Topic: Advocates demand Ontario shut down farms as COVID-19 cases rise among temporary foreign workers
A farm in Windsor-Essex, Ontario, has been linked to 175 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, leading to advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers demanding Ontario shut down the agricultural sector entirely “until adequate sanitation and safety measures can be implemented,” CTV News writer Nicole Bogart reports. Justice for Migrant Workers reports that more than 1,000 agricultural workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Ontario since the pandemic started. Most recently, two temporary foreign workers from Mexico in the Windsor-Essex region died from COVID-19; a third temporary foreign worker employed on a farm near Simcoe, Ontario, also died after testing positive. Justice for Migrant Workers spokesperson Chris Ramsaroop tells CTV News: “‘Our message to provincial and federal politicians – stop murdering migrants by your inactions.'” The advocacy group recommends that the government its three-point plan to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 on farms to ensue all workers that tested positive are quarantined, even if they are asymptomatic. The group also wants workers put into hotels and provided with individual rooms to prevent further spread of the disease.
Topic: Hacking of Nortel and rise of Huawei
Bloomberg Businessweek writer Natalie Obiko Pearson documents the fall of telecom equipment manufacturing giant Nortel Networks Corp following a breach by hackers located in China and the subsequent rise of Huawei. In 2004, roughly 800 documents—including PowerPoint presentations from customer meetings, an analysis of recent sales loss, and design details for an American communication network—were relayed to an IP address registered to the front company Shanghai Faxian Corp. The documents were retrieved by hackers stealing the password of Nortel’s chief executive officer Frank Dunn along with the passwords of six others from Nortel’s optical unit. Brian Shields, part of the five-person team that investigated the breach, and others that have looked into the case “have a strong suspicion it was the Chinese government, which weakened a key Western rival as it promoted its own technology champion,s including Huawei Technologies Co.” Huawei denies any allegations of their awareness of or involvement in the espionage, stating: “‘None of Huawei’s products or technologies have been developed through improper or nefarious means.'” The Nortel hack coincided with Huawei’s rise in power, with Pearson writing that “[Huawei] poached Nortel’s biggest customers and, eventually, hired away the researchers who would give it the lead in 5G networks.” Pearson states that “Huawei’s real power lies in its control over the plumbing of the Digital Age,” citing the company’s strategies over the years as a low-cost competitor among bigger established telecom companies. Huawei has been repeatedly accused of intellectual property theft and was charged with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets by the US Department of Justice earlier in 2020.
Topic: Industry analysts expect decline in US corn plantings
Industry analysts expected an unusually large decline in US corn plantings following Tuesday, July 6, 2020 when the US government revealed the results of its second acreage survey of the season. Earlier in 2020, the market was surprised when the US Department of Agriculture’s March survey suggested that 97 million acres of corn would be planted, an eight-year high. Analysts see corn plantings at 95.2 million acres, down 1.8% from March. The predominant reasons behind this decline are the multiple unplanted acres in North Dakota and the potential for farmers to switch to other crops, such as soy. US farmers planted their 2020 corn crop with new-crop December futures at their lowest levels for the time of the year since 2006.
Topic: Mexico resumes sending workers after COVID-19 protection deal
The death of two temporary foreign workers from Mexico and the high number of COVID-19 cases among farm workers led the Mexican government to temporarily halt the supply of workers to Canadian farms. The Mexican government has struck a deal with Ottawa to increased COVID-19 protections, including increased inspections and more support for Mexican officials and workers to identify and report unsafe working conditions. In a June 20, 2020 press release, the Mexican government announced “the deal is evidence of the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries.”
Topic: Ontario farmers concerned for dying crops amid drought
Farmers in Ontario are struggling with dying crops due to extreme heat throughout the province. While farmers are concerned for their yield, Agriculture Canada agroclimate specialist Traevor Hadwen reports that the mild drought caused by the heat “hasn’t reached a critical point yet.” Hadwen does not anticipate significant yield losses from the heat wave in the Greater Toronto Area but is concerned for farmers out east.
Topic: Migrant workers in Canada stage multi-city protest, call for increased COVID-19 protections
Temporary foreign workers, care workers, international students, and undocumented workers who have worked throughout the pandemic as essential workers staged a multi-city protest across Canada on Saturday, July 4, 2020. The protests called on Ottawa to grant them greater rights and protections, as many migrant or undocumented workers and asylum-seekers who have lost employment due to the pandemic are ineligible for emergency income support. Executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change Syed Hussan states that “‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis,'” referring to the way Canada’s labour laws, social services, health care, and education systems offer different levels of access to non-permanent residents. The federal Liberals have stated they are working on a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers working health care during the pandemic but Hussan says “the government should commit to regularizing the status of all non-permanent residents, not just a select few.”
Topic: Tyson faces lawsuit for allegedly lying about outbreak
The families of three workers who died of COVID-19 at the Warloo, Iowa plant of Tyson have filed a lawsuit claiming that managers lied about the spread of COVID-19 at the plant, that the company failed to enforce adequate workplace safety measures, and that supervisors allowed or encouraged symptomatic and sick workers to keep working. The lawsuit alleges that symptomatic workers were not sent home and that Tyson failed to implement social distancing measures; some employees were incentivized to continue working “via $500 ‘thank you’ bonuses promised to workers who showed up for every scheduled shift over a three-month period.” In an interview with a legal export, The Counter reports that “Covid-19 related wrongful death suits are likely to be tossed” due to companies being shielded from directly paying employees’ medical bills by the workers’ compensation system, so long as companies met federal standard guiding companies’ responses to COVID-19. A Tyson spokesperson told the Associated Press that the company’s safety practices “met and exceeded federal standards.” In response, Counter writer H Claire Brown notes: “Federal standards guiding companies’ response to COVID-19 have been notably lax, and recommendations for meatpackers remain optional.” Tyson disclosed on Saturday, 27 June, 2020 that 371 employees at a chicken processing plant in Missouri had tested positive for COVID-19 despite the company’s assurances that its plants are adhering to federal safety guidance.
Topic: Bayer introduces new crops resistant to five herbicides
Despite long-standing controversy surrounding two of Bayer’s herbicides, Roundup and dicamba (the active ingredient in Bayer’s XtendiMax herbicide), Bayer has forged ahead with new products “that are likely to increase the use of the very same—and additional—herbicides,” Civil Eats writer Lisa Held reports. The US Department of Agriculture is currently considering the approval of a genetically engineered variety of corn, MON 87429, developed by Bayer that would be resistant to at least five herbicides at once, which include glyphosate and dicamba. This new variety of corn would be bred with other hybrid varieties to produce seeds that will grow despite being sprayed by glyphosate, dicamba, 2,4-D, quizalofop, and glufosinate. The major concern around introducing new herbicide-resistant crops is that they will likely lead to an increase in the amount of herbicides farmers apply to their crops. Bayer argues that MON 87429 maize “will offer growers multiple choices for effective weed management, including tough-to-control and herbicide-resistant broadleaf and grass weeds.”