Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going Bee-less - Trials of Self-Pollinating Almond Trees Begin in California

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, Californi

What happens as bee numbers decline and there aren't enough to pollinate all the crops grown in California? One solution is to make the plants self-pollinating. And that's just what scientists and farmers are testing out with almond orchards in California. Almonds are the top California food export and the nation's sixth largest export. Over 90 countries import almonds from California, and that means growers are increasingly concerned about how they're going to get their trees pollinated without bees. A new variety of self-pollinating trees has been created, and results of how its doing are just starting to trickle in.

According to Physorg, a self-pollinating tree variety has been in development for over a decade, and the new tree is going through a field trial by the Almond Board of California, the industry's marketing and research arm. Last year, however, Chowchilla farmer Jim Maxwell planted 40 acres of one new self-pollinating tree variety called Independence, and so far they've been fairing well. Still, it will take a few seasons before we'll know what kind of output they have, especially for a commercial orchard. Because it takes awhile for the trees to mature, it will be about eight years before farmers know if self-pollinating trees stand up in the commercial market compared to those pollinated by bees.... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Public Campaign Launched to Promote Conservation Path for Ontario's Water Opportunities Act

TORONTO, April 14, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - A diverse coalition of environmental, industry, labour and community organizations as well as individual Ontarians have launched a public campaign today to ensure the provincial government includes a strong conservation and efficiency theme in the proposed Water Opportunities Act. The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance is also releasing its platform entitled Conserve Our Water.

"A strong water conservation and efficiency program will create jobs, protect the environment and save Ontario taxpayer dollars by avoiding new and unnecessary water facilities and lowering energy costs," said Carol Maas, Innovation and Technology Director, POLIS Water Sustainability Project.

"It is far cheaper to fix inefficiencies than to build new infrastructure and the savings go beyond our pocketbook," added Derek Stack, Executive Director of Great Lakes United. "Water conservation will reduce the energy used to pump, treat and heat water and this will lower greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment."

The Alliance came together after the government announced its plans for the Act as part of The Speech from the Throne. While supportive of the government's intention to make water issues a public policy priority, the Alliance believes an environmentally sustainable and economically secure province requires a comprehensive water conservation and efficiency strategy.

The Alliance's platform is built on three key themes:

- Setting meaningful targets and measuring performance. Targets build momentum for improvement and accurate performance measurements ensure we succeed. Accountability can be maintained through mandatory monitoring and reporting of targets.

- Requiring conservation plans, establishing efficiency standards and supporting green infrastructure. Linking water conservation requirements explicitly to infrastructure grants will ensure we do not repeat past mistakes. In addition, land use planning, landscape design and building decisions should incorporate innovative water conservation, leafy green infrastructure and low impact development approaches.

- Fostering market transformation and a culture of conservation. The province should lead by example and ensure public sector buildings, operations and facilities initiate and embrace
conservation plans and water efficient procurement policies. This would feed into a broader social marketing strategy with the goal of instilling a province-wide "ethic of water stewardship."

The economic benefits from a strong government commitment to water conservation and efficiency are vast. The revenues of the world's water-related businesses is expected to nearly double to $1 trillion by 2020 and global water shortages will drive the need for innovations that emphasize efficiency, reuse and source diversification. Mississauga-based Niagara Flapperless is an excellent example of this innovation in action. The developers of leak-free water efficient toilets and the world's first single flush 3 Litre toilet represent the green economy this government is trying to build.

"Government incentives used to help foster a culture of water conservation would create new opportunities for green technology developed by Ontario entrepreneurs," said Jerrad Hennessy, General Manager, Niagara Flapperless. "Programs aimed at the adoption of new green technology would be good news for businesses, good news for consumers and good news for all Ontarians concerned about the responsible and efficient use of water."

Over the coming weeks, the Alliance will be releasing evidence of the economic, energy and taxpayer benefits that can be realized from a legislated commitment to water conservation and efficiency. The Alliance's full platform, list of partners and opportunities for public engagement can be viewed at

"The Province has opened the door to a new way of thinking about water," said Stack. "The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance urges the government to seize this historic opportunity to secure a healthy, clean water supply for many generations to come."

