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

November 30th, 2007

Feast on Food Bits

Welcome to Issue 22 of SnackCast. In this issue we give you a taste of what’s going on with our food team, and the current issues they’re tackling. This week’s co-host is Sarah Alexander, senior organizer for the Food campaign, who will join the discussion about the Farm Bill, food safety with leafy greens, and rBGH milk. Sounds like a mouth full!

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November 27th, 2007

To be or not to be organic

When you think of organic food, you probably think of healthy, sustainable, and environmentally friendly food, labeled with a whole lot of “free” adjectives — pesticide-free, chemical-free, hormone-free you get the idea. But do you think of fish as organic?

This week, the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) — a part of the United States Department of Agriculture — will recommend allowing fish raised in aquaculture operations (otherwise known as fish farms) to be certified as organic and to carry the official USDA organic label. Specifically, the board will consider allowing the use of fishmeal from wild fish and open,net pens for fish raised in aquaculture facilities.

What does this mean for consumers? Well, it means that fish you eat from aquaculture facilities could be bad for your health and bad for the environment. Aquaculture feed is comprised of fishmeal and oil from wild fish, and commonly contains PCBs, dioxin, mercury, and other pollutants that are hazardous to human health. And, raising fish in open,net pens promotes pollution from fish waste, and can spread disease and parasites to wild fish populations.

Does this sound organic to you? Judging from this guy’s reaction, we’d say not.

Currently, the U.S. government wants to expand aquaculture into the open ocean (3 to 200 miles from shore), and have even more fish raised in environmentally unsustainable conditions. However, while the federal government has spent millions of dollars
funding offshore aquaculture research and demonstration projects on
both U.S. coasts and in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the commercial
viability of the fledgling industry has yet to be proven. Check out our new report Fishy Farms, The Problems with Open Ocean Aquaculture, which discusses this in more detail, and talks about how these commercial,scale fish farms will fail to meet basic organic criteria.

– Erin Greenfield
emailbio

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November 21st, 2007

Fabulous – and Local – Holiday Feasts

Last Friday, our Senators were unsuccessful in trying to force a vote on the Farm Bill. This leaves the Farm Bill languishing until after the Thanksgiving Holiday, along with our priorities on country-of-origin labeling, competition, and factory farms. Here’s hoping that Senators will be able to get their act together, and finally vote on the Farm Bill when they return.

But in the meantime, while youre basting that turkey, we thought wed give you something to digest during one of the biggest feasts of the year.

A few of our staff hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner, and invited friends to bring dishes made with local foods. There were many great dishes, and we decided to savor them forever in this cool film. We know youre still cooking, so why not watch our film about local foods, and get a few ideas for your own local holiday dinner.

So go ahead and decrease your food miles this holiday season. Buying local helps reduce global warming, and supports farmers and local economies. While we work nationally to create a healthy and safe food system, we can take small steps locally, starting with purchasing local food from farmers and farmers markets. To find a market near you, check out the Eat Well Guide. While you’re at it, take a moment to learn more about the importance of decreasing your fossil fuel usage in Climate Change: It’s What’s for Dinner and Fossil Fuels and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Industrial Agriculture.

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November 19th, 2007

Monsanto Cries Wolf

Within the past couple of years, dairies across the U.S., including California Dairies Inc., the nation‚ second largest dairy cooperative, have changed their policies to no longer accept milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH. Citing increased consumer demand for dairy products produced without artificial hormones, other large dairy processors, such as Tillamook Cheese and Ben & Jerry‚ have switched to rBGH-free milk.

The growing demand for artificial hormone-free milk has Monsanto, the biotechnology giant behind rBGH, worried. Recently, the company sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission asking them to restrict the practice of labeling milk rBGH-free. Luckily, the FDA and FTC sided with consumers by dismissing this request.

Have we heard the last from Monsanto on this issue? Eighty percent of consumers want rBGH-free milk labeled as such. It is also safe to say that the majority of consumers would want to know if the food they are eating comes from cloned animals or was genetically modified. Monsanto doesnt have a leg to stand on, right? Think again.

Given the recent ban on non-rBGH labels in Pennsylvania, one can assume that Monsanto has a new ally in the state‚ secretary of agriculture, Dennis Wolff. In October, Mr. Wolff decided to crack down on this kind of labeling because he believes ‚it confuses [consumers].” This only makes sense if your mantra is ‚ignorance is bliss.” Luckily, the average consumer believes they have the right to know. For the results of PA consumer vs. Big Ag, stay tuned.

