June, 2006 | Food & Water Watch
Victory! Cleveland passes resolution against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. more wins »
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Blog Posts: June 2006

June 29th, 2006

A Far Cry from State of the Art

Open ocean fish farming is a scary thing. Not just because of all those hungry carnivorous fish all jammed into huge cages. Or because of the excess feed and pollution that flows freely out of the cages into the sea.

It is scary because we dont really have it figured out yet. The net pens are prone to storm damage, shark attacks, or other circumstances that may result in large-scale escapes of farmed fish.

In a recent statement to the publication Fish Farmer, the CEO of one of NOAA‚ showcase fish farms – Kona Blue – conceded that escapes do happen and though measures have been taken to remedy this: ‚The exact number of escaping fish is difficult to determine.”

The problem with these escapes is that the resulting genetic mixing stands to weaken wild fish populations if the farmed fish carry diseases or are bred to be stronger and bigger. This will make already at-risk populations even more vulnerable.

So, if this sort of ‚mystery” remains at one of the countries premiere open ocean fish farms, well, it just seems a little too soon to pass legislation endorsing this practice.

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June 28th, 2006

Dude, are you going to Organic Fest?

Imagine an island in the Asian Pacific where vegetables, sugarcane, rice and corn are grown without pesticides or genetic modification, where sustainable fisheries are managed responsibly, where animals graze freely outside and are not injected with artificial hormones. Now imagine a festival celebrating these practices. Nirvana? No. Negros.
Both Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental will be hosting its first ever Organic Farming Festival this July 13th-15th to promote organic farming on the island. The festival will showcase new technologies and strategies in organic food production to show that demand from the national government to increase production does not have to mean the demise of organic farms on the island. Among the issues discussed will be the success of organic farms in other areas of the province, the benefits of using organic fertilizer for soil, and how organic farming on the island will increase global competitiveness.
An island setting, delicious food, and a festival? Sounds pretty sweet to me.

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June 26th, 2006

Water Baron concedes defeat on front page of Wall Street Journal

‚It‚ a very local business.”

Harry Roels, CEO of one of the largest multinational corporations in the world, RWE, conceded this fact today in a Column One article on the failures of privatized water systems. It seems he‚ finally realizing something that people around the world have understood for millennia.

The story highlights the local campaign waged by residents of Felton, CA to bring local ownership and accountability to their water system. It‚ truly inspiring to see the hard work of so many people reaching millions of readers around the world.

Click here to read the story, Dry Hole: Great Expectations For Private Water Fail to Pan Out — Under Fire, Germany’s RWE Plans to Exit U.S. Market; Global Ambitions Thwarted — An Uprising in California Town.

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June 23rd, 2006

Whole Foods, Sustainability and Farm-Raised Shrimp

“Whole Foods Market’s vision of a sustainable future means our children and grandchildren will be living in a world that values human creativity, diversity, and individual choice. Businesses will harness human and material resources without devaluing the integrity of the individual or the planet’s ecosystems.” So says Whole Foods in its mission on Sustainability and Our Future.

This messaging is part of a larger initiative by the chain to green its image.

More directly, the retailer has recently agreed to post mercury warnings on its fish case, and also, last week, agreed to stop selling live lobsters; two pretty concrete steps towards ensuring better animal and human health and welfare.

We recently sent a note to the “green giant” asking them why they continue to sell imported farm-raised shrimp if they are so concerned with ensuring a sustainable future for our children.

We will let you know what they say when they write us back.

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June 21st, 2006

Whole Latte Action

Ready, set, go! As part of Starbucks Week of Action, Food & Water Watch and allies were out in full force at a DC Starbucks earlier this week. Starbucks Week of Action, from June 19th-25th, aims to urge Starbucks to buy milk made without recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) by leafleting customers directly. We handed out flyers urging Starbucks to go rBGH-free, hoping that a little direct pressure from their customers would get them to wake up and smell the coffee, so to speak. A number of customers expressed surprise that the company would use milk made with rBGH, and we even spoke with a breast cancer survivor who told us to keep up the good work.

Across the nation this week, people in 23 cities are flyering their local Starbucks, hoping the chain will be convinced to do the right thing and buy artificial hormone-free milk. From Brooklyn to Corpus Christi, Texas to Anchorage, the public is expressing their dismay over rBGH, which is banned in much of the industrialized world, harms cows, and may pose harm to people. Overall, it was a great first action in DC, and we look forward to the rest of the local events!

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June 20th, 2006

Ethos: It's Greek To Me

Pepsi recently joined in a partnership with Starbucks to distribute Ethos bottled water. Starbucks is literally singing the praises of this emerging bottled water company (check out the ridiculous song they recorded here). Starbucks bought Ethos Water a year ago for $8 million. The coffee giant has pledged to raise $10 million for sustainable, clean water projects over 5 years by donating 5 cents for every $1.80 bottle of Ethos Water to water programs in developing countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Honduras.

