February, 2007 | Food & Water Watch
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Blog Posts: February 2007

February 26th, 2007

Volunteer Spotlight – Barbara Sprenger

Meet super citizen Barbara Sprenger of Felton, California. Barbara has served her communtiy as a water activist, school board member, and Santa Cruz County commissioner on youth issues. On top of being a mother and grandmother, Barbarais a successful entrepreneur as a builder of sustainable homes. We’re especially proud of her work fighting for public control of Felton’s water system. Soon after the private water company (RWE/American Water) proposed a 78% rate increase she became actively involved with Felton’s Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW). Barbara has served on FLOW’s Steering Committee and has been responsible for analyzing the economics of public ownership of the local water system. She was a key campaign strategist for Felton’s Measure W, a bond measure used to finance the public acquisition of the water system. Despite American Water’s blitz of advertising and lawsuits, Measure W passed with 76% of the vote!

Last year Barbara completed her master’s degree in public policy from the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at California State University at Monterey Bay. Her thesis explained why public ownership instead of corporate ownership of Felton’s water was a better option. Barbara is now a candidate for the California State Assembly. Barbara is an inspiration to citizens everywhere who are fighting the corporate takeover of food and water. Barbara advises,

“Local people — in their own backyard — can always win against a large multinational. They just have to be smarter, more tenacious, willing to personally connect with every neighbor — and just never give up!”

February 23rd, 2007

Kentucky Fried Crazy

Kentucky Fried Chicken made me throw up a little today. And it wasn’t because I ate too many greasy tortured birds out of a large paper bucket, but rather because the self-love back at corporate headquarters is becoming a tad hard to stomach.

KFC President Gregg Dedrick sent a personal letter to Pope Benedict XVI this week, asking him to bless KFC‚ new Fish Snacker sandwich. This is extremely exciting, as not only is Lenten season upon us, but this is the first time the world‚ most popular chicken restaurant chain is offering fish!!!! WAHOO!!!!!!!!

The Pope has yet to respond. We can only pray the sandwich will receive the blessing, as it is only 99 cents. Food that economical just reeks of quality.

The last time KFC‚ abounding self-love starting ailing me was upon reading that they are petitioning the United States Postal Service for a special Kentucky Fried Chicken postal stamp. Oh yes, they sure are.

Luckily my girl Pamela Anderson is all over this one.

Also helping me recover from the KFC-induced nausea is all the fun people who went through the trouble of giving KFC “the bird.” Call me immature. I don’t care. This is funny.

February 21st, 2007

This is Your Cow on Drugs

A potentially dangerous drug known as rBGH, may be circulating on the black market thanks to three brazen thieves who are still running free, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.The drug is dangerous because it increases a powerful hormone called IGF-1 that is linked with increased risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer in humans. Another potential danger associated with this substance is an increased risk of mastitis, a bacteria udder infection. While cows are most at risk of this infection, all humans with udders should beware. Also, this increase in udder infections has created an over usage of antibiotics potentially rendering them useless on humans.

The heist has cost E.J. deJong, a dairy farmer, $30,000 in damages.

“I believe it makes money using it,” said deJong, whose Hanford dairy is one of Kings County’s largest. “But now, with this theft, I’m going to have to discontinue it.”

One dairy cow interviewed by the press cant help but think that these three thieves are disgruntled dairy cows agitated by the horrible mastitis they are suffering due to the drug.

‚As if it‚ not enough that we have to deal with the cow tipping and the false perception that we are happy cows with unlimited pasture access! Having artificial hormones injected into us is the last straw. Im guessing that a few cows from a large California dairy were driven to this. You go girls!

: The thoughts and emotions conveyed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Food & Water Watch. Let it be known that FWW does not condone the theft of genetically engineered growth hormones or cow tipping.

February 16th, 2007

Only a Good Idea in GE's Imagination

This week, Mother Nature saw fit to evaporate a bunch of the ocean into clouds and then dump it in the form of snow over much of the United States. That snowfall will feed mountain streams or trickle into the bedrock and recharge aquifers when it melts this spring, part of the earth‚ hydrologic cycle that, among other things, turns ocean water into drinking water for people. But, there are some corporations that would rather eliminate Mother Nature as a middle(wo)man, oh, and have the taxpayer subsidize them to do it.

One of our staff nearly fell of the treadmill at the gym when GE‚ latest Eco-imagination green-washing* ad promoting taking the salt out of ocean water appeared on the TV monitor over head. The ad featuring exuberant Norwegian fishermen (see fishing) left out a few crucial facts.

