Stephen Harper's been to an apple orchard. And he's got a set of new food labelling guidelines to prove it.
Big blooming deal.
Our Tory blue-sweatered PM went to the orchard in Beamsville, Ontario, last week to announce the introduction of new laws on food labels.
Harper was at the orchard with a big old basket of ripe apples at his side (Psst! Steve! Apples aren't in season in Ontario until July!) to mark, with righteous-but-controlled anger, that bottles of apple juice with "Made in Canada" labels can legally be made from apples grown in China (just like, perhaps, the ones at his side?).
According to the new rules, if it says "Product of Canada," it, um, will be.
I mean, it's perverse to imagine that it could be any different, no? If it says "Product of Canada," it should be bloody well grown, pulped, squished, squashed, fashioned somewherewithin the vast precincts that lie in the 10 million-odd square kilometres that make up this fine land.
Or maybe it's not such a no-brainer. After all, we live in a world where labels mean nothing.
Nova Scotia might boast the label "warmest waters north of the Carolinas," technically, but my nipples are perking up just thinking about dipping my toes in the Northumberland.
Or, here's another one: The ink cartridge I just stuck in my printer says "Do Not Drink." That's right. Don't---much as you might be tempted by the slimy, oozing chemical blackness---stick your lips to the inky eyehole and suck on it for lunch.
Other labels are outright lies. Your New! Improved! Better Formula! shampoo will still give you dandruff. The Ray Ban sunglasses on eBay that are SATISFACTION GUARANTEED not to be knock-offs, will be.
But as of now, one label---Product of Canada---is going to actually mean something.
And that change, according to CTV.ca in a May 21 story, is "tough."
Oh, come on.
It might be tough on the profit-filching company that wants to get apple juicefrom some cheap international source and perpetrate geographical camouflage with a "Made in Canada" label. But "tough"? To demand that honey grown in Argentina doesn't say "Canada No. 1"? That's simple common sense.
I'm not saying Harper's got his panties in a knot for no reason. He's making a move that will help support Canadian farmers, help Canadians know what they're eating and that will strike a blow against corporate profits made off labelling fopdoodlery (because, get this: A recent poll by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture found that more than 50 percent of Canadians asked would pay a premium to buy home-grown goods).But "tough"?
Tough is "What's Wrong With What We Eat," a talk delivered by Mark Bittman in Los Angeles in December last year, in which the author, chef and journalist equates (with little hyperbole and in fewer than 20 minutes, no less) the cow with the atomic bomb.
If you watch Bittman's ted.com video link embedded below, you'll find him arguing that "Only once before has the fate of individual peopleand the fate of all of humanity been so intertwined. There was the bomb and there's now."
The "now" is factory farming.
Bittman contends it will destroy the world, much like a slow-moving version of the bomb. We are so removed from the way we eat, he argues, and our food in turn is so removed from any semblance of nature---cows eating corn and soy their stomachs were not designed to digest because it's cheaper and faster than letting them graze on grass, for example---that we are going to bring humanity to the brink, if not push it right the fuck over.
The food-production process has become so otherworldly, so out-of-whack, so gallingly industrial, profit-driven and soul-sucking and perpetrated on such an abysmally global scale, it's going to kill us all. Industrial livestock manufacturing, Bittman says, is one of the biggest culprits in land degradation, in water shortages, in antibiotic abuse and in lifestyle diseases.
And a core belief of the global feeding system is that it makes sense to truck food from half a world away to get it into our guts. Like, yes, apple juice from China that governments and grocery stores agree to sell as a Canadian product.
You know what's more depressing than the fact that it takes wheel-greasing from the PMO to get a Product of Canada label to mean what it says? Not the fact that CTV is calling such a straightforward move tough, but that in light of the monolith of industrial farming Bittman lays out, it just might actually be so.
Watch Mark Bittman's "What's Wrong With What We Eat," TED talk.