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

June 29th, 2007

Reporting from the First Ever U.S. Social Forum

Welcome to Issue 3 of the Food & Water Watch Podcast. This week, we’re podcasting from the first ever U.S. Social Forum, taking place June 27 – July 1 in Atlanta Georgia. We hear from Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch Patty Lovera about food-related events at the Social Forum, and cover the release of a new report on Bottled Water, titled “Take Back the Tap: Why Choosing Tap Water Over Bottled Water is Better for Your Health, Your Pocketbook, and the Environment.

The Food & Water Watch podcast is updated each Friday. Tune in each week for news on the fight to stop corporate control of food and water.

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Farm Bill Provision Threatens States Rights

Just when you thought that we were totally pre-occupied by problems with bottled water and imported seafood (NY Times story), we raise the alarm on a terrible provision that may get attached to the Farm Bill!

Ya see, Congress is considering something called Section 123 which would take away the rights of state and local governments to make stronger food safety laws than the federal government! Someone knows that food safety and sustainable farming advocates have worked for strong state and local food safety laws specifically because because the federal government consistently lags behind when it comes to regulating controversial food production methods.

The use of carbon monoxide to enhance the color of packaged meat products is just one example of how detrimental this provision could be. Several state and local jurisdictions have been considering legislation to prohibit the use of this deceptive practice.  Section 123 would block such protections.

Don’t let Congress undo the progress made at the state and local levels. Please tell your representative to make sure that the provision called Section 123 does NOT make it into the Farm Bill!

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June 22nd, 2007

COOL, IceRocks and Bolivia

Welcome to issue two of the Food & Water Watch podcast. This week, the USDA re-opens a sixty-day comment period for long-overdue country-of-origin labeling for foods; a coalition of civil society organizations from around the world support Bolivia’s withdrawal from the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes; and IceRocks head to South Africa.

The Food & Water Watch podcast is updated each Friday. Tune in each week for news on the fight to stop corporate control of food and water.

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June 20th, 2007

Celebrity Water Smackdown?

It’s not often that Food & Water Watch makes celebrity news but
what with the famous and fashionable taking a stand against or
endorsing bottled water, maybe we will.

 

Last week, our own Victoria Kaplan was quoted in a story in Radar Magazine
about Jennifer Aniston’s recent endorsement of a designer bottled water. 

“Consumers are waking up to the myth of bottled water, despite
celebrity endorsement,” says Kaplan. With 86 percent of bottles being
tossed rather than recycled, Aniston is making a political statement,
whether she knows it or not, Kaplan says.

 

We would much rather have seen the former Friend follow the lead of another alum of a popular television series set in the big apple.  Earlier this spring, former Sex in the City star Sarah Jessica Parker endorsed a campaign to promote tap water and raise money for UNICEF.

SmartWater, now owned by Coca Cola, claims to sell “purity you can taste” and bashes the “random stuff from the ground” found in other water  , you know, minerals like calcium.  It’s basically distilled water , water that’s been boiled to a vapor leaving the salts and minerals behind , and then had electrolytes added , read: salts. hmm.

Since celebrity endorsed water costs $5.12 a gallon at the supermarket near our office, we think that the smart thing to do would be to spend less than a tenth of a cent to drink a glass of tap water, perhaps even filtered for that taste of purity.

Stay tuned to the Food & Water Watch website next week for our new report on why choosing tap water over bottled water is better for your health, your pocketbook and the environment.

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June 15th, 2007

Fish Farming, Toothpaste and Bottled Water

Today we launch the first issue of our new Food & Water Watch podcast. This week, the Bush administration introduces a Senate bill promoting industrial-scale fish farming; toothpaste joins a long list of food items being recalled this year due to safety concerns; and cities and restaurants make waves as they lead the charge against bottled water.

The Food & Water Watch podcast is updated each Friday. Tune in each week for news on the fight to stop corporate control of food and water.

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June 14th, 2007

Challenging Corporate Investor Rule

In May 2007, the government of Bolivia took a bold step and withdrew from the World Bank‘s undemocratic court for investment disputes (see Huffington Post article). The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID, is an undemocratic institution that allows the world’s largest corporations to sue poor countries for millions of dollars.

In the 1990s the World Bank orchestrated a contract for Bechtel, the U.S. engineering corporation, to operate the water system in city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Within weeks of taking over the water system, Bechtel raised rates as high as 200%, forcing poor families to choose between water and food. Citizens organized mass protests, leading the government to end the contract. Bechtel sued the government of Bolivia for $25 million dollars, despite having invested only $1 million in the water system. The court ruled in Bolivia’s favor, but the government believes that the cards are stacked against poor countries.

Organizations around the world, like Food & Water Watch, Global Exchange, and the World Development Movement, are sending a joint letter of support for Bolivia’s decision to ICSID’s Secretary-General, Ana Palacios, and the new president of the World Bank.

You can join them by sending your own email right now. Click here

For in-depth information on ICSID, download Food & Water Watch’s new report Challenging Corporate Investor Rule.

