June, 2011 | Food & Water Watch
Victory! Farm Bureau case challenging EPA’s right to share factory farm data dismissed. more wins »


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Blog Posts: June 2011

June 29th, 2011

Just Another Tricky Day for Fracking

By Rich Bindell and Anna Waterfield

Wow! So much has been happening on the fracking front in the last few days that we’ll have to perform some blog surgery and connect a few ideas together in one entry as kind of an update. Things are moving pretty quickly around here, so stay with us!

We Need You To “Like” Andrew Cuomo

As the fracking debate continues to heat up in New York State, Food & Water Watch and Frack Action are taking our movement to ban the process directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and we need your help. We’re asking people to post messages to his Facebook wall, telling him to be a leader in New York and beyond by banning fracking. Our hope is that, if enough people post to his page, we will give him enough reasons to step in and ban fracking.

There has been a fierce shift in momentum regarding public sentiment on fracking as of late because people are quickly becoming more informed on this issue. As our recent report the Case for a Ban on Gas Fracking points out, over the past 18 months, 10 studies have documented the severe public health and environmental risks associated with the process.

As far as New York State is concerned, we are currently at a crossroads where we can either allow the natural gas industry to bully legislators into accepting a system of meaningless regulations or we can loudly voice our opposition to fracking and demand a ban.

Of course, if Cuomo wants to be a leader, he better act quickly. We already have 60 resolutions banning fracking in various parts of the country and we are very close to passing one in New Jersey as this blog is being written. Let’s hope that Cuomo gets New York on this list! Read the full article…

June 23rd, 2011

Newsflash: Common Sense Saves Lives

By Darcey Rakestraw

Nicholas Kristof’s column this morning hit me viscerally as a mom, and reminded me why I work here at Food & Water Watch. The “Breast Milk Cure” discusses how the best solution for child malnutrition in Africa is not a technical fix. It’s something that’s commonly available and we’re driven by our instincts to give it to babies. It’s not an improved infant formula or fancy nutritional intervention. It’s breast milk.

Kristof writes that:

“When we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That’s the strong recommendation of the World Health Organization. The paradox is that while this seems so cheap and obvious — virtually instinctive — it’s also rare.”

Read the full article…

June 22nd, 2011

Corporate Food Executives Aren’t Struggling Quite as Much as Farmers

By Rich Bindell

This week we focus on our campaign for fair food by calling on President Obama to enact a rule on livestock marketing that would let USDA finally use authority given to them back when Woodrow Wilson was President. The “GIPSA rule” (named for the USDA branch that governs livestock marketing) would even out the playing field in the meat industry and allow small-to-medium-sized independent farmers to fairly compete with large-scale factory farms. Of course, industry is pushing back, using delay tactics to put off implementing the rule. Which is why Sunday’s Washington Post article was so timely.

The article, “With executive pay, rich pull away from rest of America,” could be the answer to the question: when industrial food giants squeeze out farmers and small processing plants and consolidate the industry, where do their savings go? It sounds like a good deal of it may go to upper echelon executives.

The article is mostly about the abuses that result from decades of deregulation and unchecked corporate consolidation as it relates to the salaries of American business executives in the last five or six decades, but it focuses on one company in particular: Dean Foods. It describes two chief executives who led the company at different times: Kenneth J. Douglas, who held the reigns during the 1970s and Gregg L. Engels, who is the current CEO. The article claims that Engels makes the equivalent of about 10 times as much in compensation as Douglas did. If you’re familiar with the consolidation of power that exists in the food industry, this should come as no surprise. Read the full article…

June 21st, 2011

Demand Fair Farm Rules—Not More Factory Farms

By Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

[Original post appears at Change.org]

President Obama made a promise back when he campaigned in farm states. He needs to keep it.

The President told farmers that his administration would help fix the rules that allow the meat industry to take advantage of the people who raise the animals Americans eat. But, under pressure from Big Meat, the Obama Administration has failed to implement the fair farm rules (also known as GIPSA rules, named for the branch of the USDA that would oversee the rules, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration).

Fair farm rules and GIPSA might sound wonky, but implementing them is crucial to leveling the playing field for farmers. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. If we want to move towards a more sustainable and regional food system, we need a fair market. We need to start fixing the nuts and bolts of what keeps farmers from being able to fairly market their products. And consolidation of the food industry is one of the major factors in why our food system is dysfunctional. Read the full article…

MIT’s Fracking Report Backs its Donors: Gas Companies

By Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

I almost gagged on my coffee when I finally got around to reading the corporate sponsored pro-fracking propaganda by MIT on natural gas, entitled, “The Future of Natural Gas.” Isn’t this academic institution embarrassed to sell its reputation to corporations?

