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Dear Visitor,

On April 16 2013, the Lieutenant Governor will issue a "writ of election" which will dissolve the Legislative Assembly of BC and begin a 30 day election period regulated by Elections BC.

After April 16 I will no longer be an MLA (or the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture) and cannot do any work as an MLA. I will be one of several candidates running for re-election in Saanich South.

Information on voting and the election is available at

You can reach me here: 
4087-A Quadra St.
250 881 8809 

This website will be closed until the return of the writ on June 5 2013.

The back-end (a free blog) may remain searchable on the internet. It is a public record of my work over the last four years.

I hope you will participate in the democratic process! Election day is May 14. You can vote early but not often. Elections BC is doing a great job to make it convenient to vote. For all the details on how to vote, please visit 

It was a privilege to serve as the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture.

Thank you.


Lana Popham, Incumbent Saanich South

Opposition to GM apple is on the rise  


Okanagan Specialty Fruits/New York Times
Today in the Legislature I will submit a petition, signed by more than 5500 BC residents, calling on the BC Legislature to “take urgent action to halt the commercial introduction of a genetically modified apple”.

A small BC company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits has licensed technology it claims produces a “non-browning” apple. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently considering an application to allow this apple to be produced commercially.

Today I again ask the BC Ministry of Agriculture to stop avoiding this issue and listen to the thousands of consumers, farmers and stakeholders who are demanding their government actively oppose growing genetically modified apples in BC.

The effect of this genetic modification is that it will make it harder to see bruises and discolouration - but those are important visual cues people use before deciding to take a bite. It is irresponsible for this government to stand idly by while a single commercial interest risks the excellent reputation of the entire BC fruit industry.

The BC Fruit Growers Association strongly opposes the Arctic Apple for this very reason. It recently commissioned a consumer survey which found that 69% of Canadians don’t want the GM apple.

You can read more about this apple in a recent New York Times article: That Fresh Look, Genetically Buffed

The petition was collected by volunteers from more than a dozens communities in BC and spear-headed by organizations including the non-partisan Okanagan Greens Society. Contact: Wendy Wright, 250 469 1881.

Critic speaks against GM apple  


Reprinted from the Daily Courier (Kelowna), Page A08, 05-Feb-2013

By Lana Popham

The Okanagan Valley has long been known for producing beautiful, healthy and delicious fruit. Whether you are in B.C., neighbouring Alberta, or even abroad, ask around and it becomes clear the Okanagan's reputation for quality fruit is indisputable. This reputation is one of our industry's greatest advantages.

Unfortunately, that reputation may soon be put at risk by the "Arctic apple." This genetically engineered apple is currently being considered for commercial production by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

However, many growers and industry leaders argue the commercial production of genetically engineered apples in the Okanagan will ruin the reputation of B.C. apples and put the industry in peril.

The concerns of B.C. apple growers are well-founded. A Leger Marketing poll done last June concluded that almost 70 per cent of Canadians want the CFIA to reject the "Arctic apple." As New Democrat agriculture critic, I have supported B.C. fruit growers by actively opposing the "Arctic apple." I drafted a petition that received over 2,000 signatures in just two weeks. In the last legislative session, I challenged the B.C. Liberal minister of agriculture on this issue. Unfortunately, he just passed the buck, calling it a federal issue instead of pledging to stand up for the B.C. industry to address this potential threat.

B.C.'s new agriculture minister, Norm Letnick, should be standing up for Okanagan growers, many of whom are his own constituents, but he has also been silent on this issue.

I think this genetically engineered fruit has achieved such notoriety because of the very nature of apples: they symbolize simplicity, freshness and good health, and are an ubiquitous part of our diet. If a consumer is at all concerned about GMOs, the idea of a genetically engineered apple is especially problematic.

This perspective is intensified when people learn that the "value" of the "Arctic apple" is to hide bruises and discoloration. Consumers don't want to eat fruit that is genetically engineered to appear fresh when it is not, or undamaged when it is damaged. They want to be able to trust their own eyes when deciding what to eat.

Growers are in business; they have every right to be concerned about government decisions which impact the perception of their product and the strength of their brand. Given the intense competition they face from Washington state, they simply can't afford to have consumers wondering whether B.C. apples have been genetically engineered.

The "Arctic apple" also poses a particular threat to the organic industry.

Organic growers are concerned that bees will carry pollen from genetically modified orchards to their trees, contaminating their crop and causing them to lose their organic status. The current regulatory framework doesn't protect growers, organic or otherwise, from cross-pollination.

In the B.C. Interior, an apple is, of course, much more than a symbol or something to buy at the supermarket. The B.C. tree fruit industry has a $900-million-a-year economic impact that benefits communities in the Okanagan, the Similkameen and across British Columbia.

