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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
Tel (250) 881-1304

Executive director of The Solutions Project



Newsletter No. 61 - Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - May 1997


For millions of years, for as long as mammals and their predecessors have lived on Earth, humans and our ancestors have always eaten organic food. Our physical bodies evolved in the exact way that Earth's organic food encouraged us to : the match between the cellular needs of our bodies and the nutrients which organically grown plants and animals can provide is complete - 100%.

The movement away from organic food started in the 1860s, when a man called Justus Leibig applied his new-fangled modern, scientific mind to the question "I wonder what makes plants grow ?". To answer his question, he took some soil and burnt it. In the ashes, he found potassium, potash and nitrogen. "Miracles !" he thought. "I've found the secret to life !".

From that moment on, modern farming started to add manufactured fertilizers to the soil to boost the productivity of plants. Today, the production of chemical fertilizers worldwide - and the parallel production of pesticides - is a huge, multi-billion dollar international business.

In the 1920s, however, a small group of people in England inspired by the leadership of Lady Eve Balfour formed the Soil Association, and started to spread the idea that food was better grown organically, without chemicals. Today, the organic revolution is beginning to catch on all over the world. Denmark has committed itself to 20% of its farming being organic by the year 2000, and the Gallo Wine company is the largest organic farm in California.

Throughout these years, however, there has never been any hard and fast proof that organic food is actually any better for you. Instinct might tell you that it is, and the knowledge that you're not eating all those chemicals sure feels good, but where was the proof ?

Finally, the answers have arrived. In 1993, a trace minerals laboratory analyst in Chicago called Bob L. Smith started a small experiment. For two years, he went to stores in Chicago, and purchased between four to fifteen samples of both organic and non-organic produce. He would then take the foods back to his laboratory, and analyze the different foods for trace elements, to see what was there, and what was missing.

The results are stunning, and should be a wake-up call to the whole world. The organically grown wheat had twice the calcium, four times more magnesium, five times more manganese and thirteen times more selenium to the non-organic varieties.

The organically grown corn had twenty times more calcium and manganese, and two to five times more copper, magnesium, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. The organically grown potatoes had two or more times the boron, selenium, silicon, strontium and sulfur, and sixty percent more zinc.

The organically grown pears had two to nearly three times more chromium, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, silicon and zinc.

Overall, organically grown food exceeded conventionally grown crops significantly in twenty of the twenty two beneficial trace elements. They also had less amounts of toxic trace elements such as aluminum, lead and mercury.

Trace elements are critically important not just for our health, but also for the development of the brain. And in a recent paper in the British medical journal The Lancet, Danish researchers reported that organic farmers and men who regular consumed organic food had twice the sperm count of men who did not consume organic food. (Thanks to David Steinman's article in Common Ground for all this information).

The May/June issue or Organic Gardening also spells out why pests love non-organic food, but avoid crops raised organically on good compost. It describes two studies by Dr Larry Phelan which show that the European corn borer moths lay 18 times more eggs on sweet corn plants grown in chemically farmed soils than on organic soils. When he carefully monitored the variables, he found that again, it was the mineral ratios which were responsible. When the necessary minerals are available in the right balance, plant roots will absorb exactly what they need for photosynthesis. Plants grown in chemical soils often lack this mineral balance, and pests are not as attracted to the complex starches and proteins in plants with a good mineral balance - they're like junk food addicts, and prefer a diet rich in the simple sugars and amino acids that are present when the mineral supply is out of balance. Organic farmers have sensed this for years - but this is the first time there has been solid scientific evidence.

- Guy Dauncey

Here in Victoria, you can buy organic food at many stores, at the Moss Street Market, through Susan Tychie's Share Organics (595-6742), Randy Hooper's Costerton Farm on Salt Spring, (250) 537-5420), and Brent's Fresh Picks Organics (383-7969). If someone is interested to help pull together an organic food supplement for the next issue of EcoNews, could you please call ? 881-1304.


EcoNews is published as a monthly service to the Vancouver Island environmental community, to nourish the powerful and beautiful vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and human community, funded by readers' donations.

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If you'd like to receive EcoNews by mail call 881-1304. By email, call To make a donation, send a cheque to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1. And if you have unusable envelopes with an old printed address, WE CAN USE THEM ! We get through 1,000 every month.


Two scientists at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor have made a breakthrough in the testing of toxic chemicals which may change the entire way in which our chemically-impregnated society operates. Biologist Doug Haffner and biochemist Khosrow Adele have developed a relatively inexpensive one-day test which can quantify the damage which specific chemicals or combinations of chemicals do to human cells, and the DNA within the cells. They have already provided the first irrefutable, quantifiable evidence that chemicals extracted from burning cigarettes damage human DNA.

