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

March 28th, 2007

Mama, Don't Let Your Boys Grow Up to Be Spermless

Apparently, you are what you eat and what your mother eats. A new study found that mothers who ate a lot of beef during pregnancy have a sperm count about 25% below normal. These men are also three times more likely to have a host of other fertility problems.

The study‚ researchers suggested that the fertility problems could be related to hormones routinely fed to cattle to fatten them up, or due to pesticides or other environmental contaminants. Feeding cattle these hormones is illegal in the European Union, a policy that has been vigorously contested by the United States.

Although this study‚ results need to be confirmed by additional research, it is one of many studies showing that even small amounts of added hormones, while previously purported to be harmless, are in fact affecting human health. The studies author suggested that pregnant women who wanted to be extra careful could switch to organic beef or another high-protein source.

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March 23rd, 2007

Corporate Water Day?

It’s been a quiet week here on the Food & Water Watch blog since we underwent an (entirely invisible) software upgrade that inadvertently caused several staff to be locked out.

Consequently, it is only after the fact that we could rail on Starbucks for co-opting World Water Day.

An initiative that grew out of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janerio, the UN General Assembly designated March 22nd “World Water Day” in 1992 to draw international attention to the critical lack of clean, safe drinking water worldwide.

In 2005, Starbucks, the world‚ largest coffee retailer, bought the three year old Ethos bottled water company, a business that sells bottled water to wealthy consumers (you’d have to be to spend $1.80 a bottle) with the promise of improving access to safe water in developing countries. We’ve blogged on this flawed premise before.

Now, Starbucks/Ethos registered WorldWaterDay.net and has been organizing public relations events with no discernible policy objective in dozens of cities around the country. Environmental groups called out polluting companies for greenwashing their images by sponsoring Earth Day when the environment went mainstream in the 1990‚. We should call out Starbucks for engaging on what this really is: a PR stunt.

Starbucks is not alone. Coca Cola has long been criticized for draining aquifers in developing countries and selling the water back to the people. They too have a PR campaign launched this week.

If you want to take meaningful action for World Water Day (even a day later), ask your member of Congress to reject President Bush‚ proposal to encourage privatization of U.S. water utilities.

You can also get the inside scoop on the international movement for water justice, by downloading our World Water Day edition of Defend the Global Commons, a quarterly magazine from Food & Water Watch. We think you’ll like the great new format. Click here to download it, print it out and spread the word!

To paraphrase . . . . us: Ethos’ slogan is “Every Bottle Makes a Difference” and they’re right. Every bottle drains ecosystems, creates waste in the form of plastic bottles, and uses large amounts of energy to bottle and transport a product that may not be any better than what comes out of your tap. More Problems With Bottled Water

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March 19th, 2007

Sustainable Seafood Knowledge Via Text Message

The wonderful world of text messaging just got a little bigger with the launching of a new service by Friend of the Sea. Consumers can now receive detailed information about a particular seafood‚ environmental status by sending a text message with the species name and Friend of the Sea will immediately respond with a comprehensive description of the most recent stock assessment and fishing method impact and selectivity.

If the fishery is sustainable, the system will say it‚ a good choice. If the fishery is unsustainable, the stock is depleted or on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, the consumer is informed about the conservation concerns regarding the fishery.

Although the concept itself is great, Friend of the Sea may not be the certification program that appropriately determines whether a fishery is sustainable or not. We are particularly concerned about any group that certifies farmed fish that are raised offshore. Yikes! The escapement of these confined fish alone is responsible for massive damage to wild fish stocks around the globe.

Still, this text service looks slightly better than the ones advertised on late night TV commercials that offer to send you a hilarious joke for 99 cents (‚you will be the funniest person in the room!”) or the pricier ones that promise to send a sexy message (Oooo baby.)

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March 13th, 2007

House Authorizes Critical Funding for Clean and Safe Water (H.R. 720)

Last week, hundreds of Food & Water Watch activists wrote their Members of Congress in favor of the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720). We’re happy to let you know that it passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, March 9, 303 to 108!

America‚ water will be cleaner and safer because of this critical funding for the nations pipes and treatment plants. The authorization of $14 billion over the next four years represents a critical first step in closing the $22 billion annual gap between available funds and what is needed to ensure that America‚ drinking water and freshwater sources meet minimum standards established by the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.

Congresswoman Edie Bernice Johnson, chair of the Water and Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure said

‚Unless we make the investment to improve local capacity for wastewater treatment, we stand to lose much of the progress we have achieved in cleaning up the nation‚ water thus far.”

Click here to see how your Representative voted. If they voted yeay, send them a note thanking them for their vote. If they voted no, let them know what you think.

Since an annual political battle over funding for something as basic to life as water makes no sense, Food & Water Watch is advocating for the creation of a national trustfund to provide dedicated funding for water.

