(Winnipeg, Oct. 31, 2011)  Speaking to several hundred farmers and others who attended a rally in front of the Canadian Wheat Board building in downtown Winnipeg on Friday, Bill Gehl, a Saskatchewan farmer and chairperson of the non-partisan farm group the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance (CWBA) said “local food advocates should be concerned about the end of the Canadian Wheat Board.”

Gehl went on to explain “today Canadians can be confident that the grain in all the bread, pasta, and most of the beer they consume is still grown by Canadian farmers.  However, if Harper succeeds in killing our Wheat Board, private corporations will then control our basic food stocks and will simply buy the cheapest grain they can from any source.”

A board member of the Western Grains Research Foundation, Mr. Gehl was speaking from his experience growing durum wheat for pasta and hard red spring wheats for bread.  “With the Wheat Board millers and other food processors must come to our farmer-run Board to source Canadian grain” Gehl explained.

               Wheat Board respects customer opposition to genetically modified grain

“Our Wheat Board has built its reputation on providing the highest quality grain to customer specifications.  That is why the introduction of genetically modified wheat into western Canada was halted a few years ago.  Our customers in Canada and around the world told us they did not want it.  We know that with the end of the Australian Wheat Board two years ago, agro-chemical companies are now actively promoting genetically modified bread wheat to Australian grain farmers.”

               Equitable treatment for smaller domestic processors lost

“Our Board also has a policy of treating all processors equitably so smaller domestic processors are not disadvantaged by their size.  Without the Board smaller processors will be forced to seek the cheapest grains to offset size differentials and the ability of their larger competitors to obtain lower bulk pricing from private grain brokers.  This means lower prices for farmers and lower quality for consumers.”

               The human feedlot:  lowest quality grain for human consumption without the Wheat Board

“In Canada we have already seen how this works with non-board animal feed grains.  Whenever the domestic price of Canadian feed grain moves up, the big cattle feedlots start to import waste feed stocks of distiller’s grain including genetically modified corn from elsewhere.  Without the Wheat Board human food processors will be free to import lower quality grains from the United States and Eurasia which are not subject to our high quality standards and blend them with local grain.  These foreign grains are not grown from our own publically funded and developed varieties and many of them are grown in the heavily polluted lands surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the heart of Eurasia’s wheat belt.  A lot of Europe’s grain is cheap because it is heavily infested with fungal diseases.  In fact a lot of Canadian durum wheat now goes into Europe to blend off fusarium infected local durum.  Without the Wheat Board this trade could well be reversed.”

               Quality control becomes meaningless

Gehl warned:  “our quality control system becomes meaningless when commercial interests are free to source grain from anywhere in the world to blend into our food stuffs.  We have already seen how fragile our food system is when people were dying from contaminated meat a few years ago and our Minister of Agriculture made jokes about it.”  Gehl concluded by saying:  “aside from giving farmers a greater share of the food dollar, our Wheat Board puts good locally grown food on the table for all Canadians.”

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