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May, 2006 | Food & Water Watch
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Blog Posts: May 2006

May 26th, 2006

Let's Make a Deal

Early this week, a powerful faction of the U.S. wild shrimping industry decided to cut a deal with their traditional foes in Ecuador. After fighting for years against cheap (often below cost) imports of tropical shrimp, the SSA broke free from a larger coalition of domestic shrimpers to accept direct compensation from the Ecuadorian shrimp company NIRSA. In exchange for sending 2% of their profits north to the SSA, the SSA has agreed to remove NIRSA from a list of importers thought to be dumping shrimp in the US market.

So, not only is NIRSA off the hook for dumping, but once again a foreign multinational has managed to buy its way out of playing by the rules. As a result, consumers and the environment will be left footing the bill for increased imports of cheap, farmed shrimp, often contaminated with illegal drugs and chemicals and complicit in the destruction of our vital estuary and mangrove forests.

What sounds like a good deal for big business, doesnt sound like such a good deal for the rest of us.

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May 25th, 2006

Maybe You Want That Milkshake Organic

Walk into any mall in America, and youre likely to be confronted with legions of twin strollers. The rise in twin births since 1975 is partially attributed to the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and older mothers, who are more likely to have twins. However, an intriguing new study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine suggests a link between diet and the high twinning rate.

In the study, women who consume dairy are five times more likely to have twins than vegan women. Surprising? The author, Dr. Steinman, notes ‚insulin-like growth factor (IGF)” may be responsible. This protein is naturally released in animals and humans, and is increased in cows when they are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone to make them produce more milk.

Studies have shown that vegan women have about 13 percent less IGF in their blood than do women who consume dairy products. Steinman suggests that recombinant bovine growth hormone may be partially causing the rise of twin births in the U.S.A., noting ‚whereas the twinning rate in the UK (where BST is banned) rose by 16% between 1992 and 2001, it increased by 32% in the USA.” Now, does this mean that rBGH could be held responsible for Mary-Kate and Ashley?

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May 19th, 2006

Once Ethan Hawke Got Involved, Agribusiness Got Nervous

Fast Food Nation the movie has the food industry on their toes

Eric Schlosser‚ award-winning and eye-opening book Fast Food Nation is premiering in movie version today at the Cannes Film Festival. Fast Food Nation examines how contaminated meat ends up in a fast food restaurant (the subtly titled “Mickey‚”),by tracing the meat back to the immigrant-staffed slaughterhouse from which it originated. Billed as an investigation into ‚ the dark side of the All-American meal”, this movie features Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Avril Lavigne (really?), and Wilmer Valderrama.
The prospect of a widely seen movie that details the horrible impact of slaughterhouse conditions on workers, cows, and consumers has the food industry in a bit of a tizzy. So much so that they have created ‚Best Food Nation,” a website that celebrates ‚our safe, abundant, affordable food system.” The site gamely attempts to debunk the ideas that‚ fast food offers dead end jobs” and‚ packing plant workers are routinely injured”, but uh, the food industry has their work cut out for them refuting those claims.
Keep your eye out for Fast Food Nation to come to a movie theater near you.

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May 18th, 2006

Care for an iceberg in your water?

Thames Water, repeatedly named Britain‚ worst polluter, has landed on a genius idea: To alleviate severe water shortages, England‚ biggest water supplier is toying with the idea of lugging massive icebergs from the Arctic to London. As if global warming wasnt doing enough damage to our icebergs and glaciers!

‚We have to look at any possible alternative, including towing icebergs from the Arctic and seeding rain clouds,”
Richard Aylard, of Thames Water, said, according to The Times newspaper.

The Times reported that ‚Thames Water has not established whether icebergs from Greenland or northern Scandinavia would be the more appropriate.”

How about neither? Thames has a history of losing massive amounts of water from its system due to delays in fixing the aging pipes.

BBC News reported in 2005 that Thames sheds 915 million liters of water every day, ‚enough to fill 366 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

Maybe Thames Water should fix a few leaks before the corporation starts melting icebergs.

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May 17th, 2006

California Court Shoots Down Mercury Labeling for Canned Tuna

On Friday, May 12, a California court sided with the tuna industry in a suit filed by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer that would require the labeling of canned tuna for potential mercury content.

Lockyer‚ suit was filed on the heals of a March 2004 recommendation by the EPA and FDA that pregnant and nursing women, women of childbearing age and young children not consume more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna a week, in light of significant mercury levels found in the fish.

