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Course notes (Author: Kristin Hildahl-Shawn, RD, MEd) Where Does Your Food Come From? (Blake, 2020) It is important to everyone to have a basic understanding of where our food comes from. Most of us do not think of this as we are shopping in our grocery store. All foods, in some form or another, begin on a farm. Next stop is the food processor, where foods will be cleaned and sorted in preparation for shipping, or will be processed using heat or salt or sugar, or combined with other ingredients to produce a packaged food. After processing, the food will be transported by ship, train, truck or plane to sellers, and then ultimately we the consumer purchase the food. Farming in Canada has changed considerably over the years. What farming looked like a decade ago isn’t what it is now. Now, farming encompasses a wide spectrum of facets including: Organic Farming   Organic farmers aim to grow crops and raise livestock in ways that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment and share many practices with non-organic farmers. Soil Management:    Over the years, much of our precious topsoil eroded into ditches and waterways. Today, farmers are working hard to improve the land Horticulture    Horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Over 120 different fruit and vegetable crops are commercially grown in Canada. Aquaculture    Farming can also take place in tanks, ponds, lakes and ocean. Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms in fresh or salt water. Water Management   Protecting water is essential for sustainable agriculture – meeting the growing demand for food production while protecting the natural resources on which the world depends. Raising Farm Animals   Farmers raise beef cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, sheep, bison, goats, deer and elk.  Farmers and ranchers refer to their farm animals as livestock. Animal Breeding   Just like dogs, there are purebreds and cross-breeds. And just like some dog owners choose different breeds for different reasons, farmers also choose different breeds of farm animals for different reasons.   Please read the following document, Today’s Farm: (download PDF to learn).   One important change has been a shift towards sustainability. Sustainability means using resources at a rate at which the earth can keep replacing them (e.g., cutting down trees at a rate no faster than new ones grow). In a sustainable economy, resources do not deplete and pollution does not accumulate. Please watch the following videos, which discuss some of the technology used on farms. This technology can help to promote sustainability and can improve the productivity of farms: This video is US based, but many of the technologies used are the same. Technology in Agriculture in Newfoundland: Vertical farming: How Canada’s farmers are growing more food and taking care of the environment: infographic:   Environmental changes that may have negative effects on food production: climate changes – can cause droughts and flooding, destroying crops and people’s homes. Infographic: Please read the following document from the Government of Canada regarding climate scenarios for agriculture: greenhouse gas production. Please visit the following website and read the files titled Agriculture and Greenhouse gasses (download the PDF to read): pest resistance to pesticides. Please visit the following website and read the files titled Pesticides – What and Why, and Pesticides on Foods (download the PDF to read): resistance of pathogens to antibiotics and chemicals fresh water shortages—supplies are dwindling and becoming polluted. Please visit the following website and read the file on Water Management (download the PDF to read): ocean pollution – pollution is killing fish in large dead zones along the coasts over-fishing is depleting the fish stock. One solution to this is aquaculture (fish farming). Please visit the following website and read the file on Aquaculture in Canada (download the PDF to read): loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity Refers to the variety and variability of living organisms and their ecosystems. Biodiversity includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), among species and among ecosystems. See the video: loss of food producing land – erosion, loss of top soil, land being paved. We are trying to feed more people, with less land to produce food deforestation accelerated fossil fuel use – causing pollution of air, soil and water inappropriate agricultural systems and/or technology use extinction of species – more than 140 species of animals and plants become extinct each day. Another 20 percent of species are expected to die out over the next 10 years.   Environmental Contaminants Environmental contaminants/ pollutants include industrial pollutants, toxic metals and contaminants from packaging. Routine monitoring of chemical contaminants is carried out and a ban is imposed if levels are too high. How harmful a contaminant is depends on how long it persists in the environment or in the human body. Some contaminants do not breakdown and are difficult for our body to metabolize or excrete. These contaminants are concerning because they can build up and accumulate at higher and higher concentrations along the food chain. Heavy Metals Lead: displaces minerals, causing function failure of kidneys, liver, nervous system, bone marrow. Mercury Cadmium: causes slow developing, irreversible damage to the liver and kidneys. Selenium Arsenic: used as a medication for animals. Can also be found in lower quantities in fish, eggs, milk, rice and drinking water. Mercury: A naturally occurring element in soils, rocks, lakes, streams and oceans Pulp and paper processing, mining operations, and burning of garbage and fossil fuels can also release mercury into the environment High amounts of mercury can damage the nervous system of people