February, 2011 | Food & Water Watch
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Blog Posts: February 2011

February 25th, 2011

Mark Ruffalo and Josh Fox Give an Oscar Nod to Water

OMG, it's Mark Ruffalo! At a screening of Gasland, the charming Ruffalo takes time out for a photo with Food & Water Watch staff member Lauren Wright. Ruffalo will be wearing a water drop lapel pin at the Oscars to get people talking about protecting our water. Photo contributed by photographer Ian Hall.

We don’t usually think too much about the Academy Awards around here. (Well, I guess that’s not entirely true since Food Inc. was nominated last year.) But this year, we have good reason to look forward to the good ‘ole Oscars. Gasland, a documentary by Josh Fox about the negative impacts of natural gas drilling or fracking, was nominated for Best Documentary Film. Food & Water Watch regularly sponsors screenings of the film and we’d like to offer Josh a hearty congratulations for creating a powerful film and for bringing attention to this critical issue. We are proud to be associated with this project.

Not to brag or anything, but we have some interesting news to share about a recent bonding experience with another nominee, Mark Rufflao, who will be walking the red carpet on Sunday thanks to his supporting role in “The Kids are Alright.”

We know that there are many who might suggest that Mark is a rather handsome fellow, one who makes causally flummoxed look positively polished — he is. And the lucky few who meet him might offer that he’s exuberant and charming — yep, he’s that too. But he’s also quite the activist when it comes to something we at Food & Water Watch hold very dear: water. We had the chance to talk briefly with both Mark and Josh at a screening of Gasland in the District of Columbia last week. They have been busy organizing support for a ban on fracking in New York State where Mark lives with his family. Mark is also trying to make a difference by promoting the issues of protecting clean water and water as a human right. Read the full article…

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February 24th, 2011

Fighting Fracking in the Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River Basin provides water for drinking and food production to 15 million people. Fracking in this region could carry long-term consequences.

Two of our organizers were in Trenton, New Jersey today, attending the third of three hearings on the issue of fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The hearings, hosted by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), were established to provide opportunities for the members of the public to comment on the effects of natural gas drilling in this portion of the Marcellus Shale region. Food & Water Watch Eastern Region Director Jim Walsh and organizer Karina Wilkinson gave two statements and joined many others who are urging the commission to ban natural gas drilling.

The Delaware River Basin provides water for drinking and food production to 15 million people in the northeast — that’s 5 percent of the nation’s population. But energy companies don’t see the basin as a sustainer of life; they see it as a source of enormous profits. Their plans to drill for natural gas in this region could carry extreme long-term consequences for people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Read the full article…

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February 22nd, 2011

Filling Stations Make a Splash at San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport unveiled new tap water stations last week. The stations offer free filtered water to travelers.

For many passengers, air travel in the modern age can be downright unpleasant. From “surplus” luggage surcharges, to cramped seats in coach, to overly-familiar TSA agents, it seems that just about everyone has something to complain about when it comes to flying the not-so-friendly skies. And don’t even get me started on the difficulties of staying properly hydrated when security won’t allow containers of liquid larger than 3.4 past its nosy screening lines.

Luckily for travelers passing through San Francisco International Airport, one of those hassles is a dehydration-induced headache of the past. Last week, the airport unveiled a new network of tap water stations designed to quench the thirst of parched fliers without making them shell out precious cash for bottled water. Read the full article…

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February 18th, 2011

For Fair Food, Even the Big Guys Need to Play by the Rules

Rural America calls on Obama to make markets fair for independent producers.

On Valentines Day, while most people fretted about dinner reservations or flowers, a coalition of livestock producers, agriculture groups, and consumers took time out to show a little love for fair food by participating in a national call-in day. Over 2,000 confirmed calls were placed throughout the country to the White House to ask the Obama administration to finalize and implement fair livestock marketing rules.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, an activist named Cathy took the day off from her job, set up an information table in her local co-op and asked 75 people to call the White House on behalf of fair food. She has seen family and friends who were farmers suffer because of bad federal agricultural policy.

In Chicago, Floriole Café & Bakery and The Dill Pickle Food Co-op hosted call-in events with members of the local food community. They placed approximately 80 phone calls to the White House.

In Vermont, students at Vermont Law School in South Royalston — many of whom are members of the Food & Agriculture Law Society — organized a four-hour call-in at the student union. They want to change the Farm Bill to better support local farmers and local food networks.

Fair food advocates placed calls from Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, California, Oregon and New York.

But it wasn’t just consumers and activists calling for action. The National Farmers Union sent out alerts to their chapters, and other allies, including Food & Water Watch, Western Organization of Resources Councils, R-CALF, The Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, RAFI-USA, National Family Farm Coalition, the Center for Rural Affairs, Food Democracy Now and others are all working together to urge President Obama to implement Fair Farm Rules.

But what exactly are these rules and why are they so important? Read the full article…

Berlin Water Referendum Success an Inspiration for Global Water Movement

Increased citizen participation has played a major role in remunicipalizing water and bringing it back under public control.

One year before the Alternative World Water Forum (known by its French acronym FAME) will take place in Marseille 2012, various peoples’ movements around Europe have witnessed landslide victories. Increased citizen participation has played a major role in the issues of water supply management and wastewater treatment, allowing these movements to take giant steps towards remunicipalization, or bringing the water back under public control.