Because prenatal and infant exposure to mercury is a known health risk, Lockyer hoped to mandate labels indicating that tuna may contain mercury levels high enough to be of concern for certain segments of the population.

While we all know about Omega-3s and other health benefits related to fish consumption (which makes us want to eat more) it seems that consumers have a right to know about some of the dangers as well (even if it means we might eat less).

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May 15th, 2006

Water Baron missed out on Writing 101

From book reports to dissertations, one of the cardinal rules of good writing that we learn in school is the art of citation. If you want to say something, you better have the evidence to back it up.

Apparently the folks at California American Water, a subsidiary of German conglomerate RWE, feel those rules dont apply to them. On a recent flyer mailed to customers—full of misinformation about a citizens campaign to reclaim local ownership of water—the small print at the bottom of the page carried this revealing disclaimer:

‚This summary was prepared as an aid only. All facts should be independently verified prior to use.”

Looks like truth and fact-checking arent part of the job description for water profiteers.

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May 12th, 2006

Food Irradiation- Next Up: Farmed Fish

The following is our second update from the World Aquaculture Society Meeting in Florence, Italy, where FWW Director Wenonah Hauter has been getting the skinny on the future of industrial fish farming.

“Though Dr. George Flick Jr. couldn’t come to the conference we were fortunate enough to have his paper presented anyway. More double talk , post harvest treatments, think I have heard this before about beef, chicken, and pork. But, once again they have to trot out irradiation as the answer to the world‚ food safety problems. Plus it delivers shelf life too.

Why is it that every time the lies about food irradiation get told, they get bigger. With meat we heard that the research has been going on for 50 years. But at this conference we learn that it‚ been going on since the 1930s. Of course the truth is that the U.S. Army started the research in the late 1950s and it went on until the late 1960s. Today we heard that they never found any health problems. The reality is that they found many, many health problems.

The National Fisheries Institute was credited with pushing irradiation and getting support from the FDA. However, Flick‚ paper did say that consumer acceptance was poor, “which is about the only truth we heard about irradiation.”

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May 11th, 2006

Poultry Farms and Aquaculture- More in Common Than We Thought

This week in Florence, Italy, many of the world‚ most powerful aquaculture advocates have gathered to discuss the state of the industry. FWW’s Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter is there and sends us this report:‚Here in Florence the contradictions between traditional, low-impact food production methods and the aspirations of the global aquaculture industry are glaring.

Today‚ conference started out with a presentation by an expert from the poultry industry on the parallels between industrial poultry production and fish farming.

Im sure the conference planners never dreamed that avian flu would crop up in a meeting about aquaculture and create all sorts of questions about factory farming. One Dr. Flock (no kidding) did happen to mention that the poultry industry has become so concentrated that avian flu is a real concern.

And if I only had a dollar for every reference to ‚sustainability.” There is a lot of “1984″ type talk at this conference. One of the keynote speakers gave a talk on ‚nutrient loading” from caged fish , otherwise known as biological pollution from fish farms. His recommendation for coping with this pollution was dilution. Yikes. Sounds like the same old story.

We also listened to a representative from NOAA brag about how good a job they are doing lobbying for S. ll95. Nice to see our tax money is at work.”

Thanks for the update Wenonah. We look forward to hearing more.

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May 10th, 2006

Death penalty for polluting water?!

Malaysia is debating a contentious new Water Services Industry bill in a drive for more privatization of water. The bill faces strong opposition from many sectors in the country. Adding to the controversy is a new proposal: the death penalty for people who cause serious water contamination.

As privatization of water has failed on every continent, and only caused further obstacles for people to get access to clean and affordable water, it appears the Malaysian debate is deadly however one approaches it. Read Asia Times coverage in ‚Malaysian water a matter of life and death”

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May 5th, 2006

Bigger… More

To meet consumer‚ seemingly insatiable appetite for shrimp, one of the world‚ largest industrial aquaculture groups, Charoen Pokphand Foods, or CPF, announced plans this month for a new $51.3 million hatchery and shrimp farm in Thailand‚ Trat province.

What does this mean for consumers? Well, more “cheap” shrimp, for starters. But for the rest of the planet, it means the destruction of mangrove forest, increased freshwater depletion and the further reduction of access to the sea for local fishing communities who use the mangrove as a point of entry for fishing. Not to mention the antibiotics often used to keep these shrimp healthy in their cramped ponds, or the unsustainable use of wild fish for shrimp feed.

When you factor all that in, just how cheap are these shrimp?

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