why do we willingly irradiate our food? Not many people are aware that irradiation even exists. Many large, multinational corporations fund organizations and research claiming that irradiation is a harmless technique. Among them are Monsanto,


The Meeting Place North (flickr)

Access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables is imperative for a healthy society There is great potential in coalition politics and having ‘opposing’ factions working together on common goals. The current public health crisis cannot possibly be tackled with apolitical platitudes and infiltration by those who are largely to blame. Clearly, the ‘war on obesity’ is in desperate need of reframing and reconceptualization if it hopes to progress and fix some gargantuan wrongs. Andy Bellatti, MS, RD is a Seattle-based nutritionist, writer, and speaker, and is the creator of the Small Bites blog.

davidd (flickr)

A Reflection on Weight Management, and our Managers Jen Rinaldi


have a bad relationship with food – so bad that I have unlearned the most basic messages my body could offer me. When my taste buds light up over something sweet, guilt is fast to follow. When I feel hunger pangs, relief washes over me. All because I have come to treat food as hostile, as that which sinks in me like an anchor, and sticks to my insides like a residue. I was first told I had an eating disorder in hospital, when I was admitted for complications to undernourishment many years ago. My body was a composite of physiological markers: sallow skin, coarse body hair, brittle nails – all textbook symptoms that transform thinness from a boon to a bane. My most private rituals and perceptions – the calorie counting, the bargaining, the cognitive dissonance – came to be

in actuality poor health is the product of living conditions, poor wages, poverty – socio-economic factors often beyond our control. Despite all objections, the paradigm holds, and translates into policy. In 2009, Japan passed an antiobesity law, fining companies for employing workers who qualify as obese. In Pennsylvania that same year, Lincoln University instated (though it has since had to rescind) the rule that students with a BMI of 30 or over must take a fitness course in order to graduate. This past year in Ohio, a child diagnosed as severely obese was monitored by social workers then seized and placed into foster care on the grounds that his mother could not control his weight. Since the Ohio story was picked up in the news, it has been brought to light that Canadian child protective services can do, and indeed have done, the same to Canadian families.

explicable, and pathological. After for relying only on height, age, Policies like these persist because that night, I have had to work to and weight – not nearly enough we live in a fatphobic culture. justify my right to control my own variables to determine fitness or Jokes, jeers, and judgments are body, because my capacity to make health. Recent studies question condoned, rarely understood to sound decisions regarding my ready associations of fatness with be discrimination, because as body came to be suspect. Because medical conditions, and proffer the the language goes (ask any fat really, how could “Policies like these persist because we live in a someone do this to herself? What could fatphobic culture. Jokes, jeers, and judgments are possibly explain why condoned, rarely understood to be discrimination, someone would treat a necessity as an because as the language goes (ask any fat pride adversary and commit blogger about her comment boards), those to a slow death by starvation? disgusting, irresponsible, lazy slobs did this horrible


Weight management is often draped in military and medical rhetoric: we wage war on obesity, we face an obesity epidemic. The term ‘obesity’ is a medical diagnosis measured by the body mass index (BMI), a scale that has in recent years been questioned by fat activists and scholars alike

thing to themselves.”

possibility that ‘fat’ and ‘healthy’ are not mutually exclusive categories. As York University professor Dr. Dennis Raphael explains extensively, despite the emphasis that Canadian health policy places on lifestyle choices as critical determinants of health,

pride blogger about her comment boards), those disgusting, irresponsible, lazy slobs did this horrible thing to themselves. If you want to be healthy, if you want to keep your job and your degree and your children, aim for that medically-endorsed standard,

Radioactive Food






“The saying “you are what you eat” takes on a very scary meaning when one considers that practically everything we consume - from water to air - is currently radioactive.”

Nestle, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide, and DuPont… Not exactly the friendly companies that would keep my health in mind. But hey, at least my foods have longer shelf lives!

