September 28th, 2007
Welcome to Issue 14 of SnackCast. Our fishing communities and oceans are in danger — but you can help. In this week’s podcast, we talk more about a law that was passed by Congress that would threaten our coastal communities and marine environment. We are joined by Food & Water Watch’s Konrad Fisher to learn more about this issue and what you can do to take action.
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September 27th, 2007
Next week, Food & Water Watch is releasing a new report about how lack of funding for aging sewer pipes and treatment plants in states around the country could mean we are heading for a public health crisis. Most of us don’t think that much about the sewer lines, unless a main breaks. But, but in many communities, sewers carry rain water as well as the nasty stuff and overflows from heavy storms spill 1.28 trillion gallons of waste, bacteria, and toxic chemicals into our waterways every year.
Not only is the problem serious, the problem is invisible. How would you know if a sewer was overflowing into your river? It seems that, unless your state or county has a law about it, no one is required to tell you. Are we depending on our sense of smell? That obviously doesn’t work because EPA estimates between 1.8 million and 3.5 million people get sick from swimming, fishing, or boating in sewage-contaminated water.
Last week, Senator Lautenburg (NJ) introduced a bill in the Senate (S. 2080) to match one introduced this spring by Representatives Bishop (NY) and Lobiondo (NJ) in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2452) to make sure you get notified. It’s called the Raw Sewage Overflow Right-to-Know Act. You can read a nice summary by OMBWatch here.
September 26th, 2007
Last week we bade farewell to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (flatteringly photographed to the right eating an irradiated mango from India) only to find he was being replaced by another big agribusiness champ, Chuck Conner.
Tom Philpott who writes for Grist and his own Bitter Greens Journal blogged on Connor’s background in 2005.
From 1997 to 2001, Conner served as president of the Corn Refiners Association.
ADM is the dominant corn refiner: As stated above, it buys 12 percent
of all field corn grown in the US, the country’s largest crop. And it
controls a third of the high-fructose corn syrup market, and about a
third of the market for ethanol. The corn-refining industry is so
highly concentrated that the association has only seven member companies, among them ADM and another shadowy agri-giant, privately held Cargill.
- Bitter Greens Journal, April 2005
But Conner has been around. Prior to his tenure with the corn refiners, Conner served as special assistant to the president for agricultural trade and Food Assistance in 2001 and was the lead player on the last farm bill. In fact, Connor was also a key staff person over at the Senate when the horrendous 1996 farm bill was written. For more on problems with ethanol and how the current farm subsidies structure benefits big ag at the expense of farmers, check out
- Bottom line: Expect business as usual at USDA
September 21st, 2007
Welcome to Issue 13 of SnackCast. On October 18th, one of the most important laws for protecting the environment and human health , the Clean Water Act , will be turning 35. However, America’s infrastructure is suffering from decades of neglect, and unfortunately federal funding for clean water has become an annual political battle. This week we will give you a preview of a new Food & Water Watch report that will focus on the need for a clean water trust fund to help America’s water infrastructure troubles, and provide you with information on how you can help.
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September 17th, 2007
Do you think Wal-Mart? Yeah, we don’t either. Earlier this month, the Big Box Collaborative announced the release of “Wal-Mart Sustainability Initiative: A Civil Society Critique” written by 23 organizations and analyzing Wal-Mart’s smoke in mirrors
sustainability initiatives. This report calls on Wal-Mart to reframe their sustainability efforts so that workers, the environment and communities are all respected. Here are a couple excerpts from the sections Food & Water Watch contributed:
Ultimately, food retailers like Wal-Mart need to pay producers a fair price for their products so our food supply is not coming entirely from the lowest cost producers in places with lax safety standards and no labor protections.
In 2006, Wal-Mart announced that is was dedicated to selling only sustainable seafood in North American stores within three to five years. . . . The company‚ foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, is funding Conservation International, which is collaborating with Wal-Mart and the [Marine Stewardship Council] to develop standards for sustainably sourced seafood. The reality is that it is impossible within the big-box model that Wal-Mart operates.
