The wrecking of the western grain system is proceeding quickly.  The implementation of the illegal Bill C-18 removing the Wheat Board from its critical role in marketing western Canada’s grain and advocating on behalf of farmers happened just six months ago on December 15, 2011.

Earlier this year the 103 year old Canadian Ports Clearance Association announced it was winding down.  It monitored and publicized critical information about ship traffic in and out of Canada’s main grain ports.  Without it, the whole system will become more secretive, favouring the well connected private international grain traders who own the grain pipeline and port terminals.

Ominously, the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) is also on the hit list.  It is now under the direction of another Harper appointee and former Reform Party MP Elwin Hermanson.  Proposals will see up to 70% of staff fired, and its mandate changed from working “in the interests of farmers” to some vague twaddle about “supporting the industry.”  This is Alberta Reform party code for privatizing benefits while making the public and farmers take the risks.  Under these changes it is unlikely farmers will have an advocate in their corner when it comes to disputes over grain quality and grading among other things.

For everyone who eats, another proposed change to the grain commission removes “mandatory inward inspection” by impartial Grain Commission staff.  The way it works now, grain shipped by Canadian farmers to export terminal elevators in more than 500,000 rail grain cars each year is officially sampled, inspected, and weights are audited by CGC staff.

Grain samples are then sent to the Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg where it is tested for quality and the presence of various toxins and foreign materials.  Without this quality assurance, contaminated grain will be on its way to processors and customers before any testing is done.  Any testing that is done may or may not be the responsibility of impartial CGC staff.

In 2008 several Canadians died or suffered permanent injury as the result of contaminated meat products that slipped through a deregulated food Canadian Food Inspection Agency and this May a further 100 CFIA inspectors have been cut.

In 2009 Canadian farmers who grow flax, which was not tested for GMO’s by the CGC at the time because no GMO varieties were registered for growing in Canada, saw their market destroyed when unregistered GMO flax seed contaminated export shipments and was detected by European customers.

If the Harper Conservatives get their way on the Canadian Grain Commission, the daily bread of billions of people will no longer be quite as safe as it once was and our reputation as a provider of safe, high quality wheat and barley will be on the line.

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