Has big business turned organics into ‘yuppy chow’?

Organic food is being taken over by big business, marketed as "yuppie chow" for the privileged, and increasingly packaged with as little concern for the environment as conventional food production, says Irena Knezevic, a doctoral candidate in the York-Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, wrote The Globe and Mail May 30. What research shows, she says, is that these organic product ignore "the heart of organic agriculture." "Organic agriculture is by definition intertwined with environmentalism, resistance to corporate globalization and the ‘back to the land’ movement," she says.

It is the environmental and social-justice issues that Knezevic says are being ignored by consumers and government regulators, wrote the Globe. "Most of the organic food supply in Canada travels to consumers from California and includes convenience foods like individual-sized and single-serving granola bars. Transportation and packaging involved result in environmental consequences comparable to those of conventional food production."

The Globe also noted that, earlier this year, Knezevic was given a major teaching award by York and cited for her research skills and commitment to the mentoring and academic success of her students (see YFile April 9). She will present her research to the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences being held this week at the University of Saskatchewan.

  • In addition to these cultural and societal aspects of food studies, the congress is also providing a forum for researchers to discuss issues such as disease, food additives, pesticides, and even animal rights, wrote the National Post May 30. "For one thing to wreak that much havoc, I think [it] has to be studied," said Knezevic. "I’m glad to say that this conference is looking at this issue of food from many different angles."

The professor and the critics

We were surprised to read that the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) was so outspokenly supportive of Shiraz Dossa, the St. Francis Xavier University professor who attended the Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran, wrote Irving Abella, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, Prof. Ed Morgan of the University of Toronto and 11 other professors in a letter to The Globe and Mail May 30. The other professors were not named by the Globe.

Dossa’s complaint, as we understand it, is that he has been subject to much criticism, not to discipline, the professors wrote. Academic freedom and freedom of expression do not render any of us immune from being criticized. Dossa attended a conference whose Holocaust revisionist theme – whether or not Dossa agrees with that theme – was advertised by the organizers worldwide.

The position taken by CAUT that Dossa was being admonished for attending a conference expressing "unpopular views" is, quite frankly, offensive. As an academic, Dossa had a right to attend this event, but we would hope academics of good conscience would condemn it.

China fund might open a door to green entrepreneurs

A $4-million investment in BC-developed green energy technologies announced by China and the BC Innovation Council is largely symbolic, said Bernie Wolf, director of the international MBA program at York’s Schulich School of Business, in a story in the National Post May 30 .

"$2 million or $4 million is chicken feed. That’s a very small amount of money. It’s a signal," he said. "[The Chinese] are saying, ‘We think that in certain areas you have some interesting technology that we might want to pool into and we’re willing to pay for it to some extent’."

On air

  • Rob Bowman, professor in the Music Department of York’s’ Faculty of Fine Arts, spoke about the state of the music business on news that Sam the Record Man is closing its downtown Toronto store, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” May 29.