I guess not, because right on its website, MIT advertises its enormous corporate funding for research and its proud affiliation with the oil and gas industry. Read its philosophy for yourself: Read the full article…

June 20th, 2011

Every nation legally required to take action on human right to water: Report

As the first anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s historic recognition of the human right to water and sanitation draws near, the Council of Canadians, chaired by Food & Water Watch board chair Maude Barlow, is releasing the new report Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation.

This report, written by Barlow, puts pressure on all governments to act on these fundamental issues and underscores the obligations that all states now have regarding the human right to water and sanitation.

While the July 28, 2010 General Assembly resolution was not binding, two months later, the Human Rights Council also recognized the human right to water and sanitation in a similar resolution and that set out exactly what this new right entails for governments. And because the Human Rights Council resolution is based on two existing treaties, it rendered the first binding. In other words, as the UN itself said in its release, “The right to water and sanitation is a human right, equal to all other human rights, which implies that it is justiciable and enforceable.”

“All governments are now bound by these historic UN resolutions. Whether or not they voted for the two resolutions, every member nation of the UN is now obligated to accept and recognize the human right to water and sanitation and come up with a plan of action based on the Obligation to Respect, the Obligation to Protect and the Obligation to Fulfill these new rights,” says Barlow.

The report examines the meaning of the two resolutions and the obligations they confer on governments. It challenges the international water justice movement to use them to advance the right to water and sanitation everywhere based on the broadest interpretation of their meaning.

“With these resolutions, the world took an evolutionary step forward” she added. “It is now time to make this step real.”

June 17th, 2011

No Genetically Modified Crops in Bolivia!

With Bolivia poised to pass legislation that would allow more genetically modified crops into the country, global food sovereignty activists find themselves organizing around a surprising target. The Law of Communal Agrarian Productivity Revolution (Ley de Revolución Productiva Comunitaria Agropecuaria) has passed through the Deputies and the Senate is now slated to vote on Tuesday, June 21.  The Bolivian Government is considered to be a strong ally of global justice movements and has spoken out forcefully in defense of the rights of the earth. With respect to their unique role on the global stage, we sent the following letter of concern.

June 16th, 2011

There is no Sharing in Catch Shares

Catch shares: A fisheries management program that puts real fishermen out of business.

By Rich Bindell

Wenonah Hauter, our executive director, said in a press release today, “Fish are a public resource.” But if you take a look around port cities like New Bedford and Gloucester, Massachusetts, you might begin to notice that some fisherman don’t have the same access to this public resource as they used to have. Thanks to NOAA’s destructive and controversial fisheries management program called catch shares, thousands of fishermen have been pushed out of business.

Masked as a solution to the problem of overfishing various species of fish, the catch shares program actually comes closer to mirroring the system of corporate consolidation found in various sectors of agriculture where fewer, larger corporate entities control the marketplace. In fact, there isn’t really proof that catch shares have helped maintain or increase fish stocks. Catch shares — an allotment or quota given to a fisherman, usually leased out for profit — grant fishing privileges to private, commercial interests, therefore presenting commercial operations a competitive advantage over smaller, independent fishing operations. Read the full article…

Finding Farmland in the Marcellus Shale

By Stephanie English

Stephanie English lives in Duke’s Center, PA, right in the heart of the Marcellus Shale. As part of this week’s blog series on fracking to support our new report, “The Case for a Ban on Gas Fracking,” Stephanie tells us the story of how her and her partner tried to find a plot of land to farm.

Stephanie English, her partner Andy and their son Sylvan want to lay down roots and start a farm in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. But you can't build a farm close to fracking wells, and they are surrounded by them.

Two years ago, my partner Andy and I had the opportunity to move back to our native Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania and New York. Andy had found an organic farm job only 18 miles from where we grew up, and I had the opportunity to help a friend create a local goods store. Our son Sylvan would be much closer to his grandparents and great-grandparents. We could finally bring our farming experiences back to benefit our home region, and begin looking for farmland of our own. It seemed like a dream come true. Read the full article…

June 15th, 2011

Italian Voters Turn Out Against Water Privatization

By Rich Bindell

Italians voted earlier this week to overturn laws established by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Voters blocked efforts by the Italian government to privatize water, reestablish the nuclear energy program and grant Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. If you’ve perused some of the articles in places like The Washington Post, The New York Times or Bloomberg, you may have noticed that most of the attention was paid to Berlusconi and his political survival. But, to many of us, the most critical element of this story is that the people of Italy do not want their water privatized. Read the full article…

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