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A Moist Seedy Endivor: The Making of the Toronto Seed Library

A Moist Seedy Endivor: The Making of the Toronto Seed Library

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Title: A Moist Seedy Endivor: The Making of the Toronto Seed Library
Author: Berger, Katherine
Identifier: MESMP02606
Abstract: It is now widely recognized that the contemporary global food system is characterized by structural weaknesses that threaten the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of our societies. The world-wide predominance of several types of malnutrition, degradation of the natural environment, and inhumane conditions for humans and animals alike offers overwhelming evidence that a fundamental restructuring of the food system is needed if people are to continue to survive and thrive (Lang, 2009). While purported technological 'fixes' to food system problems abound (functional foods, bio-fuels, genetically modified seeds, etc.), leading food systems experts argue that advances in technology will be sorely inadequate to address –and in fact may actually exacerbate – issues that have arisen not from inherent technical or economic limitations, but primarily from government failure (Lang, 2007; Roberts, 2010).

The food system in Canada "is increasingly implicated in creating the conditions compromising human and environmental health" (Macrae, Abergel & Koc, 2012, p3). The failure of our nutritional policies and programs has become clear as the nutritional health of Canadians continues to deteriorate. Levels of obesity are still rising even as more and more people struggle to get enough to eat (ibid). Since 2005, the number of people suffering from food insecurity1 has grown or persisted in all provinces and territories (PROOF, 2012). According to a 2012 study, 4 million people, including 1.15 million children, lived in households that struggled to access the food they needed to maintain good health. Out of those households 336,700 were living at a level of deprivation experts define as 'extreme food insecurity' (ibid).

In addition, while modest improvements have been made in some agri-environmental conditions, others continue to worsen including greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient contamination of waterways (Lefebvre, 2005). Concerns about how this pollution from industrial agriculture 1 Food security is said to exist "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences." (World Health Organization, nd) contributes to climate change, concurrently rising levels of hunger and obesity, food waste, the effects of GM technology and pesticide build up, on human, animal and soil health, loss of biodiversity, highly unsustainable water use, animal cruelty in and the human health effects of intensive meat and dairy production, unjust and unsafe labour conditions for migrant farm workers, and regularly occurring food safety scares among other reasons have made consumers increasingly apprehensive about how the Canadian food supply is being managed (Macrae, Abergel & Koc, 2012). According to a 2015 report by the National Farmers Union, Canadian farmers themselves are no less concerned (National Farmers Union, 2015).

Canadian agricultural policy continues to reflect a productivist, export oriented agenda rather than prioritizing ecological sustainability, human health and social welfare (Macrae, Abergel & Koc, 2012). Farmer autonomy and local control of land – what the National Farmers Union calls 'the foundations of food sovereignty2' – are under increasing threat. Significant changes have been made to agriculture related laws, policies, and institutions in Canada since 2010. These changes weaken farmers' market power and increase farm costs while benefiting agribusiness corporations. For example, the destruction of the single-desk Wheat Board in 2012 – which occurred under the auspices of trade liberalization – has done severe damage to the prairie grain economy, compromising prices and equitable delivery opportunities (National Farmers Union, 2015). The threat of corporate control over seeds is also becoming increasingly serious, reducing farmer control of land and livelihoods even further. This makes it more and more difficult for farmers to make long term decisions that prioritize ecological and social sustainability over immediate revenues (ibid).
Type: Major Project
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/30291
Citation: Major Project, Master of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Date: 2015

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