Nuclear Crises and Food The public panic and concern following the nuclear crisis in Japan last year, for some unknown reason, no longer exists. There have not been any mainstream media reports and the incident seems to have lost its urgency. At the time, Canadians were reassured by Health Canada that the radioactive fallout from Fukushima posed no threats to Canadians; our foods and water were supposedly as safe as always. However, there are reports that reactor #4 - the reactor with all the spent fuel - has been damaged recently and that a new fire has started (after about 10 months, it is still unclear if the original radioactive fires have been put out), that could release more radioactive poison than Chernobyl. It could

take years to stop the radiation leaks from Fukushima and Canadians are faced with a direct threat, no matter what government officials say. Health Canada recently refused A photoshop submission for Freaking News Pictures inspired by to give up a report “Blinky”, the 3-eyed fish, that lives in the water outside the nuclear highlighting power plant in Springfield. that there was three times the “permissible” levels of radioactive iodine in the Pacific Ocean, from where we get in rainwater. Meanwhile, they claimed that most of our seafood… since “radioactivity levels across Canada continue to be within normal background The radiation in our foods survives all levels and that there is no cause for concern,” refinement and cooking processes before it was okay to turn off mobile radiation they enter our bodies and yet there is little detectors on the West Coast (huh?!). Since critical talk about radiation and food. The then, authorities have refused to test milk saying “you are what you eat” takes on a for radioactive isotopes, and claim that very scary meaning when one considers that we should not worry because most of the practically everything we consume—from radiation from Fukushima would be diluted water to air— is currently radioactive.

that standard defined by photoshopped pictures and the Barbie doll product line. If you want to get there, make use of Slimfast and Weight Watchers, magazine tips and daytime television ‘doctors,’ diet pills and gastric bypasses. An entire industry has built up around, and been profiting immensely from, the framing of weight management as a high priority and personal responsibility. So weight loss is encouraged, until it is not – until someone carries these strategies to their logical conclusion. In these cases, the person rather than the industry is adjusted. Eating disorders can serve as grounds for issuing Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), a legal provision according to which people diagnosed with mental health problems are forcibly treated. Treatments can range from the innocuous to the invasive: from support groups, to therapy, to medication, to institutionalization, and even to surgery. Indeed, medical practitioners have explored psychosurgeries, specifically cingulotomy and capsulotomy, as treatment options for anorexia nervosa. Their frequency has increased in Ontario in recent years, performed on people diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and body image disorders. These procedures are performed in order to manipulate nerve bundles connected to the frontal lobe – the modern-day lobotomy. A very fine line exists between healthy and sick, beautiful and gross, disciplined and out of control. It is difficult to find that line on your own, but make no mistake: should you find yourself astray – whether from overeating or disordered eating – you are to blame, and the cost could be great.

Mad Students Society Mad Students Society (MSS), created in 2005, is a community of students who are attending or planning to attend institutions of post-secondary or adult education and have past/present experiences with psychiatric/mental health systems. We meet monthly and communicate through an email listserv to support each other, discover tools for self-advocacy, and connect with our history and broader social movements. Our downtown Toronto meetings take place the second Saturday of every month from 3:30-5:30pm. MSS is coming to North York and will be meeting at York University. Stay tuned for details! For more information about MSS such as the locations of our upcoming meetings or joining the listserv, please email Elizabeth at outreach@madstudentsociety. com. Visit our website at www. or find us on Facebook!