and animals Mercury tends to accumulate in the food chain so that predatory species have higher levels. This is called bioaccumulation. Fish that are more heavily contaminated tend to be larger fish that prey on smaller fish – the mercury builds up in their system. Fish heavily contaminated with mercury: Shark Swordfish King mackerel Fresh tuna steak (Albacore) Tilefish Fish/seafood lower in mercury: Shrimp Canned light tuna (canned albacore (“white”) tuna contains more mercury than light tuna) Salmon Pollock Catfish The CFIA regularly tests domestic and imported commercial fish and shellfish, both freshwater and marine, in order to enforce the mercury guideline of 0.5-1.0 parts per million (ppm) for total mercury in domestically produced and imported fish. The recommendation is to consume a variety of fish, as this minimizes your exposure to any particular toxin that may accumulate in a particular fish species. Health Canada recommends consumers limit their consumption of shark, swordfish, fresh or frozen tuna, orange roughy, escolar and marlin to a maximum of no more than 150g per week (excluding canned light tuna). For children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age, consumption of these fish is more restricted. The reason these fish are limited for children, is that children are at a stage of rapid development with metabolic rates higher than that of an adult, resulting in a greater ability to absorb substances (e.g., their level of gastro-intestinal absorption and retention is greater). In addition, the immature or developing organs and systems of children are less able to get rid of mercury. There is also less ability to repair the damage caused by mercury due to their cellular repair mechanisms not being fully developed. Methyl mercury ingested by a pregnant woman can be passed from the maternal blood to the developing fetus by crossing the placental barrier. It can accumulate in the unborn baby’s blood at concentrations higher than the concentration in the mother. Mercury can also be transferred through breast milk to a nursing infant. With chronic maternal fish consumption, infants may appear normal during the first few months of life but later display IQ deficits, abnormal muscle tone, reduced motor function, and lower attention and visuospatial performance. In recent human studies, neuropsychological deficits are detected in children aged seven years following prenatal exposure to methyl mercury. Increased blood pressure in children exposed prenatally to methyl mercury has also been reported. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) refer to a group of at least 50 widely used compounds containing chlorine that can accumulate in the food chain and cause a variety of harmful effects (fatigue, eye irritation, growth retardation in children when exposed prenatally). They are man-made and were banned in North American in 1977. They can still be found remaining in the environment, because they do not break down and are difficult to destroy. So we are still exposed to small amounts of PCB’s, typically through food consumption. The levels we are exposed to however are well below what Health Canada determines could cause adverse health effects.   Some of the things that farmers do to protect their crops: Pesticides   Herbicid- protects against weed Fungalcide- protects against fungus Insecticide- protects against insects Climate-Smart Agriculture-  is an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate. Climate Smart Agriculture (FAO) video: A Global Climate Services for Farmers- Climate Services support farmers to prepare for and adapt to climate change. What can you do? Leave your car at home – walk / ride bike to school/work or to grocery store Choose foods lower on the food chain: Choose plant foods more often:  Grains are the lowest on the food chain (require the least amount of energy to produce), followed by plant foods like vegetables and fruits, and pulses/legumes. Choose smaller fish more often: Smaller fish are lower on the food chain because they themselves eat lower in the food chain (eat plants/tiny fish). Limit use of canned beef products (e.g. canned stews, pet food, etc). Canned beef products often come at the expense of cleared rain forest land. 200sq feet of rain forest can be permanently lost for every 1 pound of beef produced. Choose locally grown foods – require less transportation, packaging and refrigeration. Avoid overly packaged foods – choose bulk Use reusable products, not “throw aways” Use fast cooking methods – e.g., stir fry, microwave, and pressure cooking use less energy than stove top or oven cooking. Practice wise resource use: reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. How food choices impact the environment:     Organic farming: farming without the use of certain pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics growth hormones, and genetically modified organisms. According to the Canadian Organic Standards (, there are 4 general principles of organic production: Health: “Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plants, animals, humans and the planet as one and indivisible” Ecology: “Organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them” Fairness: “Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities” Care: “Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment” Organic farming also emphasizes farming practices that promote sustainability, such as crop rotation, covering crops (to prevent soil erosion), using renewable resources, enhancing biological diversity, the use of compost (animal and plant) to improve soil fertility and balancing host / predator relationships. Producers may not claim products are organic if they have been irradiated, genetically engineered, or grown with certain fertilizers. Please read the following document, Organic farming basics: (download PDF to learn). Any foods that are labelled as organic in Canada are regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). It is estimated that sales of organic food in Canada is approximately 1 billion dollars per year. The major organic foods produced in Canada include grains, organic milk, maple syrup, and tree fruits (especially apples). Labelling Organic Food For many years, the labelling of organic food was voluntary with a number of certification bodies taking responsibility for ensuring standards were met. Canada has created mandatory regulations and standards for organic foods called the “Organic Products Regulations” which came into effect in June, 2009. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency works with certification bodies to ensure that Canada-wide standards are met, and a special logo identifying the food as organic is used on packaging. (see Canada Organic Logo). The logo is permitted on certified organic foods and on multi-ingredient food products containing at least 95% organic ingredients. Note: Foods containing 70- 95% organic ingredients can make labelling claims about the organic ingredients, e.g., “contains organic ingredients”, “contains 70% organic ingredients”, etc but cannot use the logo. Please visit the CFIA website: more details.   Is organic food better? The belief that organic food has a higher nutritional quality than conventional food is only mildly supported by the scientific evidence. Some studies have shown that organic produce can be higher in vitamin C and may have higher levels of phytochemicals, but the reports are inconsistent so conclusive statements cannot be made at this time. There are many factors that affect the nutrient content of produce, such as soil quality, type of seeds used and the temperature and amount of light during the growing season. It is difficult to control these variables to accurately compare conventional and organic produce. Please view the following video: A dietitian’s perspectives on organic versus conventional food production:   Genetic EngineeringPlease visit the following website and read the files titled What are GMOs, GMOs and the Environment, and GMO Foods (download the PDF to read):  The goal of cross breading is to create within a species a perfect variety. That can mean crops that:     Yield high (grow better/ more) using minimum resources of water, and space Better nutritional and/sensory qualities Better disease resistant More drought tolerant More extreme temperature tolerance and so on   Food safety with regards to GMOs (Author: Dr. Snehil Dua) Genetically modified organisms (GMO) is a misnomer and is accurately called Genetically Engineered (GE) foods. Genetic modification can occur naturally in the environment due to cross pollination, or can be carried out by plant breeding scientists and farmers by cross pollination or by biotechnology scientists by manipulating the genetic material of the organism. The latter type of modification that involves direct manipulation of the genetic material is called genetic engineering and organisms produced by this technology are called genetically engineered organisms. Because they are more commonly though inaccurately known as GMOs we will continue to use the term GMO for GE organisms. For centuries, plant breeding scientists have been cross breeding plants and animal varieties within a species. They aim to find within a species a perfect variety that would yield high using minimum resources of water, and space, with better nutritional and/sensory qualities, with better disease resistance, more drought tolerance, more extreme temperature tolerance and so on. For example, if they find a variety that produces a high yield of wheat on short plants but is gets infected too easily with some common fungal disease then they would grow both the varieties simultaneously and would take the pollens from the flowers of one variety and apply them on the stamen of the flower of the other variety. They would do this with several flowers. The cross pollinated seeds thus produced would have traits of both the varieties. However, it is only by chance that they may find a cross pollinated seed that has the perfect combination of traits from both the varieties as plants would have several traits determined by several genes. Any combinations of genes are possible. They would then in the next season grow all these seeds and measure their traits such as disease resistance, yield, nutritional and functional quality etc. If they do not find a seed type that has acceptable combination of traits, they would try this in the following year and so and on. This may take over 20 years to develop a new variety of wheat that can be registered in Canada and that is suitable for any particular type of wheat product. This is a slow journey and the outcomes are highly dependent on chance. In 1970’s scientists started cloning small fragments of DNA (genetic material, segments of which are called genes), and eventually started inserting small segments of DNA into the genetic material of live cells. The technology has advanced enough such that scientists can take a specific gene from one cell and insert at a specific cite in the DNA of another cell. These transfers may occur within species (from one wheat variety to another wheat variety) or between species (from bacteria to plant cells). When the transfer occurs between species, it is called a transgenic organism. Through this technology, scientists have successfully: Scientists have successfully inserted beta-carotene gene from plants into rice. Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A. Millions of people in developing countries have vitamin A deficiency. Their staple often is rice that has no vitamin A. Golden Rice as it is commonly called has yellow color due to beta-carotene and can serve as a significant source of vitamin A for such people and reduce the incidence of vitamin A deficiency. Every year on average 200,000 children become blind due to the deficiency of this nutrient. Canada has approved the production of Golden Rice in Canada. A scientists’ team at the University of Guelph successfully inserted genes from a strain of bacteria, E. coli into a pig’s fetus. The pig EnviropigTM was born with the ability to produce phytase in its saliva. Phytase breaks down phosphorus. Pigs’ feces typically contain high amount of phosphorus which pollutes the soil and water and has an adverse impact on marine life. EnviropigTM digest most of the phosphorus and thus eliminates very little of it in its feces thus reducing the adverse impact on marine life. Health Canada did the risk assessment of EnviropigTM and concluded that it poses no risk to human health and environment but due to protests in Canada, the transgenic pig project has been shut down. Bt corn is another transgenic organism that has a gene from a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis) inserted into corn. Due to this gene, the corn plants produce a protein that kills specific types insects. It is approved in Canada to target European corn borer and corn rootworm which otherwise can destroy corn crops at massive scale. Since the protein needs to bind to the organism it can kill, only the organisms that have a receptor for this protein can be killed by this protein. Human cells do not have receptors for this protein and thus this protein doesn’t impact human health. Monsanto company produces a herbicide called round-up, and also produces crop varieties that are genetically engineered to not get killed by Roundup. Such varieties are called roundup ready varieties. The idea is to grow Roundup-Ready varieties of crops such as corn and then spray Roundup all over the field to kill all vegetation except the Round-up ready crop. This eliminates all weeds and other unwanted plants so that the crop being grown gets proper nutrition. Farmers need to purchase the Roundup-Ready seeds each season and also purchase the Roundup herbicide to grow this crop. They cannot use the seeds saved from their own field because these seeds are often “Suicide seeds”. Suicide seeds are genetically engineered to germinate only one generation and the seeds produced from such crop are infertile and can’t be used to grow crop the next season. Not only Roundup ready seeds, but many genetically engineered seeds are suicide seeds. The companies have patented their varieties and do not allow reproducing these seeds by the farmers. Also, excessive use of Roundup herbicide has an impact on the environment, and maybe on human health. Two years back a farmer in United States sued Monsanto because he claimed that he developed cancer from the repeated use of the herbicide. He won the case but later died of cancer.   These are just a few examples of genetically engineered organisms. Though the technology can be used for improving nutritional quality, yield, disease resistant traits etc. there are several concerns how it is being used. Some are listed below: Very few companies have the resources to develop organisms with this expensive technology and thus there is a concern of monopoly. Due to patents and traits like “suicide seeds” the farmers need to purchase seeds every season unlike the non-GMO variety seeds can be produced by the farmer year after year. This increases the costs at farmers’ end. There have been instances of contamination of GMO with the convention food despite all the regulatory conditions. There are environmental concerns as the GM-gene can jump onto other crops growing in the neighborhood. Or for example the gene from Roundup-ready crop can jump on to a weed such that the weed can no longer be destroyed by Roundup. Such a weed would become super-weed as it can not be destroyed anymore. Some people in Canada and all across the world are also concerned about the risk to human health (cancer, allergies etc) from the consumption of GM/GE foods but credible research has yet not produced any evidence that any GM foods being consumed by human increase the risk of any illnesses.   Canada does regulate the sale of GMO (correctly named as GE in our regulatory documents) but only after risk assessment. So far over 140 GM foods have been approved to be sold in Canada. You can find a listing of these foods on the Government of Canada website: The GM foods are placed in a separate category of foods called “Novel Foods”. In Canada’s Food and Drug Act (Law) Novel foods are the foods that have been produced by novel technology or ingredients that do not have a long history of use. GM or GE foods fall in this category as there isn’t a long history of consumption of GE foods. The foods in this category (Novel Foods) must be approved by Health Canada (Federal Ministry of Health in Canada) before they can be sold in this country. Consumers are demanding that foods that contain GM or GE ingredients must be labelled such, so that consumers can choose not to purchase GE foods. There is no such law in Canada yet that requires foods to be labelled to indicate the presence of GE ingredients. European Union requires that the GE food sold in European countries must be labelled to indicate the presence of GE ingredients. Please read the information on the following Government of Canada webpage regarding labelling of GE foods:   References:  Blake, J. (2020). Nutrition & You (5th edition). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. Question Farming in Canada has changed considerably over the years. What farming looked like a decade ago isn’t what it is now. Discussion 1 advantage and 1 concern with the changes that have occurred to farming. Include in your answer why you see these as advantages and concerns. 1) Should answer the chosen question from the listing below (2 marks)2) Should tie in materials from the assigned readings for that unit (2 marks)3)  Include a reference list and in-text citations in APA format listing all references used in your response (1 mark)

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