This week we have an inspiring story for you from Berlin, Germany. 12 years ago, almost half (49.9 percent) of the Berlin Water Works (BWB) was privatized under Veolia and RWE. This led to price increase of 35 percent, one of the highest of any German city. Due to negotiated conditions, the Berlin Senate and the private investors decided to keep these contracts secret. As a result, a peoples’ initiative called the “Berliner Wassertisch” began challenging this and started a citizen’s referendum aimed at obtaining the publication of these contracts. Read the full article…

Why We Need Whistleblowers to Keep Our Food Safe

Great news for consumers: the Food Safety Modernization Act establishes whistleblower protections for the food industry, which can help make our entire food chain safer.

In the food safety world, sometimes it seems like there isn’t much good news, but a conference last week shined an encouraging spotlight on one thing that could avert a lot of foodborne illness before it hits consumers. On Friday, Feb. 11, Food & Water Watch’s Senior Lobbyist Tony Corbo and I participated in the Employee Rights and the Food Safety Modernization Act Conference sponsored by the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign and co-hosted by American University Washington College of Law.

This conference was particularly well-timed since the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that President Obama signed into law in January establishes for the first time private sector whistleblower protections specifically for the food industry. This is great news for consumers – giving food industry whistleblowers legal protection to speak out against potential problems can help make our entire food chain safer. Read the full article…

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February 16th, 2011

Grading Obama’s Budget Proposal for Food, Water and Fish

President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal is nothing short of disappointing for food and water advocates.

As you all know, it’s budget time in Washington, D.C. As far as the issues that we work on here at Food & Water Watch, the President’s proposed budget for 2012 is nothing short of disappointing and frustrating. The Obama administration has determined that providing the nation with funds for public services that were once considered vital to our population is no longer a priority for the government. Let’s break it down…

Food Safety

The proposed 2012 budget allocates $1.02 billion for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), $9 million less than 2011. But, according to FSIS’s own report, there will be a need for more inspectors to keep up with increases in food processing in 2012 — the total volume of meat and poultry slaughter will each increase by over 250 million pounds. Even egg production will increase from 4,066 million to 4,074 million pounds. Remember the egg recall last summer? Instead of offering increased funds to FSIS for food safety, the Obama administration decided to offer an increased risk of food contamination by not increasing the number of inspectors in egg processing facilities.

USDA is also responsible for catfish inspections, for which the proposed budget also reduces funding. In 2008, negotiations over the Farm Bill included the creation of a new catfish inspection program, a mandate given to the USDA. The FDA, which only inspects about 2 percent of all imports, was previously responsible for inspection of fish, including catfish. Last year, U.S. catfish farmers united to ask Congress to implement the regulation of catfish at the USDA and demanded tougher inspections. The implementation of this program is now 14 months overdue and, thanks to Obama’s proposed budget, the funding for it has been significantly reduced. Read the full article…

February 14th, 2011

National Call-in Day for Good and Fair Food!

Join us in our national call-in day to ask President Obama to implement fair livestock marketing rules.

A Call for Good and Fair Food

Today, we’d like to ask you to do something very simple that could have a huge and positive impact on the way we access healthy and affordable food.

Due to unfair competition in the marketplace, our small-to-medium-sized farmers don’t have a shot at receiving fair market prices for the food they produce. This lack of fair competition — which I wrote about last summer in “Choice Cuts of Meat—But is the Choice Ours or Theirs?” — squeezes out real farmers and benefits large-scale factory farms.

As a result, we’ve watched many small-to-medium-sized farmers go out of business and many more factory farms pop up across the country and contribute to the consolidation. You can see evidence of this in our Factory Farm Map, which demonstrates the reality of this consolidation. Most importantly, the money that Big Ag companies hang onto from this consolidation doesn’t get passed along to consumers. That’s right, it keeps prices higher. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the beef and pork industries. Considering our farmers are the backbone of a healthy nation, we need to ensure their survival. Read the full article…

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Deciphering Arianna Huffington’s “Beyond Left and Right” Rhetoric

Catch shares aren’t a “beyond left and right solution.” They’re a “beyond left and right problem.”

With the announcement that a giant media corporation is buying her progressive website, Arianna Huffington’s main talking point has been, “It’s time to move beyond left and right.” It may be stylish to trash partisanship, but how will this mantra translate to specific issues moving forward?

We got a glimpse of what “beyond left and right” might mean a few days prior to her announcement, when Huffington blogged with a similar message from the World Economic Forum in Davos. Her blog defended a dubious policy supported by the Carlyle Group and the Murdoch family, calling it a “beyond left and right solution.” Read the full article…

February 11th, 2011

It Takes a Tender State to Pass a Tough Ban

Two bills banning arsenic in poulty were introduced in the Maryland State Legislature.

There is a critical message that has been slowly stewing within the food movement: don’t put things in our food that are potentially dangerous. You would think this would be obvious, but to some it’s not. You would think that we shouldn’t have to fight to keep risky chemicals out of our food, but we do — every day. Thankfully, a victory occurred in Maryland’s state legislature yesterday that keeps this effort moving in the right direction for the Chesapeake Bay State, which is the seventh largest poultry producer.

Maryland State Senator Paul G. Pinsky (D-22) and State Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20) introduced bills banning the use of arsenic in poultry feed. Arsenic has been used by the poultry industry to protect chickens against intestinal disease and to promote growth — though there is little evidence that its use is necessary — but it comes with hidden costs: it threatens human health and the environment. Read the full article…

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