The test can be applied to chemical contaminants in the water, air, soil and sediments, as well as to food additives and pharmaceuticals. Once the test gets into common circulation, the door will be open for chemicals of every kind to be tested, for legislation to ban the use of chemicals which are proven to damage human DNA - a precursor of cancer - and for class action suits by those who have been exposed. (Windsor Star/CP)


Organic Heritage Plant Nursery

Open every Wednesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm until May 25th at the Greenhouse, 1834 Haultain St (between Richmond & Foul Bay)

Open pollinated organic vegetables, 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, herbs, sweet peas, old garden roses, cottage garden flowers, all organically grown. Carolyn Herriot 592-4472


Move over NAFTA - there's a far bigger bogey on the horizon, looming its way towards us. called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).

In the past few weeks a story has broken which is as alarming as the previous story is exciting. The Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) is a research establishment which provides the world's richest nations with information about economic trends. Yet unannounced, without debate or consultation and unguided by national parliaments, it has since May 1995 been quietly negotiating a treaty which will (in the words of George Monbiot of the UK Guardian) 'reduce our representatives to filing clerks'.

In a nutshell, the MAI seeks to outlaw all restrictions and controls that national governments might wish to impose on foreign investment. "We are," boasts one of its leading negotiators, "writing the constitution of a single global economy."

If Canada signs, investment, ownership, labour, consumer and environmental protection will all be wrenched out of our hands. BC's minimum wage legislation and prohibitions on the export of water or raw logs would all be forbidden, as would any attempt to prevent foreign ownership of the media, or the labeling of organic food or eco-certified timber. If a corporation finds a regulation objectionable, it will be entitled to sue a government or local authority at an international tribunal - but governments will have no reciprocal right to sue a corporation on the public's behalf.

As George Monbiot says "This is a charter for multinationals. It accords them absolute rights without a shred of responsibility." The OECD is already talking about membership in MAI being seen as a 'certificate of good conduct', without which a nation could expect no substantial foreign investment. Once a nation has signed up, it will face punitive sanctions if it refuses to surrender its resources as foreign companies demand. The OECD had been pushing for completion by May 1997, but that deadline has been pushed back by a few months. Once complete, the MAI will need to be ratified - in Canada by the new Canadian government, in the US either by Congress or the Senate.

It is astonishing (but maybe not surprising) that no major media outlet has covered the story. The federal election is our big opportunity. Ask every candidate : will you support ratification of the MAI - yes or no ?


EcoNews often runs stories about community-based economic development (CED), because it provides an alternative to the prospect of a world dominated by the multinational corporations. The Bent Nail, the co-operative started by street people which recycles used building materials (870 Devonshire St Esquimalt) is just one example of the wide range of initiatives which are possible. Community currencies, community development loan funds, community controlled banking, projects such as Victoria's Women Work! which helps single mothers start their own businesses - these are all examples of what CED can do. In May and June, Victoria's CED Development Network is running a series of 8 day-workshops called 'Making It Work ! Practical Skills for Achieving Community Economic Development Success.' The Network has been meeting for two years and is close to forming a Community Economic Development Corporation here in Victoria, which will be able to help local initiatives get started. The workshop series is intended to broaden our overall skill base, and build a stronger sense of sharing and community among the many groups involved. Everyone is welcome ! For details see the Green Diary, or call Maeve Liden at VIDEA, 385-2333.

Talking of CED, Elizabeth Woods was successfully re-elected in the recent Pacific Coast Savings election, , but Bernie Jones failed to win a seat this time round. Around 1,900 votes were cast, representing 2% of the total membership of 90,000.

Also, the book 'Get A Life - How to Make a Good Buck and Dance around the Dinosaurs' by Wayne Roberts and Susan Brandum is packed full of positive, exciting CED possibilities. Call Andrew van Iterson at (250) 595-2311, who is distributing the book here on the Island.


Well it feels like it, with the Moss St Market re-opening and the flowers out everywhere. Planning ahead, there are some good living/learning opportunities you might want to note. From July 28th - August 1st there's a 5-day community education festival called the Community Development Institute happening on the Sunshine Coast at Sechelt. There will be workshops on everything from strawbale building to local governance, permaculture, community economic development, environmental stewardship and affordable housing, with lots of shared camping and singing etc inbetween. For details, call Zarina Mulla at SPARC of BC, (250) 736-5576.

Then from June 22nd right till August 3rd, the Global Living Project is holding a residential summer institute at a newly formed intentional community just north of Nelson, in the Slocan Valley. The time will be divided between bread labour, personal growth and community service, with workshops on everything from bioregional exploration to Voluntary Simplicity. The cost is on a sliding scale from $700 - $2500. Details, Gabi Sittig, (250) 355-2585.

Closer to home, there's the Summer Solstice Circle Dance (see below), and much further afield, you can join a Permaculture Foundation or EcoVillage Training Course at a Green Kibbutz in Israel. Details from the US office, Scott Hertzberg, 3915 Windom Rd NW, Washington DC 20016, (202) 686-5494.

