Reward doubled for information on P.E.I. potato sabotage
On October 2, an undisclosed number of darning needles were found in potatoes by workers at the Cavendish Farms plant in New Annan. The plant immediately stopped operations and soon the potatoes were traced to Linkletter Farms, The family-owned operation is one of the island's top potato producers and has roots in Summerside dating back to 1783.
"If there is anything good that can be said to come from this mess, it is the sense of solidarity everyone has shown us," Gary Linkletter, one of the co-owners of the farm said. "Hopefully the reward will help to identify the culprit and bring this tampering episode to an end." The product tampering case caused a huge recall of over 800,000lb (363,000kg) of potatoes, resulting in the use of x-ray machines and metal detectors in finding any suspect potatoes.
The case took on greater significance when several potatoes turned up with darning needles in them in bags bought by consumers at stores in the Atlantic provinces. Since October, an additional 10 needles have been found in potatoes from Linkletter Farms. A disgruntled employee has been dismissed as a reason for the sabotage, but something else might be afoot.
Sharon Labchuk, a member of the Green Party of P.E.I. says she was called by the RCMP when the case first came up. “They spoke to me looking for tips, but not in an accusatory way,” Labchuk said. “Nobody I know would want to hurt a human being."
But she mentioned the rift over deep-water irrigation wells that exists between environmentalists and the billion-dollar-a-year potato industry on P.E.I. Robert Irving, the president of Cavendish Farms says his company is a major purchaser of P.E.I. potatoes. Back in June, he went before a legislative committee in Charlottetown, urging the provincial government to end the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells.
He threatened the committee, saying if they didn't rescind the moratorium, they would lose his business. "Irrigation provides higher crop yields, and better quality potatoes," Irving argued. Gary Linkletter also spoke at the legislative committee meeting, arguing that potato growers wanted a definitive answer to the question: "Were deep-water wells bad for the environment, or not?"
Labchuk, being an environmentalist, says, "Of course they are," referring to deep-water wells. Potato farmers have a different opinion, saying increased access to water for irrigation will help to increase production. It appears to be a stand-off. So, who would stick a darning needle into a potato? No one knows, for sure.