Arts & Culture Film Review:

We Feed the World Lea Lefevre-Radelli Welcome in the world of food business. Seven years ago, in 2005, the Austrian documentary We Feed the World made the public (re) discover what every human should know: that the food we eat does not come from genuine small farms, as is shown on the egg packages, but that fishes, chickens, and even vegetables are industrially produced without consideration for the product or the consumer. Filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer traces the origins of our food from production to distribution. The assessment is worrying, but unfortunately banal: the recent development of industrial companies is leading to the ruin of small farmers and fishermen, while accelerating starvation in some parts of the world. The journey begins in Austria, the twelfth richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. The documentary opens with the interview of an Austrian farmer, who is standing among his wheat fields as one the last survivors of a traditional production. He is part of the three-quarters of the farmers who didn’t give up their jobs when the country joined the European Union in 1995. His father farmed 12 hectares; he had to increase the farm six times to have the same income. Producing more, being paid less? “Well, it makes you wonder,” the farmer concludes. And it makes us wonder indeed. The wheat, that represents less than 15% of the total cost of breads, is less expensive than road grit. And at the end of every day, an incredibly large amount

of bread that is no more than two days old is thrown out in Vienna, piled up among papers and plastic in industrial bins. Two million kilos of bread are wasted every year in the capital. “The amount of unsold bread sent back to be disposed of every day in Vienna is enough to supply Austria’s secondlargest city, Graz,” says an insert; almost everything is said about the aberration of food business. In an interview made by Birgit Kohlmaier-Schacht for the online magazine Humanity 4.0, Wagenhofer explains: “I was only interested in one thing: what does it have to do with us? What have Spanish tomatoes got to do with us, what do the Africans who pick the tomatoes and do the harvest and do the work there have to do with us, what has the cutting down of the rainforest got to do with us?” The documentary establishes connections between the small farmers in Austria and the bread we eat, between deforestation and starvation in Brazil and our eating soy. It makes us think, not cry, for fear only leads to astonishment, whereas in understanding there is space for hope and action. When it comes to food production, everything is so intertwined that human and ecological issues cannot be separated. One example is the deforestation of Mato Grosso. Mato Grosso, or thick forest, is a Brazilian state in the southern Amazon. Its economy developed expansively over the last 30 years while it became one of the world’s largest soy producers. But Mato


eating up the rainforest of Brazil, leading to serious environmental issues that affect the ecological balance of humanity as a whole. Whether we like it or not, all of us eat soy. Today, soy is used to feed animals, is often added to cereals, and the lecithin extracted from soy beans is used in the pharmaceutical industry or in food. The documentary is led by the intervention of Jean Ziegler, UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food during the period 2000-2008. His verdict is severe: “Given the current state of agriculture in the world, it could feed 12 billion people with no problem. Or to put it in another way: any child who dies of starvation today is in fact murdered.” Another reflection echoes this one, coming from Karl Otrok, director of production for Pioneer’s Romania operations. Pioneer is a US-owned seed company, second only to Monsanto, having operated in

a Romanian farmer to keep going his own way, whereas he himself leads a company that makes money with hybrid aubergines – hybrid plants come from expensive and non-reusable seeds but are more appealing in shops. This is the image of us all, though: we want to enjoy low priced food, but hope that some countries will keep providing traditional food, even if they are not competitive. Wagenhofer believes in collective responsibility; we are all part of this system, and if we don’t change our way of life, then, who will? “That’s why the film is called We Feed the World and not They Feed the World. They, the Brabecks [Peter Brabeck, chairman of the Nestlé group] and the Pioneers and whatever their names are, they’re all part of our society and we’ve got to accept that responsibility. That’s what’s in this we,” the filmmaker says. We should be conscious that the problem is not food supply but distribution.

“Given the current state of agriculture in the world, it could feed 12 billion people with no problem. Or to put it in another way: any child who dies of starvation today is in fact murdered.”

