Monday, 08 January 2018 00:00

ICYMI Monday | Year in Review, Vol. I: The Big Picture

In Case You Missed It Monday is USC Canada's weekly roundup - not that kind - of food, agriculture and policy news from here at home and around the world.

Welcome to ICYMI Monday, where we serve up a selection of the news that's fit to eat, with special attention to stories related to seeds, small-scale farmers, food sovereignty and agroecology. 

Last year had its ups and downs, but all in all it was a big year for food and agriculture. Take a look below at some of the biggest "Big Picture" stories from 2017.

"USC Canada" and sprout logo - "In Case You Missed It Monday" - Image of a field filled with red and green plants with mountains in the background.

Stay tuned for volumes II and III that will focus on last year's top stories from around the globe and here in Canada, respectively.


The year began with three pending mega-mergers of some of the world's largest agricultural input companies (Bayer and Monsanto, Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta). It ended with two of them finalized, while Bayer and Monsanto are expected to close their deal later this month. And so the "Big Six" companies in agricultural inputs will likely soon be the "fairly enormous four" – Bayer-Monsanto, DowDuPont, ChemChina-Syngenta, and BASF.

How would these mergers affect small-scale farmers and the biodiversity they cultivate? People had a lot to say about that this year (including our own take on the situation):

  • Mergers put food workers and small-scale farmers at risk and stifle biodiversity. | Ensia
  • The concentration of agricultural control mergers would cause would have major negative consequences for farming families and communities. | The Guardian
  • Are mergers of agricultural giants hurting our ability to live with and adapt to climate change? (Yes.) | USC Canada

While the mergers and market consolidation hurt smallholder farmers, there were stories of people who work to make seeds more accessible. Some of these stories of hope included:

  • The future of food and farming is in the hands of seed revolutionaries making good, locally adapted, open pollinated seeds available to all. | Civil Eats
  • As the seed industry consolidates, folks are working against the trend in many different ways. One of those is the Open Source Seed Initiative. | Civil Eats
  • For Terrylynn Brant, a Mohawk seedkeeper in Grand River Territory, Ont., saving seeds is tied to nurturing families through food and tradition. | USC Canada

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault a.k.a. the "Doomsday Vault"

The Global Seed Vault, housed in the permafrost above the Arctic Circle, began the year on a high note, receiving 50,000 new seed samples, one of its largest deposits to date. The deposit included 15,000 samples returned to the vault by the group that originally put them there, ICARDA, a Syrian research centre. ICARDA's other samples were destroyed or made inaccessible by the ongoing Syrian conflict, so the centre needed to borrow back its samples to continue its research.

But in May, there was a breach in the vault's defences:

  • Melting permafrost caused by climate change sent water flowing into the vault's entrance tunnel but thankfully no seeds were harmed. | The Guardian
  • The breach of a facility meant to stand the test of time and resist human-made and natural disasters highlights the precarious state of food and seed security in the face of climate change. There is no single solution to conserving the genetic diversity we need to feed the planet – in farming, as in nature, diversity is the best insurance policy. | USC Canada

Indigenous food sovereignty

From India to the United States, 2017 saw Indigenous peoples reasserting control over their food production systems and building their food sovereignty. With the Standing Rock Sioux's fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline receiving attention in the U.S. and around the globe, other instances of Indigenous people asserting sovereignty – in particular food sovereignty – began getting some of the attention they deserve:

  • In Canada, the Secwepemc people in B.C. reaffirmed they will never provide their collective free, prior and informed consent for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to pass through their territory. They say the pipeline would be a threat to their food security and sovereignty. | Salmon Arm Observer
  • Indigenous peoples' right to free, prior and informed consent about what happens on their land – a large piece of the food sovereignty puzzle – received high profile support from none other than Pope Francis. | The Guardian
  • Indigenous food, restaurants and chefs made news in Canada and south of the border. One new restaurant in Toronto aimed to serve up food sovereignty alongside traditional Anishnawbe food. | Metro News
  • And Food Tank celebrated some of the sustainable farming practices developed and maintained by the world's Indigenous peoples. | Food Tank

Stay tuned for volumes II and III that will focus on last year's top stories from around the globe and here in Canada, respectively.

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Read 758 times Last modified on Tuesday, 09 January 2018 00:27

1 comment

  • Comment Link Gigi Ludorf-Weaver Tuesday, 09 January 2018 18:10 posted by Gigi Ludorf-Weaver

    Is it possible to have someone from your organization come to talk to our organization and members about the seed issue?

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