Everyone says we have a health care crisis, but it is more than that. The system is in shambles! Our national medicare program continues down the road to disaster because of compartmentalized thinking by both federal and provincial governments and those in their departments.
Federal and provincial departments of agriculture promote chemical agriculture only. Departments of health fail to recognize that these policies pollute our air, water and food with toxic agriculture chemicals. Spraying season lasts seven months. In Saskatchewan alone there is in excess of one million 20-litre containers of toxic chemicals used every single year!
The departments of environment "monitor" what is going on and do nothing about it, probably because they have only been on the scene for fewer than 30 years and have no political clout. It is obvious politicians and the media still don’t understand why the environment portfolio exists.
Every year transnational drug and chemical companies, with the support and advice of the departments of agriculture, sell great volumes of toxic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides that make us sick and destroy immune systems that should protect our health. Meanwhile the departments of health, through the medicare system, promote the sale of great volumes of toxic drugs in a so-called attempt to make us well. The drug and chemical lobbies with large advertising budgets have us on a treadmill. We don’t seem to want to get off, or we don’t know how.
Our Back To The Farm Research Foundation has, over the years, attempted to convince the Saskatchewan government to change its structure. We have recommended that the Saskatchewan Department of Health be recognized as as "senior" portfolio and the Departments of Agriculture and Environment be "junior" portfolios responsible to the Department of Health. The Department of Health would have the authority to review all the policies and programs of agriculture and environment to make sure they supported good health care principles. To date, no one has listened.
Here in Saskatchewan we are very casual about pesticide poisonings and deaths. Our provincial Occupational Health and Safety Division keeps statistics on all types of farm injuries but does not keep any statistics on pesticide poisonings or deaths. Agricultural chemicals are now obsolete but high-pressure sales tactics still promote them and increase their sales.
About 15 years ago geneticists Dr Naylor and Dr Jana from the University of Saskatchewan were collecting wild oat samples on my organic farm to compare them to wild oat samples from chemical farms. They reported in the scientific journal at the time that the wild oats (considered a weed but which make very nutritious oatmeal) were building up a resistance to herbicides. Well, it has happened.
Many areas of the prairies are now reporting that wild oats are completely resistant to herbicides. Other weeds (and also pests) are almost resistant, so larger volumes of herbicides and pesticides are used. These cost more and pollute the air, water and food more. As a result of the high cost of agriculture chemicals and fertilizers and low grain and oilseed prices, farmers are going bankrupt.
Last week a Saskatoon lawyer who handles farm bankruptcies told me the main reason farmers are going bankrupt or losing their farms is because they can’t pay their chemical bills. Farmers are asking federal and provincial governments for "bailouts" which means that consumers or taxpayers (farmers are consumers too) will have to pay that bill. The time is long overdue that the taxpayer should pay in silence.
If consumers or taxpayers contribute to the farm bailout, then they should start a revolution to protect their health and demand that farmers stop polluting our environment with toxic agriculture chemicals. And furthermore, they should demand that farmers grow the most healthy, nutritious food possible.
If consumers take action immediately, it might save our health care program.