September 14th, 2007
Welcome to Issue 12 of SnackCast. This week’s podcast will tackle claims made by food & meat processing industries that blame the rise in grocery prices on the rise of corn prices. Yesterday Food & Water Watch released a report entitled Retail Realities: Corn Prices Do Not Drive Grocery Inflation, that delves into this issue. We will be joined by Patrick Woodall, a policy analyst for Food & Water Watch, who will talk more about his findings in the report.
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September 13th, 2007
Texas billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens is one step closer to depleting the Ogallala aquifer. For five years his company, Mesa Water, has been trying to siphon water from the aquifer – located in the Panhandle, to growing cities such as El Paso, Lubbock, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth. Last week Pickens was able to secure a November 6th election for the creation of a fresh water supply district in Roberts County, which would give Pickens free reign over all water use and distribution. Why will he get all the power? It turns out that there are only five people eligible to vote, and all either work for Pickens, support him and live within the proposed district‚ boundaries.
Ogallala is already severely depleted, and Pickens plans to pump and sell as much as 200,000 acre-feet/year (AFY). Just to give you an idea of how devastating this would be, the aquifer has a minimal recharge rate of less than one AFY. West Texas farmers rely heavily on the aquifer for water, and if Pickens acquires water rights to 50 more acres to the already 150 acres he owns, he could pump as much as 65 billion gallons of water a year.
A fresh water supply district would also allow Pickens to charge cities exorbitant prices for water , an estimated $1,400 per acre-foot for El Paso, $800 for Dallas, and more than $1,000 for San Antonio. No doubt these prices will trickle down to the citizens of these cities.
- Erin Greenfield
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September 12th, 2007
You know that Orville Redenbacher extra-buttery movie theater microwave popcorn you ate while watching your DVD rentals this weekend? Turns out that that very bag of yumminess is causing “popcorn lung” for the workers at ConAgra. Yep, that butter flavor is made possible by the chemical diacetyl and is responsible for severe lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans to be exact, in workers. The buttery aroma may even be toxic to consumers, too.
Matter of fact, lung specialist Dr. Cecile Rose recently diagnosed a consumer with “popcorn lung”. When Dr. Rose notified the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, advising them of the possibility that people who pop microwave corn at home can be at risk, the news apparently fell on deaf ears. So much so that the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) says that the failure of these agencies to respond lickety-split to this report indicates a “disturbing decline in our nation‚ public health system.”
Consumers have the right to eat food that wont make them sick. Unfortunately, the food industry often seeks to produce food in the cheapest and fastest way possible, but their methods can spread disease. What can you do about this phenomenon? For starters, you can peruse our information on food safety. And if you’re feeling particularly lively, go ahead and check out our action alerts to promote safe food and water. Sign up on our activist list to get notified of important decisions as they happen.
The good news is that ConAgra has decided to follow in the footsteps of Pop Weaver and eliminate the use of this ewey-gooey “butter” chemical. (But do check out our farm bill report for one or two other issues with the agribusiness giant, like how much they paid farmers for the corn.)
September 7th, 2007
Two news stories about Coca Cola were brought to our attention this week, both praising the company for good deeds. We’re not sure it’s so simple.
Headline: Company Buys Bottled Water for Residents After Tainting Groundwater
But, why the kudos, exactly? The company pollutes a bunch of wells and then agrees to make restitution (they are also supposed to be digging these folks new wells). It must be something about how were so used to companies being totally evil in that situation that when one does the basic minimum we get all excited.
(This isn’t Cokes only groundwater controversy, by the way.)
Headline: Coca-Cola Plans Huge Plant For Stepped-Up Recycling
Hard not to roll your eyes if you know that this is the same company that has historically opposed mandatory recycling and bottle deposit laws, reneged on a 1990 promise to use 25% recycled content, and holds some 40% of the market share in an industry empties 2 million plastic beverage bottles in the United States every five minutes. (Don’t miss Chris Jordan‚ astounding visual of this, also featured on our bottled water report).
We’re looking forward to the headline about how Coke plans to combat childhood obesity and the U.S. diabetes crisis with more high fructose corn syrup. Somehow voluntarily not marketing liquid candy to children doesn’t seem likely does it?
Welcome to the debut of SnackCast. In this issue, we debut our new podcast, SnackCast: Audio Food for Thought, and talk about our recent Starbucks victory. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter, joins us this week, and discusses the significance of Starbucks going 100% rBGH-free by the end of this year.
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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