June 20th - 22nd

Come to Salt Spring Island's Camp Narnia on beautiful Burgoyne Bay for a weekend of circle dancing with June Watts from England, live music from Sarafield, and midsummer celebrations.

"The perfect way to cleanse your brain and refresh your soul." (GD)

$175 (incl accommodation & veggie food). Registrations with $75 deposit by May 15th. Chris Edwards, 1649 Warren Gardens, Victoria V8S 1S9 (250) 598-1105


Victoria's Mayor Bob Cross and four of Victoria's sitting councillors (Chris Coleman, Bea Holland, David McLean and Geoff Young) may have to resign and face by-elections if a petition by the Green Party's Art Vanden Berg and Ken Rouleau that 3rd party election funding from the conservative Victoria Voters Association (VVA) is illegal sticks. The Association has refused to divulge the source of its money, and under the Municipal Act 'the funneling of campaign contributions to disguise their source' is banned. The hearing at the B.C. Supreme Court is on May 12th. This makes it interesting to revisit last November's election results. The six conservative candidates financed by the VVA polled 33% of the 76,288 votes cast (24,991 votes), and won four seats. 17 candidates represented various progressive social and environmental positions, divided into the Greens, Voters for a Livable Community and the NDP's Victoria Civic Electors, plus Gene Miller and Syd Haskell. The 17 polled 48% of the overall vote, but won just two seats (Pam Madoff and Bob Friedland). With so many progressive candidates, the vote was hopelessly split and we ended up with a conservative business-dominated council which is scrapping almost all of the public advisory committees, and where - unbelievably - councillors even vote to decide if a member of the public will be allowed to speak to council. Next time (which might be soon if Art and Ken's petition is successful), we should maybe organize a big public meeting of Victoria's many social, environmental and community groups, invite all the progressive candidates, and then make a joint decision who we will campaign for, hoping the others will have the grace to stand down.


The Green Party has elected Victoria's Dr. Joan Russow as its party leader; she's running in the Victoria riding. Bob Moore Stewart is running in Esquimalt/Juan de Fuca, and Julia Lerner in Saanich and the Gulf Islands. The Party's platform includes :

  • Reduce the military budget by 50%, releasing $5 billion a year for health, education and social programs.
  • Ensure that Canadian corporations pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Legislate the option of repaying student loans through community service.
  • Move away from the overconsumptive model of development and reject the notion that economic growth will solve the urgency of the global/local situation.
  • Move away from car-dependency, and adopt a green transport hierarchy in all decision-making, supporting the development of EcoCities.
  • Legislate the right to clean air, clean water and uncontaminated food, and empower Canadians whose environmental rights have been violated to take governments, corporations and individuals to court.
  • Encourage community economic development, promoting local sourcing of materials and revolving community loans.
  • Bring in a 4-day, 32 hour week, sharing existing jobs with unemployed people.
  • Reform the electoral system through proportional representation, where a party receives seats proportional to its share of the vote.
  • Negotiate a nuclear weapons abolition treaty before the year 2000.
  • Pass an Act Respecting the Rights of Species in Canada, ensuring the protection of all Canadian animal and plant species in their natural habitats.
  • Apologize to the First Nations for the Indian Act and the residential schools, and move towards implementation of the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples.


Tooker Gomberg writes :

Canada's best known environmental activist, Paul Watson, has been locked up for the past four weeks, detained in a high security jail in the Netherlands on trumped up charges. Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace, and founder of the seal and whale protecting Sea Shepherd Society, was accused of sinking a whaling ship in Norwegian harbours in 1992. He was tried in absentia, and now with an election looming in Norway it looks like the government wants to bring him home as a trophy. So he was arrested in the Netherlands at Norway's behest, and extradition papers are being prepared. Little does it seem to matter that Paul was not even in Norway when the ship sank. Nor that Norway has committed itself to returning to the commercial slaughter of whales despite the International Whaling Commission's global ban on whaling.

Paul has received numerous death threats from Norwegians who are anxious to resume hunting whales. Word has it that if he ends up in Norwegian jail he may not get out alive. Anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko was murdered in South African jails. Internationally renowned rubber tapper and rainforest protector Chico Mendes was killed in the Amazon. And don't forget Karen Silkwood, the anti-nuclear activist who died in a mysterious car crash.

Action : Write to Jean Chretien, Prime Minister, House of Parliament, Ottawa K1A 0A6, demanding that Canada make the strongest of protests to the Dutch and Norwegian governments, and requesting Paul's release. And tell your friends too!


EcoNews provides this electronic version of the newsletter free of charge even though it costs time and money to produce. Please feel free to repost. You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:

EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3X1, Canada. Thanks !

Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.

EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Available free by mail or email

Author of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)

EcoNews is printed on Tree-Free paper from Ecosource