Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Alleged terror plot will affect Canadian horticulture

March 31, 2008  By Marg Land

It appears that it is only a
matter of time before new federal legislation is steam rolled through
parliament, resulting in “new controls” on the sale of fertilizer in

It appears that it is only a matter of time before new federal legislation is steam rolled through parliament, resulting in “new controls” on the sale of fertilizer in Canada.

While this new legislation has been in the works for sometime (probably since just after U.S. terrorist Timothy McVeigh parked a rental van filled with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil in front of the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995), the latest alleged terrorist happenings in Ontario appear to have lit a fuse under lawmakers.


In early June, RCMP, CSIS and local police forces executed raids across the province, resulting in the arrests of 17 alleged terror suspects from around Metro Toronto and Kingston. Also seized was three tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which police officials allege was to be used in the creation of truck bombs.

Days after the raid hit the front pages of newspapers and was featured front and centre on newscasts around the world, the call came for “tough new restrictions” on the sale of ammonium nitrate in Canada.

So far, nothing concrete has been released suggesting how any “tough new restrictions” may affect Canada’s horticultural and agricultural industries, although some have suggested it may take an approach similar to that currently used for pesticides, namely a licence or certificate will be required to purchase fertilizers. Of course, this scenario brings many questions to mind, including how will the licences or certificates be granted, what criteria will need to be met to obtain a certificate, will there be an expiry date attached to the licence, or, as is usually the case with new legislation affecting agriculture, a cost?

The potential for certain types of fertilizer to be used as explosives has been known for years. It would be impossible to grow up on a farm and not know this. I spent many a winter by the fireplace as a child listening to stories of tree stumps and groundhog holes packed with gas, a few handfuls of fertilizer and a long fuse. I also have a fuzzy recollection of a tennis ball cannon constructed by my brothers, which used to fire with an ear-shattering bang. My neighbour recently regaled me with a story of his first teenaged experience with the explosive nature of fertilizer when he discarded a cigarette butt on a fertilizer pile and watched with amazement the resulting sparks and crackles.

None of this is new. But what appears to be recent is people’s willingness to stoop to extreme and immoral means to make a point. I can recall a time when if the government made a decision you didn’t agree with, you complained to your local representative or protested in front of Queen’s Park or the Parliament Buildings. Now, people seem to find it necessary to set themselves on fire, kidnap or hurt others or even construct homemade explosive devices to have their views heard (actions which I in no way, shape or form condone).

Adding to the frenzy is society’s need to control anything that could possibly, slightly, even accidentally, be used to kill or injure others. Be it guns, cars, fertilizers or pit bull-like dogs, it seems people now believe everything has become a hazard and must be registered, licenced, controlled or banned in order for everyone to be safe. It makes one wonder what will be next – the destruction of all pointy sticks and elimination of slippery floor surfaces?

Whatever happened to responsibility, be it personal or societal? If a strange person comes into the local fertilizer store and orders 3,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate to be delivered to an urban address, knows nothing about agriculture and pays cash, that could be a warning sign that something isn’t right. If your dog is really aggressive and has bit your neighbour’s 12-year-old, that’s a pretty good sign it can’t be trusted and should be either given away to an adult who can properly handle it or put to sleep. It all seems like common sense.

Placing unrealistic and restrictive barriers on items, such as fertilizers, doesn’t really solve the problem. If someone is committed to doing something illegal or immoral, they’ll find someway to get their hands on what they need, including ammonium nitrate. And the ones who actually have a need for this important tool in plant production and play by the rules will be the ones to pay the price.

Letter to the Editor

Good morning Margaret,
My compliments on the article in the April Fruit & Vegetable Magazine regarding the Food Safety Symposium (page 2, Editorial – Introducing ISO 22000). A co-worker of mine, Randall Boyle, actually presented there but, being out of town, I was unable to attend. As the Development Manager for Food Safety at QMI, this area is one of my main focus points, QMI, by the way, is a division of the Canadian Standards Association. CSA is typically involved in the development of standards while QMI is the arm that provides the certification and auditing portion.

Your article was well written, covering the need for a harmonized standard that is more easily applied to the entire food industry, yet that recognizes the requirements of the farm side and their specific needs.

If there is anything I can do in the way of food safety standards or certification for you or your magazine, just let me know.
John Kukoly, Development
Manager – Food Safety, QMI

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