Even the most expensive advertising firm can’t change the fact that the industry isn’t nearly as elegant as Mother Nature and desalination plants pose environmental threats to coastal ecosystems, are energy hogs, and are extremely expensive. What‚ more, there may be chemical byproducts of desalination left in drinking water that we aren’t even considering because the EPA‚ drinking water regulations were designed for the kinds of contaminants found in rivers and groundwater.

*No, they haven’t gotten the PCBs out of the Hudson yet.

February 14th, 2007

Only if It‚ Shaped Like an Armadillo

Well folks, it‚ Valentine‚ Day. So today, we will not trouble you with news of growth hormones and corn syrup and clones. Instead, let us speak of cake. Red velvet cake, to be specific, which is apparently all the rage in New York City. Is it the kitsch factor? The southern factor? No one knows what‚ fueling the trend, certainly not the professional chefs who speak of it with a hint of disdain, but red velvet cake is surging in popularity.

Ideally, the cake should be moist, made with cocoa, and deep red. We were particularly pleased to learn that many chefs are using beets, as opposed to a whole lotta red food coloring, to dye the cake. You may remember the cake from its appearance in Steel Magnolias, when someone‚ unfortunate relative had created a red velvet wedding cake in the shape of an armadillo, complete with gray icing.

Let us all now take a moment to think of the worst wedding cake and best Valentine‚ Day dessert weve experienced. (If you dont mind, I think Ill head off to the bakery now)

February 13th, 2007

Big Coal is Eating Up Texas… While We Eat Dirty Fish

Dallas, Texas Mayor Laura Miller is more than a little irritated.
>Texas, which already ranks number one in the nation in mercury emissions, is the next state to suffer from what Rolling Stone‚ Jeff Goodell so accurately calls a story of energy, corruption and greed. An electric-power company known as TXU has announced plans to build eleven new coal plants in Texas by 2011, doubling its current pollution. Congress is expected to crack down on global warming within the next five years, creating an industry rush to build over 150 new plants in hopes of being exempt from these new regulations. In addition to dumping hundreds of millions of tons of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere each year, coal fired power plants are by far the nation‚ largest unregulated source of mercury pollution, with the industry‚ pollution-related costs falling onto the shoulders of the public. And the public is tired of it. That‚ why TXU‚ John Wilder (who was the eleventh highest-paid executive in America in 2005) is meeting opposition from Laura Miller and citizens from more than thirty cities and towns in Texas.

What does this have to do with food? Sadly, a whole lot.

This year, in the most widespread survey of mercury in the nation‚ streams, researchers from Oregon State University and the EPA found mercury in every single fish of the 2,700 species analyzed. The fact that it was present in every single fish suggests an atmospheric source of the contaminant, proving the battle to protect our food supply relies heavily on the protection of our environment from corporate polluters like TXU. The health effects from mercury exposure are nothing to brush off, and consuming contaminated fish is the primary way people in the U.S. are exposed.

TXU and others like them try to greenwash our concerns away, sending toxicologists to city council meetings where they claim that mercury isnt really that bad. You know the story. But the more active we are in our opposition to this arrogance and greed, the better. Laura Miller‚ Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition, which will now have a voice in the permitting process, certainly speaks for all of us.

February 7th, 2007

Ice Cream Clones

On a bitter cold day in Washington, DC, more than 100 bovine activists braved the weather to protest the
move to allow milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring into the food supply. Organized by Ben & Jerrys’ the cows chanted Milk cows, not clones / I want real milk in my ice cream cone! Your intrepid FWW staff was there, fighting the good fight, while “hoove-ing” out flyers.

Behind the backdrop of the snow-covered Capitol, Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry‚ talked about how infuriated the socially minded company is over milk from cloned cows. Citing consumer distrust and opposition to the technology, as well as the higher rates of birth defects and miscarriages in clones, he strongly criticized the Food & Drug Administration for allowing such products into the U.S. food supply. Perhaps most alarming is that the FDA is unlikely to require the cloned meat and milk to be labeled, meaning consumers cant avoid it and scientists cant track any problems linked to it. (Please, don’t let the government ruin ice cream.)

Speaking of ice cream…

Salon.com reported that the company is making a Stephen Colbert flavored ice cream. Were thinking red, white, and blue. Perhaps with eagle candy?