Grosso is no longer a thick forest at all; the jungle was cleared to grow soy that will be driven 2,500 km to the ports of Sao Paulo or Parana and shipped to Europe, China, and Japan. And yet the soil is not suitable for growing soy; all the nutrients have to be applied artificially. Today, the Mato Grosso has 5 million hectares of soy fields, which is 1.5 times the surface area of Vancouver Island. In the meantime the population in Brazil still experiences mass undernourishment. Between 2002 and 2010, around 19 million hectares of rainforest in the Amazon region of Brazil were cut down; this is how European soy is

120 countries around the world in 2005. Its slogan gave the title of the movie: We Feed the World. But which part of the world, exactly? Showing 61-hectare fields of GM soy beans, Otrok points out: “it could be sent to countries that need it. But it’s sent to us, that have more than enough to eat, and don’t need it at all.” He concludes: “When 100,000 people die of starvation, it’s said we can’t feed them, or is it just that we don’t want to feed them?” It would be easy to laugh off Otrok, who appears to be an agent in the destruction of the traditional agriculture he loves. He encourages

Lea Lefevre-Radelli is an exchange student from University Paris-Sorbonne in France, pursuing a Master’s degree in Literature.

Website Links: Presentation of the report Right to Food: html Interview of Erwin Wagenhofer in the magazine Humanity 4.0: http:// ttnews[tt_news]=264&tx_ttnews[b ackPid]=41&cHash=87ab8007a4 Official documentary’s website, containing useful information about food issues: en/facts.htm To watch the movie with English subtitles: watch/v14503242qtatgM6w

Seven Food Films that will Scare the Food out of You! By Aaron Manton

Food Inc.

2008 Directed by Robert Kenner Produced by Magnolia Pictures

The World According to Monsanto

Hungry for change? Ever wonder how many chickens can fit onto your TV screen at once? Food Inc. debunks the longstanding image of the pastoral family


farmer, burning into our minds and consciences pictures of loud, dirty, and overcrowded ‘Controlled Animal Feeding Operations’ – or to the layman, factory farms. Food Inc. shows us why our food has really gotten ‘bigger,’ ‘better looking,’ and ‘more abundant,’ and the political and economic forces working to keep it that way.

2008 Directed by Marie-Monique Robin Produced by Image et Compagnie Based on the French Rachel Carson Award winning book of the same title, The World According to Monsanto explores

“With enough blood to constitute a horror film, and enough Avril Lavigne to prove how things can be so complicated, Fast Food Nation provides a horrifying look at the devastating effects of factory farming and corporate agriculture for people, animals, and landscapes.”

Fast Food Nation

the controversial use of genetically modified seeds and bovine growth hormone in food industries around the world. Spanning three years and four continents, this film explores the damage of the industry to farmers, communities, and ecosystems, and how Monsanto’s almost Orwellian control tactics and manipulation of data maintain their control of global agriculture.

2006 Directed by Richard Linklater Produced by Recorded Picture Company Fiction

With enough blood to constitute a horror film, and enough Avril Lavigne to prove how things can be so complicated, Fast Food Nation provides a horrifying look at the devastating effects of factory farming and corporate agriculture for people, animals, and landscapes. Centred around the town of Cody, Colorado, the film revolves around three storylines: a corporate marketing head investigating the fecal matter content of his fast food chain’s newest burger, a suburban teen fast


Arts & Culture


Captive Genders: Book Review

Evan Johnston


n her Oct. 12, 2001 keynote address to the Sexin’ Change: Reclaiming Our Genders and Our Bodies conference in Toronto, trans scholar and activist Viviane Namaste argued that “It would be interesting and productive to come back in ten years to take stock of transsexual/transgender politics and organizing.” In that ten year span, Namaste hoped to see transsexual and transgender (TS/ TG) politics focused on decriminalizing prostitution, making alliances with “prostitutes, housing activists, prisoners’ rights advocates, and the homeless,” and hoped above all for “transgendered activists [to] have finished with identity.” That is, she hoped TS/TG activists would begin to focus on the lived reality of TS/TG people, rather than remain fixated on the question of how or why an individual decides to live as members of the opposite sex. Ten years on, how far have TS/TG politics come to fulfilling such a hope? What connections have been made both conceptually and organizationally? Have TS/TG activists finished with identity, or have concerns regarding identity been recast in a more productive way?


