In a year full of good eco-food tidings, here's the best of the best.
1 SEEDING BEYOND G.E.
Chalk up another victory for small is brainy. Scientists with Greenpeace, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and the International Rice Research Institute announced plant breeding inventions that shame ballyhooed genetic engineering.
Instead of gene-splicing, these humbler scientists are able to juice up old-fashioned selective breeding by locating little-known characteristics that have lain unappreciated in the tens of thousands of seed varieties of the world's crops. Mating just the right plants can produce rice, sweet potatoes and millet containing enough iron, zinc and vitamin A to reduce the vitamin deficiency diseases disabling almost half the world's population.
This good news proves once again the power of that endangered species known as appropriate technology and the virtues of diversity.
2 GREENBELT GROCERIES
Finally, local food's on a meteoric rise from beneath the radar to next new thing. Glenys Babcock of Ipsos Reid tells us 90 per cent of people have heard something about local food recently, and almost half of shoppers have bought local food when they could over the past six months.
It's no accident, then, that 2006 saw the biggest deliberate public sector purchase of local and sustainable foods (outside of Cuba), when many U of T eateries opted to buy as much food as possible from greenbelt farmers certified by Local Flavour Plus.
While raising concerns about global warming was a long, slow haul, awareness of food issues doesn't take as long to brew, partly because conscious consumers can jumpstart trends with their own direct consumer action, something that backers of public transit or building efficiency can't do as easily. Watch for a major shift in food matters.
3 UNCLOGGING TRANS FAT ACTION
At a time when senior governments and their 'crats don't move on health and enviro issues without the say-so of the business lobby, decisions are being made at the level furthest from the corps. Hence city-fostered pesticide and tobacco bans. But New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, have taken the idea further. This year they gave restaurants a deadline to post calorie information and ditch cholesterol-raising trans fats.
Frieden likens trans fat assaults on arteries to lead poisoning, because both are "invisible, dangerous and can be replaced," thereby justifying forceful government action. The New York state of mind will be followed soon wherever there is courage in public health departments.