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Month: May 2009

Biotech wheat proponents need to remember consumers

Stories like this one from Reuters are emerging about a new thrust by pro-biotech wheat interests in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The story says the U.S. National Association of Wheat Growers has  signed up grain growers in Canada and Australia in a deal that would align the nations against any international backlash if and when a biotech wheat was introduced. It also reminds us biotech wheat has already gone down in flames once because of wary buyers. I don’t think there’s any question about the inevitability of another backlash, unless there’s a concerted effort to  explain biotech wheat to the public and underline what farmers see as its advantages to consumers.  In the Reuters story, Canadian wheat growers talk about better quality and fewer pesticides. Those are certainly selling features to the public, although I’m not sure they now associate Canadian wheat with either mediocre quality or excessive pesticide...

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Report profile changes program, says author

Larry Martin from the George  Morris Centre authored a recent report saying tobacco farmers were getting treated unfairly through the federal tobacco transition program. I wrote about it for the AgriSuccess Express.  Larry emailed me yesterday to say the profile the report’s received has pressured Ottawa to rethink its position. Jeff  Heldson, who does a fine job reporting about farming for the Tillsonburg News, writes about the change here. The tobacco photo is from the Original Tobacco...

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Here’s an up-to-date photo of the University of Guelph Research Park

It’s fitting this would be my first photo post after University of Guelph webmaster Stuart Robertson and blog designer Kyle Maw helped me get the graphic kinks out of my blog. After all, without the long-sightedness of those who were planning the city,  and University of Guelph boards of governors gone by, the Research Park would likely be a shopping mall. And the nucleus of what makes Guelph tick as an agri-food research centre would be lost. Martin Schwalbe took this photo for the University of Guelph Real Estate Division.  The blue-and-white building in the top third of the photo is the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs headquarters. The new Delta Hotel and Conference Centre,  where the IFAJ 2011 congress will start, is across the street, top...

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Farmers getting the ‘Belt from urbanites

Harsh words were flying everywhere for Ontario's Greenbelt when the Eastern Canada Farm Writers Association held its annual general meeting in Vineland, and offered up a panel discussion on living in the Greenbelt. The take-home message was that neither farmers nor people who live in the nearby village of Lincoln are pleased. I summarized the discussions in my Urban Cowboy column in today's Guelph...

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Questions about advertising’s emergence on magazine covers

No one seems to mind advertising on newspaper front pages. It's usually subtle, and it's become part of our culture. But with magazines, for some reason it's a different story. Maybe it's because some magazines are publishing editions with entire covers dedicated to advertising (sometimes called "double covers" by the industry, known as "false covers" by others), or flaps covering ads in the middle of the cover. Is this ethical? The New York Times looks into the issue as it affects consumer magazines, here. A link to the story is also posted on the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center website.   Along with colleagues Jim Evans and Karen Simon, I'll be presenting research results on the influence of advertisers on agricultural journalists in the U.S. and Canada, at this summer's Agricultural Media Summit, being held in conjunction with the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists' annual congress in Fort Worth, Texas.      ...

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Urban Cowboy

Raising awareness and promoting dialogue about current food and agriculture issues.


Owen Roberts – journalist, columnist, educator – provides an urban perspective on agri-food issues.

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