Enter Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, published in late Sept. 2011 by AK Press. Given its publication date, it marks almost exactly ten years since Namaste’s talk, rendering it a significant document in the trajectory of TS/ TG politics and organizing. In this book, editors Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith bring together a collection of essays from trans and queer academics, activists, and prisoners that interrogate

the complex intersection of race, gender, sexuality, ability, and the prison industrial complex. Stanley notes in his introduction that, despite the fact that trans people are disproportionately incarcerated compared to non-trans people, many trans people, as a result of

The first chapter, ‘Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer strengthen them; (3) We must Movement with Everything transform exploitative dynamics We’ve Got,’ provides a in our work; and (4) We see crucial reflection on queer/ ending trans imprisonment as “Have TS/TG activists trans methodology that part of the larger struggle for finished with identity, or sets the stage for the rest transformation. of the texts that follow. have concerns regarding It outlines contemporary In the first lesson, the authors take identity been recast in a more debates within queer and up Viviane Namaste’s suggestion trans activism, maps out about being finished with identity, productive way?” the histories and legacies but go one step further. If we of queer and trans social are to build a critical TS/TG experiencing “relentless violence,” movements, and provides a movement, if we are to look at the tend to be in favour of incarceration useful chart that details some lived reality of TS/TG people and generally and believe in the prison central challenges with both the “work in coalition with prostitutes, system’s claims of safety. Stanley mainstream LGBT solutions and housing activists, prisoners’ rights suggests that the “book lives the more radical or ‘transformative’ advocates, and the homeless,” among these contradictions as solutions. Written by Morgan what will that mean for how we it works to move conversations Bassichis, Alexander Lee, and orient ourselves as a movement? toward abolition and away from a Dean Spade, this chapter includes According to Bassichis et al., belief that prisons will ever make four lessons for TS/TG activism. I “Instead of saying that transgender want to briefly focus on two, which people are the ‘most’ oppressed us safer.” I hope will give some indication in prisons, we can talk about the For Stanley, different forms Captive Genders of violence “Captive Genders encourages us to taken together that people see that the most effective way forward is impacted by the amounts to an argument “that industrial to look to all those who face oppression by prison prison abolition complex face.” those very same systems and to work must be one Rejecting the of the centers emphasis on toward common goals.” of trans and identity means queer liberation rejecting a struggles.” While he cautions as to why I think Captive Genders ‘deserving’ vs ‘undeserving’ that the book is by no means marks a significant development in prisoner mentality, as this “only the definitive text on the subject terms of TS/TG political strategy. undermines the power of a of trans people and the prisonshared resistance strategy that industrial complex, people new to The four lessons Bassichis et al. sees imprisonment as a violent, this type of activism would do well enumerate have to do with how a dangerous tactic for everybody it critical TS/TG movement engages touches.” to start here. with the issue of prison abolition, The topics covered in the collection and they are (in order): (1) We They stress in their second lesson are diverse, ranging from critical refuse to create ‘deserving’ vs. the importance of responding to essays on the Toronto Bathhouse ‘undeserving’ victims; (2) We the “crises that our communities Raids, HIV/AIDS activism, health support strategies that weaken are facing right now while refusing care, and prisoners of colour, to oppressive institutions, not long-term compromises that will


Films that will Scare the Food out of You! CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17

food worker anxious to stick it to the man, and a family of migrant workers enduring exploitation in a gut-churning meat processing plant. Celebrity cameos aplenty.

The End of the Line 2009 Directed by Rupert Murray Independent

fish and meals without seafood. If the immanent extinction of bluefin tuna doesn’t make you question your next sushi craving, then the


“Finally, an answer to that timeless thought experiment of what would happen if you got into a car accident with Sinbad.”

thought of wading through jellyfish due to the species’ overpopulation next time you are at the beach will surely change the tides of human demands on the ocean.

Good Burger

1997 Directed by Brian Robbins Fiction

An expository look at the devastating effect of overfishing our oceans, The End of the Line asks us to imagine an ocean without

more personal reflections on being gender non-conforming both in and outside of the prison-industrial complex.