When the legislature is finally recalled on Feb. 12, New Democrats will again press the B.C. Liberals to end their passivity on this issue, and urge them to start listening to fruit growers and actively defend the best interests of B.C. and our tree fruit industry.

Lana Popham is the New Democrat agriculture critic.

Innovation key to province's ambitious agricultural goals  


Innovation key to province's ambitious agricultural goals


Farming sector expects Victoria to address issues like carbon taxes, competition and the creation of a long-term strategy

Innovation to allow the agriculture sector to become more
productive is a priority says minister Norm Letnick.
If you ask retired greenhouse grower Linda Delli Santi what she misses most about farming, she would say it's the smell of her tomatoes and bell peppers and seeing bins full of fresh vegetables after a day of picking.

What she doesn't miss is waking up at 3 a.m. to check the greenhouse boiler, or climbing up and down ladders during the workday. She also doesn't miss having to pay the provincial carbon tax, which she says cost about $50,000 a year and ate into any profits made by her five-acre greenhouse in south Langley.

"We're not talking small money. It's big," says Delli Santi, who is now the executive director of the BC Greenhouse Growers Association.

It appears Delli Santi isn't the only food producer in B.C. to suffer from the carbon tax. According to the BC Agriculture Council, the carbon tax has added about $45 million in direct annual costs to food production since it was implemented in 2008.

It's things like the carbon tax, as well as issues such as competition and innovation, that food producers say need to be addressed by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture if they are to reach the province's goal of generating $14 billion in revenue by 2017.

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says his ministry is trying. The agriculture sector makes $10.9 billion a year, and the province has a $66-million budget for working with the industry.

The ministry recently agreed to the framework for Growing Forward 2, the second five-year policy that co-ordinates federal, provincial and territorial agriculture policies. While the distribution of funds still needs to be negotiated, Letnick says B.C. should receive $110 million from Growing Forward 2 over the next five years. Unlike the previous Growing Forward, more dollars will be shifted from risk management to innovation. Market expansion into countries such as China and Japan is also a top priority, Letnick says.

"If you innovate, you become more productive. More productive means costs go down, and you can also innovate to increase markets," he says. "As market shares increase, volumes increase, so cost of production per unit goes down. It also opens up a whole set of opportunities for revenue generation."

Letnick says the ministry is looking at programs such as the development of alternatives to pesticides, technologies that can disrupt the mating of pests, and ways to increase the shelf life of wines. Funding is also being offered to fruit growers to help them replant low-value orchards with high-demand fruit varieties.

Reg Ens, executive director of the BC Agriculture Council, says the investments in innovation are all good, but he says more needs to be done to get British Columbians to buy local produce instead of imports that are often cheaper.

"We hear from consumers that they want sustainability, they want quality, they want producers and farmers to invest in providing top-end types of products," he says. "Yet when they get to the retail shelf, they're all about the lowest price."

Letnick says the Buy Local program launched earlier this year is one of the solutions. The program allows growers, producers, co-ops and farmers' markets to apply for between $5,000 and $100,000 for marketing that encourages people to buy local.

Ens says the Buy Local program is "a great start, but it's a bit piecemeal." As 98 per cent of B.C. farms are small, and family-owned and operated, Ens says it's just too hard to keep costs at a level low enough to compete with imported produce.

The carbon tax doesn't help matters.

Greenhouse growers received $7.6 million this year to offset tax costs, and the carbon tax will be reviewed by the government next year. But Delli Santi says the uncertainty about the future of the tax is discouraging some growers from investing in increasing productivity.

"When you're making business decisions, you need more certainty than 'Maybe we'll get a rebate,'" she says. "Members will not make business investment decisions in their facilities, or in expansion or upgrades, when they don't know for certain what's going to happen along the way."

Ens says growers also want the ministry to address the cut in extension service agents - field officers who farmers can phone whenever they have questions or who visit people's farms when they have a problem.

Lana Popham, the NDP agriculture critic, says provincial extension services have been gutted in the past 10 years, with the most recent cut being the 2010 loss of the province's organic produce agent.

"When you cut something as basic as extension services, I think the priorities are wrong," says Popham.

"To have an extension officer in place, it's about $85,000 full-time per employee, and if you look at how much is coming from Growing Forward, not very much of that would enable us to have extension services."

Ens says what's most important for the future of the industry, though, is a long-term government food strategy so growers know what to expect 20, even 50 years down the line.

He says changes in government, changes in budgets, and changes in regulations make it difficult for growers to plan.

"We realize that we live in a time of limited resources and want to not frivolously use them, but agriculture is a long-term type strategy," Ens says. "Right now we operate in five-year federal-provincial agreements. All that politics doesn't allow for long-term, efficient planning." © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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