Click here to watch video snippets from the festivities on YouTube.
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February 6th, 2007

Don Correll: A Well-Read Man

Hundreds of mayors from cities around the country converged on Washington, DC last month to press some flesh with their members of Congress during a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Executives from American Water, the country‚ largest private water company, were there in full force, making the standard pitch that handing over public water systems to their company would solve all a city’s water woes.

We happened to stumble into CEO Don Correll as he was leaving his presentation to the Mayors Water Council. We handed him a copy of our latest report, The Future of American Water , which he politely accepted, assuring us he had already read it cover to cover. (The report documents how mayors from Tennessee to Illinois to California are looking to leave American Water entirely, and bring local control and ownership to their communities water systems.) Since Mr. Correll enjoys reading, we wonder if he‚ had a chance to read the $7.6 million offer that Felton, CA recently made to buy its local water system from American Water?

In federal news, President Bush delivered his budget for fiscal year 2008 (runs Oct 08 to Oct 09) to Congress yesterday. Instead of increasing funding for water so cities like Felton wouldn’t be tempted to privatize for lack of money to replace pipes and treatment plants, the president would like change the tax code so private corporations (like American Water) could get tax free funding for water projects. Read our statement here or our Q&A on why this is a bad idea.

February 2nd, 2007

And the Award Goes To….. Wal Mart?!?!?!

Wal Mart. You may remember them from such things as violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, forcing employees to work off the clock, or denying their employees a wage that covers basic needs. Or perhaps you remember footing the bill for this outrageous greed. The Democratic Staff Of The Committee On Education And The Work Force found that Wal Mart employees were eligible for $2.5 billion dollars in federal assistance in 2004.

Or maybe you remember them as being that company which marks non-organic items as organic.

But that’s all besides the point. I mean, Wal Mart is an environmental steward after all. That’s why the increasingly industry driven Seafood Choices Alliance granted Wal Mart’s Peter Redmond the Seafood Champion award for his “outstanding leadership in promoting environmentally responsible seafood.” This is great news, as Wal Mart does so much to help the environment.

Between 2003 and 2005, state and federal environmental agencies have only had to fine Wal Mart $5 million!

In May 2004, Wal-Mart agreed to pay the largest settlement for stormwater violations in EPA history. The United States sued Wal-mart for violating the Clean Water Act in 9 states, calling for penalties of over $3.1 million and changes to Wal-Mart‚ building practices.

In 2004, Wal-Mart was fined $765,000 for violating Florida‚ petroleum storage tank laws at its automobile service centers. Wal-Mart failed to register its fuel tanks, failed to install devices that prevent overflow, did not perform monthly monitoring, lacked current technologies, and blocked state inspectors.

In 2005, Wal-Mart reached a $1.15 million settlement with the State of Connecticut for allowing improperly stored pesticides and other pollutants to pollute streams. This was the largest such settlement in state history.

In Georgia, Wal-Mart was fined about $150,000 in 2004 for water contamination.

The list goes on.

With this kind of great track record, it is only natural that they would receive so much praise from the seafood industry for championing environmental responsibility.

Congratulations Wally World!!! We sing your praises here at Food & Water Watch for being such a wonderful addition to every Main Street across America.

February 1st, 2007

Farm Bill Fun!

Every five years or so, this monstrosity of a policy, lovingly known as the farm bill, rears it‚ ugly head and pits congressperson vs. congressperson, grain farmer vs. vegetable farmer, Big Ag vs. family farms, et cetera, et cetera. Well, it‚ that time again. This year brings us the 2007 farm bill debate that is guaranteed to be just as complicated and frustrating as years past. We at Food & Water Watch would like to make this a more pleasant experience for you, so here is our easy-to-understand Farm Bill 101.

While we are certain this fact sheet will appease your thirst for farm bill knowledge, we would also like to offer up some other comprehensive help. The National Family Farm Coalition has some great ideas for the new farm bill. They stress Food Sovereignty as the means to building a ‚sustainable family farm system and a safe and healthy food supply” not only for the U.S but also for all nations.

If youd like even more juicy farm bill gossip, then do bookmark the new Building Sustainable Futures coalition website for information on how the farm bill could help beginning and minority farmers, farmworkers, and hungry people around the world.

Need even more information? You must be some kind of food freak. Want to come work for us? Just kiddingmaybe. Be sure to check Food & Water Watch‚ website often for updates because, as usual, were on top of farm bill happenings.

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