Finally, an answer to that timeless thought experiment of what would happen if you got into a car accident with Sinbad. Good Burger introduces us to the rarely seen cutthroat nature of fast food

industry summer jobs, where if you discover the competition’s secret food additives, you may find your burger laced with shark poison!


2009 Directed by Fredrik Gertten

Bananas!* documents a legal battle between a group of 12 Nicaraguan banana plantation workers and the Dole fruit company over the use of pesticides known to cause sterility. Still don’t have your fill? Check out Gertten’s 2011 follow-up, Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, documenting Dole’s subsequent law suit against the filmmakers.

WINTER ISSUE 3 2012 strengthen the very institutions that are hurting us.” They stress this lesson in order to avoid the same old debate that comes up again and again in activist circles. Namely, the choice between reform and revolution (and here I thought Rosa Luxemburg had cleared that up for us back in 1898); between working inside the system, and working to overthrow the system. For Bassichis et al, one has to be engaging in both approaches simultaneously if one wants to build a movement that will be effective in the long term. This double-pronged approach is crucial because it avoids becoming implicated in the call being made by some queer and trans activists for “trans-specific prisons, jails, and detention centers.” For, as the authors note, “if they build it, they will fill it.” In other words, the approach put forward in Captive Genders is not a choice between overthrowing the prison-industrial complex or resignation, but rather an ongoing commitment to weakening it by building solidarity between all of those affected by it. In a significant passage from the chapter, the authors write: “Struggling against trans imprisonment is one of many key places to radicalize queer and trans politics, expand antiprison politics, and join in a larger movement for racial, economic, gender, and social justice to end all forms of militarization, criminalization, and warfare.” The type of activism that we see resulting from a book like Captive Genders is one dedicated to bringing people together in coalitions, for while the starting point of TS/TG activists may be with trans people and the specific oppression that they face, Captive Genders encourages us to see that the most effective way forward is to look to all those who face oppression by those very same systems and to work toward common goals. Eric Stanley and Nat Smith have put together in Captive Genders a superb collection that is as timely as it is insightful, and I would recommend it to seasoned activists as well as to people new to queer and trans politics.

Forks Over Knives

2011 Directed by Lee Fulkerson Produced by Monica Beach Media

In the antithesis to Super Size Me, we witness the filmmaker switch to a plant-based diet, trying to prove the claim that most of the degenerative diseases that afflict Westerners today can be controlled or reversed by rejecting an animal and processed food based diet. Fulkerson builds his narrative on top of a 20-year study linking coronary disease, diabetes, and cancer to the Western diet. Two Thumbs Up! – even Roger Ebert changed his eating habits after watching this film.





By Giles Benaway

all I know comes from my gookum’s world of bread, yeast floating in the air like pollen waiting to be called into being by her steady hands.

the first words of my tongue are her slow speech, the cluttered way of talking about nothing and everything at once.

on rainy days tracing the faded wallpaper of geese and ribbons, blue and red among the dust of Michigan back roads, cigarette ash piling up in corners of the dented table

I listened to her talk, hum her stories about the land, life before the world of grocery stores and the twilight glow of a murmuring television. she doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know but it isn’t knowing makes you wise, it’s the telling, if you know what she meant.

Giles Benaway Courtesy of Muskrat Magazine

Giles Benaway (Tsagli/Anishinaabe/Métis) is of Odawa/Potawatomi, Eastern Cherokee, and Anglo Métis descent. He is a Masters student at the University of Toronto in the field of sociolinguistics and second language acquisition. His poetry can be found in First Nations House Magazine and scrawled within bathroom stalls at truck stops across Northern Ontario.