Editors Note: Wondering why we put the bill number in the title? That’s how OpenCongress.org finds blog entries. You can track all your favorite legislation there whether food, water or fish.

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Councilmembers Choose Not to Get Up

Apparently there’s a little town council ruckus in Charlottetown (Prince Edwards Island, Canada) where citizens would like the council to take a stand against water commodification and for municipal water by abandoning the bottled water habit during council meetings. The deputy mayor’s response was “We could take a glass of water in because our water is just the best there is” . . . . but bottled water “saves from getting up.”

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March 12th, 2007

So it wasn't the box of cookies?

Proving our theory once again that pesticides are bad, there is new evidence that suggests that certain chemicals may help make people fat. Exposure to several chemicals used in pesticides, marine paints, and food & beverage containers may play a role in obesity, according to recent studies. The chemicals in the spotlight are ‚endocrine disruptors” (meaning they can mimic hormones) and appear to promote obesity.

So now, it‚ not just what you eat, but what you eat it in and how it was grown that may play a role in your waistline. Disturbingly, being exposed to these chemicals appears to have permanent effects on body metabolism. One scientist notes of one of the chemicals in question, “Once these genetic changes happen in utero, they are irreversible and with the individual for life.” Well, that‚ chilling.

The American Chemistry Council, unsurprisingly, says that these chemicals actually dont have any effect on human health. To which Professor Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri calls, in refreshingly unscientific language, ‚a blatant lie.” If you thought the organic movement was booming now, just imagine what will happen if people find out that pesticides make you fat…

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March 9th, 2007

Poisoning our Food and Killing the Coral

I came across some disturbing news today that reinforces all of the million reasons we already have to denounce irresponsible agriculture that uses pesticides and herbicides. Before this kind of food poisons our bodies, growing it poisons our land. And when it rains, that poison lands itself in our oceans and waterways. Read the full article…

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March 7th, 2007

A Jungle Cat in Cow‚ Clothing

When dozens of chickens are missing on a farm, it is easy to blame a wolf or, in this case, the dogs. Imagine the chagrin of farmer Ajit Ghosh when he discovered that it was his favorite calf that was devouring the chickens alive!

‚Instead of the dogs, we watched in horror as the calf, whom we had fondly named Lal, snuck into the coop and grabbed the little ones with the precision of a jungle cat,” Gour Ghosh, the brother, said.

There is a lesson to be learned here and I think we all know what that is. Um. Cows are people too? Stereotypes can be deceiving? Tastes like chicken? Whatever lesson you take from this, experts think there is medical reasoning for this behavior.

‚We think lack of vital minerals in the body is causing this behavior. We have taken a look and have asked doctors to look into the case immediately,” Mihir Satpathy, a district veterinary officer, said.

Im more inclined to believe that this is just a simple case of a jungle cat being trapped in a cow‚ body.

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March 6th, 2007

Tempers Boil Over Water in Paris

In our January issue of Aquabits, we reported on a story we found in The Times of London. A marketing campaign in Paris by the bottled water company Cristaline has city officials quite angry. Advertisements accusing tap water drinkers of saving money at the expense of their health and implying that they drink toilet water has been called “dishonest” by the city environment minister.

The president of the city water authority responded with a water taste test at a Paris café and accused the company of playing on “imaginary fears.” The Crystaline campaign came on the heels of a city effort to promoting eau du robinet (tap water) and reports of declining mineral water sales in France.

We’ve since learned that Paris has “decided to initiate a penal
procedure against the Cristaline company, for his publicity campaign
which undermines the image of the water of the tap and to the quality
of the public utility of water
.”

Water Steward Hoax Still Funny

If you missed the Penn & Teller sketch about bottled vs. tap water featuring an expensive L’eau du Robinet and you have a high speed internet connection, you may have another chance. Check it out.

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March 5th, 2007

Who Needs Antibiotics When We Can Have Cheap Hamburgers?

Despite warnings from the Federal Drug Administration‚ own expert advisors and major health groups that it would be dangerous to people, the government plans to approve a potent antibiotic for use on cattle.

More and more, health groups like the American Medical Association are alarmed at the use of antibiotics on food animals because of the antibiotic resistance that arises through such usage. The drug set to be approved, cefquinome, is one of a few last-of-the-line defenses in treating certain infections in humans. No other drug in its class has been approved to treat animals.

Many of the “supermicrobes” that have emerged through antibiotic use on animals have been a result of livestock producers feeding healthy animals antibiotics on a daily basis to make them gain weight faster and to ward off diseases common to their crowded conditions. (Basically, everything your pediatrician told you not to do with antibiotics.)

Yesterday‚ Washington Post article on the planned approval notes that FDA is set to approve the drug contrary to recommendations by its scientists, because the agency‚ drug approval policy ‚is more deferential to pharmaceutical companies than is recommended by the World Health Organization.” That‚ nice. If only antibiotic resistance could be confined to the people who profit from it.

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