A truck leaves the Cavendish Farms french fry plant in New Annan in this Guardian file photo
Editor: As reported in The Guardian on June 12, 2014, Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving, appearing before a provincial legislative standing committee, said the company might reduce its investment in P.E.I. and start growing elsewhere if the P.E.I. government does not lift its moratorium on deep-water wells. He also said Cavendish Farms would likely not enter into contracts with growers without irrigation if the moratorium were lifted. Installing irrigation equipment on a farm is estimated to cost $200,000.
Why does Cavendish Farms insist on irrigation? To meet the “stringent consistency and quality demands of the french fry market.” So Islanders are expected to put our water supply at risk and our farmers are expected to go further into debt to meet the onerous demands of Cavendish Farms, all to provide French fries for McDonalds.
Studies conducted by Environment Canada in 2006 found extremely high levels of airborne pesticide and fungicide readings in the Kensington area and found the presence of fungicides “likely to be ubiquitous throughout the atmosphere of P.E.I. during the potato-growing season.” A Globe and Mail article that year focused on the very high rates of unusual cancers among children in western P.E.I. and concern among physicians and parents about the link between these cancers and heavy pesticide use by potato growers.
Will P.E.I. continue on its current path of industrial agriculture with heavy pesticide and water usage in order to satisfy the demands of the french fry market or will we seek an alternate future with smaller, diversified family farms? A decision to start on a new path is not easily made - transition is difficult - but our quality of life and the lives and futures of our children and grandchildren depend on it.