With Starbucks’ $495 million of annual profits and Pepsi’s 2005 revenues of over $32 billion, you would think these huge companies could be a little more generous. The goal of $10 million by 2010 is also only a small portion of the estimated $100 billion spent on bottled water each year.

While the Ethos’ intentions may be honorable, the bottled water industry is the ultimate privatization of this essential resource. Ethos’ slogan is “Every Bottle Makes a Difference” and they are right. Bottled water drains ecosystems, creates waste in the form of plastic bottles and uses large amounts of gas in the process of transportation. Additionally, the industry is not well regulated, meaning that it is usually no safer or cleaner than tap water.

Ethos’ website says that their water is taken from protected and sustainable springs in Pennsylvania and California, but who is ensuring that their practices are environmentally sound? It is truly ironic that Ethos is bottling and trading away water in an attempt to increase global access to safe water.

Learn more about the trouble with bottled water.

Learn more about Starbucks and corporate responsibility.

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June 19th, 2006

Behind the Lines

Executives of private water companies often say that their customers , not their stockholders — come first.

But put them in front of an audience of Wall Street investors, and far away from reporters’ microphones and notepads, and they sing an entirely different tune.

“Here‚ where the rubber meets the road: What is the return to the
shareholder?”

That was Anton C. “Tony” Garnier, vice chair of Los Angeles-based Southwest Water Co., which pulled in $200 million last year from 2 million customers in 11 states. Garnier has been on cruising, amassing stock options worth nearly $4 million.

Garnier was one of several water industry executives who pitched their companies to investors at “Profiting in the Water Industry: Tapping a Reservoir of Wealth,” held at New York City‚ palatial Harvard Club June 8.

Asking for money can be like drinking truth serum.

“The regulators have a way of getting into your pockets,” grumbled San Jose Water Co. President/CEO W. Richard “Rich” Roth, who still managed to collect more than $1 million in salary, bonuses and stock options last year.

“We blame it all on Erin Brokovich,” complained Floyd E. Wicks, CEO of American States Water Co. of San Dimas, CA, which he said was sued 22 times after the film about a crusading water pollution activist was released in 2000.

The best podium pot-shot of the day came from Garnier: “How do we take some of the market share away from government?” As if government officials were performing the same song-and-dance at the Yale Club three blocks away. These guys are so driven by profit that they think they’re in competition with the government. Are they oblivious to the fact that governments don’t think in terms of profits, stockholder dividends and market share?

Governments care about only one thing: delivering safe, clean water to their constituents as efficiently and affordably as possible. They should be permitted to continue to do so. Private industry is more than welcome to make as much money as it can on SUVs, satellite dishes and other non-essentials. They shouldn’t be able to do this with water.

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June 16th, 2006

From the Folks Who Brought You Offshore Drilling…

Remember this shot?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina we were inundated with images of chaos and destruction. Yet, this particular photograph- of an offshore oil rig driven into a bridge- really reminds us just how powerful these storms can be. So, that is one reason why we get a little worried when the oil industry talks about hooking up fish farms to these giant floating platforms. Besides the boatload of reasons why offshore aquaculture will not solve the world‚ fish protein deficit, anchoring net pens to oil rigs – well, you get the picture.

Unfortunately, however, the oil folks have done the math, and affixing fish farms to old rigs means oil companies dont have to pay to remove their decommissioned facilities. Since removing deep-sea oil rigs costs tens of millions of dollars, (unless of course a storm removes it for you), you can understand why they might be anxious to leave their rigs in the water.

Click here for more information of industrial fish farming.

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June 8th, 2006

World Oceans Day and Industrial Fish Farming?

What better day to discuss the future of industrial fish farming than World Oceans Day. In an effort to draw attention to the interconnectedness of our ocean ecosystems and thereby our human communities, June 8th has been designated an international day of action to preserve this vital resource.

And so, it seems appropriate that the Senate Commerce Committee should convene a hearing today on the perils of allowing industrial fish farming in our federal waters. While most of the witnesses seemed to agree that proposed legislation, S.1195 , will not sufficiently safeguard the health of our oceans, a representative of the industry stuck a different chord altogether. In his testimony, Dr. John MacMillan of the National Aquaculture Association cautioned: “We also should guard against efforts to create redundant new requirements, or mandate revision of current standards; as such steps will undermine any existing advantages.”

What does this mean in plain English? We dont need any new safeguards despite the fact that this industry is entirely unproven, as safeguards tend to cut into profits. Ah, once again we get to the heart of the matter.

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June 7th, 2006

Some Good Summer Reading

Summer is approaching. To many people, that means it’s time to get the grill in working order for barbeques. If you’re a meat lover, here are a couple of articles that you might be interested in:

Time Magazine has a new Eating Smart section. In particular, look at the article on The Grass Fed Revolution.

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