About the Ontario Water Conservation Alliance

The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance is a coalition of citizens, non-governmental organizations and businesses who believe an environmentally sustainable and economically secure province requires a comprehensive water conservation and efficiency strategy. The Alliance is therefore advocating for a Water Conservation and Opportunities Act for Ontario. For more information please visit:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Azure Magazine: Designs For Food

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

The design magazine Azure's May issue is almost all about food, and the subject never looked so good. The issue focuses on the changes in the food system, and how it affects design:

"There's a profound shift taking place in the realm of what we eat, how we eat it, and the social and political climate around food.....The following pages consider many ways to rethink cooking, eating and growing - and food's relationship to landscape architecture, graphic design, product development, interiors and more."

Designs for food include a few items seen in TreeHugger, including the Ekokook kitchen and the MIT Food printer. ... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Canada Approves Enviropig™, Piglets Inherit Genetic Modifications for Clean Manure

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin

Canada has approved limited production of animals dubbed "enviropigs™," a genetically modified breed of pigs producing up to 65% less phosphorous in pig poo and urine. The pigs pass the genetic modification along to their young, as well. The very idea that a genetically modified animal rates the moniker "enviro-" points to the severity of the issue addressed by the science behind these pigs. Phosphorous is a fertilizer. Phosphorous in animal and human wastes runs off or discharges to surface waters, where it spurs large algal blooms. The algae use up the oxygen in the water, leaving behind a "dead zone," an area of lake, river, or ocean where nothing can live due to the hypoxic conditions.

How does the enviropig work (image in extended)? And does the dead zone problem justify permitting production of these "franken-pigs"?

The genetic modification used by scientists at the University of Guelph, Ontario involves an enzyme known as phytase. Phosphorous plays an essential role in the growth of bones, construction of DNA and RNA, and in regulating cell and organ processes. But most of the phosphorous in a grain-based diet are bound up as organic complexes which pigs cannot digest. Supplementing pig diets with phytase, itself produced from genetically modified fungi Aspergillus Niger, has been advocated as an environmental protection measure.... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Brits Take the One Pot Pledge to 'Give Growing a Go'

by Jennifer Hattam, Istanbul, Turkey

The many U.K. residents who reportedly lack the confidence to grow their own food are being encouraged to start small by the nationwide One Pot Pledge campaign, which is asking Brits to sign up to grow just one edible plant this year -- and recruiting "gardening gurus"to help mentor the newbies along.

"Despite the surge in interest in 'grow your own,' many newcomers -- although keen to have a go -- still don't know where to start when it comes to food growing. Many are put off because they think they don't have space to garden, or because they don't have the time or knowledge," the organizers wrote in a recent release about the campaign.

Weathering the Financial Crisis Through Self Sufficiency

An unrelated survey last fall by the Soil Association showed that while "92 percent of Brits say that self sufficiency and traditional skills like growing your own food, crafting, and rearing your own livestock have become more and more important during the financial crisis," few felt equipped to introduce such habits into their own lives:

Lack of confidence in their skills could be holding Brits back from taking the plunge towards self sufficiency, with half admitting they have lost the practical skills of their grandparent's generation -- 45 percent admit they have fewer cooking skills, 47 percent say they are less able to grow their own food, 48 percent have lost the rural craft skills that make self sufficiency possible, and 51 percent say they would have no idea how to rear animals.

... more story at

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sustain Our Farms Town Hall Meeting

GUELPH, Ontario, April 1, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition (OASC) to host a Town Hall meeting of Ontario's agricultural leaders and as many as 200 local farmers.


Sustain our Farms Forum - A Town Hall meeting for farmers and
agricultural leaders.


Ontario's local food supply is in jeopardy, along with thousands of
families, farms and processing jobs. Urgent government action is needed
to ensure that Ontario agriculture is sustainable.


Tuesday, April 6, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm


Stratford Rotary Complex, Community Hall, 353 McCarthy Road, Stratford,


MP Gary Schellenberger,
MPP John Wilkinson,
MPP Ernie Hardeman, Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Critic, Invited
Mayor Dan Mathieson, City of Stratford
Chris White, Chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) and
Mayor of the Township of Guelph/Eramosa

The OASC's members include the Ontario Cattlemen's Association, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, Ontario Grains & Oilseeds, Ontario Pork, the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency and Ontario Veal, together with the Christian Farmers' Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

For further information: OFA President, Bette Jean Crews: (613) 921-0597; Lesley Robinson, Redbrick Communications: (705) 241-3287,