EVENTS FEBRUARY FEB. 5 What: Mastering Google and Going Deeper: Web Research Skills For Activists and Independent Journalists Where: University of Toronto, St. George Campus, room TBA When: 1:00pm-5:00pm Contact: register at Cost: $10-$20 suggested donation Details: This workshop presents the skills and techniques that investigative journalists and privateeyes use to do deep digging research on the internet. It shows people how to use Google in ways most people are unaware of and how to access the wealth of information on the internet that Google can’t find. FEB. 6 Whate: Water and our world Where: Beit Zatoun Centre, 612 Markham St. When: 6:30pm-9:00pm Contact: or 647-726-9500 Cost: Free Details: With population growth, increased migration, dwindling water resources, and an international negotiation impasse, how is systemic change possible to tackle Climate Change? Presented by The Waterlution Toronto Hub. FEB. 8 What: Rosemary Sadlier Talk Where: York Woods Library, 1785 Finch Ave. W. When: 1:30pm-3:00pm Contact: Cost: Free Details: Interview and Q&A with the president of the Ontario Black History Society. FEB. 10 – FEB. 12 What: Breaking Bars, Building Bridges

Where: 200 University Ave. W., Waterloo, Ontario When: All day Contact: 519-888-4882 or Cost: Free Details: In spite of widespread opposition, Canada’s Bill C-10 is poised to become law by Mar. 16, 2012. In the spirit of solidarity, WPIRG invites all community-based activists, people impacted by the prison system, communities and supporters of prisoners, and anyone who sees value in gathering to resist the institution, to join us in our 2012 School of Public Interest, which will focus on challenging criminalization, supporting prisoners, and building alternatives.

When: 6:30pm-8:30pm Contact: RSVP at about/Events/28feb12TIQ.htm. Cost: Free Details: The University of Toronto Cities Centre is offering an opportunity for Torontonians, both in and outside the university, to discuss and learn about some of the most important issues facing the city in a series of monthly sessions.

FEB. 12

What: Documentary Activism Class Where: 7 Hart House Circle When: 6:00pm-10:00pm Contact: Rick Palidwor at creativeclasses@harthouse. ca Cost: $160 Details: How do you make a political film? Making a film is itself a political action. We will discuss sources for research and production, tips on collecting archival materials, equipment choices, and how to work with interview subjects, as well as post production techniques.

What: Grassroots Financial Management Workshop Where: University of Toronto, St. George Campus, room TBA When: 1:00pm-5:00pm Contact: register at http://www.toolsforchange. net/2011/12/10/grassroots-financial-management-101/ Cost: $10-$20 suggested donation Details: In the whirl of everyday demands, it’s easy to lose track of our finances. Come learn about the basic steps you must take to manage your group’s finances, including an introduction to bookkeeping with Sharmeen Khan, who manages the books for CUPE 3903 and OPIRG York. FEB. 14 What: Haroon Siddiqui on the Arab Spring Where: Beit Zatoun Centre, 612 Markham St. When: 7:00pm-9:00pm Contact: or 647-726-9500 Cost: $5 Details: What has been called the “Arab Spring” is an exciting development not only for the Arab-speaking world but for all nations and cultures who wish to see the people at the centre of national governance. Haroon Siddiqui tells us why the Arab Spring matters for all Canadians. FEB. 28 What: Who Governs? City Hall and Citizen Participation Where: 230 College Street, Rm. 103


MAR. 7 – MAR. 13 What: The 8th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 Where: Various Events and Locations, visit http:// When: Various Times, visit en/toronto Contact: Cost: Most events Free Details: In an open letter dated Oct. 21 2011, Palestinian students wrote “we hope you put BDS at the forefront of your campaigns and join together for Israeli Apartheid Week, the pinnacle of action across universities worldwide.” In response, organizers across the globe are gearing up for the 8th annual Israeli Apartheid Week in support of Palestinian Civil Society’s call for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). Compiled by Stefan Lazov SEND YOUR EVENTS TO:

Food for Thought and Praxis  

Food for Thought and Praxis: Volume 4, Issue 3

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