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June 13th, 2007

Water News Wednesday

The Good:

  • Another restaurant bags bottled water. Citing high fuel charges as a contributing factor, Bayside Restaurant in Westport recently joined the growing trend in upscale restaurants eliminating bottled water from their menu for environmental reasons. (Boston Herald)
  • Another town sets a good example. Ann Arbor, Michigan will no longer buy bottled water or serve it at city functions thanks to a recent city council resolution.  Officials will instead, drink their own excellent public water.  (Metro Media)

The Bad:

  • In defense of their food safety record (hmm), China points out that French bottled water contains too much bacteria. So there. (LA Times)
  • NPR paints a rosy picture of bottled water waste. Glossing over the fact that nearly 80% of beverage containers end up in incinerators and landfills, NPR traces the recycling path of a bottle of water in it‚ series on water issues this week. (NPR)

And, The Ugly:

  • It‚ so bad they want to drink sea water. Water shortage caused by pollution and drought has caused China, possibly the next frontier in water privatization, to look to costly and energy intensive desalination to meet water needs. (Reuters)
  • Beverage companies spend big bucks to derail updated bottle bill in New York. Most bottle deposit laws around the country only apply to carbonated beverages.  They were passed in the 1970‚ and early 1980‚ when bottled waters and other non-carbonated beverages were a tiny segment of the market. Today, the story is different and bottled water is one of the fastest growing segments of beverage industry products.  Non-deposit bottles are redeemed and recycled at a much lower rate than deposit bottles.  Still, the beverage industry is fighting tooth, nail, and, according to the Albany Times Union, pocketbook to prevent an updated bottled deposit law in New York state.  (Times Union)
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June 8th, 2007

On Farmers and Food Stamps

In addition to setting agriculture policy, containing enormous subsidies for agribusiness (and little subsidies for good stuff), and occasionally undermining irradiated food labeling, the Farm Bill also sets policy for the school lunch program and food stamps.

In the weeks leading up to the Congressional debate on the Farm Bill Nutrition Title, several congress people have engaged in public experiments at eating on a food stamp budget (See: The Wonkette on Tim Ryan’s (D- )off-food stamp slip, The Sun Chronicle on Jame McGovern’s (D-MA) week, or The Queens Tribune on Eric Giola’s (D-NY) two pound weight gain while hungry experience).

For years now, conventional wisdom has held both that 1) due to a dearth of supermarkets and farmer‚ markets in poor neighborhoods and the plethora of high-markup convenience food stores, it‚ more expensive to eat if you are poor to begin with and 2) that it‚ more expensive to eat organic and local.  While that first one is pretty true, the second one is not.

What‚ really expensive is processed food, whether organic or not (especially if you are pricing nutrients rather than pure calories).  Supporting your local farmer, who may also be organic or at least farm less intensively than big ag, through farmer‚ markets or subscription programs like community supported agriculture (CSA) is highly economical.  A group of students at Seattle University recently found that farmer‚ markets were even cheaper than the supermarket.  Unfortunately, in an attempt to improve food stamps by eliminating the stamps and giving out debit cards, USDA and the state agencies that administer food stamps made it much harder for recipients to shop at their local farmer‚ market.

One article on Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s food stamp challenge in the Washington Post pointed out that there are 86,872 food stamp recipients in the District of Columbia.  A quick search of the USDA website reveals that there is exactly one farmer‚ market with the capacity to accept debit cards from those potential customers.

There are a number of proposals to provide grant money to get debit machine technology for farmer‚ markets.  Additionally, there is great work being done by groups like Just Food to bring urban residents and farmers together by setting up CSAs.  Take a moment to check them out.

 

While you’re checking out websites, don’t miss this great slide show from Time Magazine titled What the World Eats.

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Podcast Fever

Today we are proud to present this teaser for the first ever Food and Water Watch podcast. Jon Keesecker will be your host.
 
Each week, the Food and Water Watch podcast will bring you highlights in the fight to stop corporate control of food and water. You will find news briefs and interviews with Food and Water Watch staff as we work with grassroots organizations and other allies around the world to ensure that food is local, sustainable, humane and chemical-free, and water is safe, affordable and publicly controlled.
 
Visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blog on Friday, June 15 for the first episode of the Food and Water Watch podcast. And join us as we take action to protect the food we eat and the water we drink.

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June 6th, 2007

Terminating Terminator Tech in Canada?

Finally moving to rein in a global corporate seed and chemical cadre out to own food from seed to plate, some members of Canada‚ parliament want to formally ban Terminator seed technology. This type of seed is genetically engineered to grow into plants that are sterile. If brought to market, this would relieve biotechnology behemoth Monsanto Corporation of the need to have its squads of lawyers and private investigators terrorize farmers in the process of enforcing its patents on crops engineered to resist insects and herbicides, namely RoundUp.

Related Article

With the Terminator technology, farmers who grow such crops would have to buy expensive new seed every season. And what of the many farmers , some of them growers of organic food that doesnt allow for genetic engineering , who have had to deal with more and more of genetically engineered traits contaminating their fields? They could be in big trouble. If the Terminator traits from one farmer‚ field of soybeans find their way into some specialty or organic soybeans, not only is the neighboring farmer likely out of luck in terms of selling those special beans, but she would be unable to save seed from the plants, as farmers have done for millennia. The seed would be sterile.

Terminator tech, like genetic engineering in general, is part of industrial agriculture. First came bigger and bigger machines. The synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides followed after World War II. Both, along with a big push from dysfunctional federal agriculture policy, allow farmers to grow more and more corn, soybeans, and other homogenous commodity crops that the transnational companies can neatly process, package, and ship anywhere and everywhere.

In this the latest stage of global, corporate-managed industrial agriculture, farmers are planting genetically modified crops that allow them to work even more land with less effort so that they can go to town to get a job because Monsanto charged them an arm and a leg for the seed, and Cargill pays them less for the crop than it costs to produce. A rather nice arrangement for the corporations.

So for Canada to consider banning at least the latest installment of genetic engineering is a good thing.

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