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November 16th, 2007

Zapping Our Food, Killing Nutrition

Welcome to Issue 21 of SnackCast. Would you let your food be treated with radiation as powerful as one billion x-rays? In this issue, we explore food irradiation, or treating food with high doses of radiation under the veil of protecting consumers from foodborne illness.  Robert Schubert, director of research at Food & Water Watch, will talk about a new factsheet that explains why irradiation does not protect consumers, and what exactly happens when our food is treated with this questionable technology.

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November 15th, 2007

Cosmetic Surgery for Meat?

It seems that our meat is getting a botox treatment of sorts, and turning back the clock on aging. But would you want to eat meat that looks like it‚ three days old, when in fact it might be five weeks old? How about two YEARS old? At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, meat producers, government officials, and consumer groups—including Food & Water Watch—testified in front of a panel examining the process of treating meat and fish with carbon monoxide (CO) that makes products look fresher than they really are. Congressman Stupak even brought in ground beef that was two years old, treated with carbon monoxide, and still as red as the day it was processed.

But, unlike good, old-fashioned meat not treated with carbon monoxide that begins to naturally turn brown after approximately 10 to 12 days, carbon monoxide-treated meat artificially retains its red color and masks spoilage even when improperly stored for weeks at a time. (Eeeewh.) Turns out that it‚ all about convincing shoppers to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a food by its color.

But consumers are able to tell the difference right?

Think again. According to a poll conducted in 2006, 63% of adults believed that ‚the freshness of meat is directly related to the color of the meat.” Even worse, CO-treated meat is not required to be labeled.

At least some supermarket chains such as Giant Foods, Stop & Shop, and Safeway have announced they will voluntarily stop carrying CO-treated meat products. Tyson Foods, the largest protein processor in the country, has also announced they will stop using carbon monoxide in its packaging systems. Hopefully, others will soon follow.

For now, if your meat smells bad and looks slimey better toss it.

Better yet, contact your Member of Congress, and tell them to support H.R. 3115, which would require all meat, poultry and seafood products treated with CO to carry a safety notice informing consumers that the product has been treated and its freshness should not be judged by its color.

– Erin Greenfield
emailbio

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November 14th, 2007

Fishy Farms

Sigh. NOAA‚ at it once again. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has the bright idea of promoting open ocean aquaculture as a way to reduce the country‚ $9.2 billion seafood trade deficit and ease pressures on decimated wild marine fish populations. The government has spent more than $25 million supporting four experimental fish farms, as well as research into this technology, which involves growing tens of thousands of fish in cages anchored to the seafloor between three and 200 miles off the U.S. coast. The government wants to open public waters for the potential construction of thousands of these cages. Sounds like a good plan in theory, but wait. Despite this substantial financial and political support, open ocean aquaculture has not been shown to be environmentally sustainable, financially viable, or technically possible on a commercial scale. In fact, each of the four taxpayer-supported experimental operations—in Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico—continues to be plagued by problems. For instance, cages and other equipment have broken, fish have died on a large scale, and sharks have threatened workers (surprise). At one aquaculture facility, each pound of fish sold costs about $3,000 in U.S. taxpayer money to produce. Ouch.

Matter of fact, the government‚ own researchers say that open ocean fish farms could cause the same kind of problems linked to near-shore salmon farms, which dump chemical-laden waste directly into the ocean, produce fish that contain PCBs and other toxins, release genetically inferior fish that might mate with wild fish, and use massive amounts of fishmeal made from depleted wild fish stocks.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “What can be done” ?

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November 9th, 2007

A Night at The Museum

Welcome to Issue 20 of SnackCast. On October 30th, the water team at Food & Water Watch traveled to New York City to celebrate the opening night of an exciting new exhibit entitled Water: H2O = Life at the American Museum of Natural History. In this issue, we are joined by two water team organizers, Jon Keesecker and Annie Weinberg, who will give listeners a first-hand account of their experience at the museum, and talk about why this exhibit is so important.

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November 2nd, 2007

Meaty Issue in the Farm Bill

Welcome to Issue 19 of SnackCast. As early as next week, the United States Senate will vote on the Farm Bill. After many months of hard work, Food & Water Watch scored some major victories in the current version of the bill for consumers—specifically involving food safety and the interstate shipment of meat and poultry products. Tony Corbo, a lobbyist on food issues for Food & Water Watch, joins us on this issue to discuss why this is vital for American consumers.

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