February, 2012 | Food & Water Watch
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Blog Posts: February 2012

February 29th, 2012

Toilet Pesticides: The New American Standard?

By Tim Schwab

The American Standard Champion 4 toilet is something to behold. The simple perch, elegant design, and accelerator flush valve make it, I’m told, a superior vessel for waste evacuation. And the technical department at American Standard has made some convincing videos to prove their point, demonstrating the Champ’s flawless devouring of 24 golf balls, 8 large hot dogs, or 100 cotton balls.

In what I would also categorize as superfluous, American Standard advertises the Champion 4’s EverClean surface that destroys bacteria, rendering bygone the days of scrubbing the commode. This is where American Standard really starts to lose me. Am I crazy to think that putting pesticides in toilets is a) unnecessary b) potentially harmful to my health and c) bad for the environment? 

Read the full article…

February 28th, 2012

After the Oscars, I Was Thinking About Awards and Leadership

By Lane Brooks
Will Cuomo push for a ban on fracking in the Empire State?

I watched the Oscars on Sunday and couldn’t help but think optimistically about key decisions that certain leaders—business and political—need to make this year to determine the future of our food and water. Dare I hope that by next year’s awards season, we’ll have a whole new slew of awards to hand out to those that have taken decisive leadership in the face of enormous industry pressure? With that in mind, here are some potential future nominees for such an award—the “Oscars” of food and water, if you will:

Gov. Cuomo of New York. Will he push for a ban on fracking in the Empire State? The energy industry wants badly to drill in New York for the profits to be made from vast a supply of natural gas. Potentially permanent harm to the water and the environment are of little concern to them. What are the chances he will act for the citizens and ban fracking? It’s possible if we keep up the pressure not only on Governor Cuomo, but on Congress, too.

Walmart. Will the largest grocery retailer in the United States decide not to sell Monsanto’s GE sweet corn? If enough of their customers let them know they won’t buy it, Walmart may decide this time to do the right thing. Read the full article…

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We Can Improve Our Water Systems Without Tripling Household Bills

By Mary GrantEPA Sellling Out Your Water

If you’re a regular denizen of a U.S. city, water infrastructure is probably out of sight and out of mind — that is until you have to boil your water before drinking it, or your water bill skyrockets, or a clogged sewer pipe swamps your lawn or a broken water main floods the road stopping traffic.

While it isn’t always obvious, our nation’s water infrastructure is facing a funding crisis. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently estimated that we’re falling $55 billion short each year on funding the improvements necessary to ensure safe and sound water and sewer service. Without greater investment, that gap will reach $84 billion by 2020. The American Water Works Association estimates that renovating our aging utilities will cause water bills to triple in some places.

So, how do we address this shortfall and protect consumers from high bills?

Some water industry players, politicos and liberal policy wonks think the answer lies in a national infrastructure bank that encourages private investment through public-private partnerships — deals that privatize the operation of a system while the public retains ownership and ultimate responsibility. Read the full article…

The World Bank’s Plans for Fisheries Could Destroy Fishing Communities

By Meredith McCarthy

Catch sharesTaking care of the oceans is a big challenge that needs the right solutions. That’s why we oppose turning our fisheries into privatized markets through catch shares, filling our coastal waters with environmentally degrading factory fish farms, and forcing controversial private eco-labeling onto fisheries.

Not surprisingly, we were disappointed with the positions adopted by The Global Partnership for Oceans, a new international alliance, coordinated by The World Bank. This coalition of major environmental groups, governments, and private sector interests has a chance to work together to find real solutions to the challenges of sustainably managing the world’s fisheries for the good of the oceans and the people who depend on them. Instead they’re parroting some of the same negative policies we’ve opposed for years.

Although it is an organization tasked with reducing poverty in the world, the World Bank has yet again chosen to align itself with strategies that only increase income disparity. Catch shares consolidate control of fish to a small group of wealthy fishermen, forcing small-scale fishermen into bankruptcy and destroying coastal communities in the process.

Read the full article…

February 27th, 2012

Soaking the Customer

By Wenonah Hauter

Ruby Williams, a 78-year-old Aqua Pennsylvania customer, got stuck with a $40,000 water bill because of a serious leak in the pipes under her home in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania. After her situation garnered national media attention, the private company agreed to reduce her bill to a few hundred dollars.

Likewise, the Price family of Stallings, North Carolina recently had their sewage service cut off by Aqua North Carolina despite having paid an overdue bill. The company demanded $1,000 to restore it — hundreds of dollars more than the actual cost to do the work. Again, thanks to bad publicity and public outrage, Aqua backed down.

It’s not just American consumers that feel the pinch as our municipal water systems change from public to private hands — and it’s not just that Aqua America is one bad actor, either. Private interests worldwide increasingly control our water. Too often, customers are getting a raw deal.

Read the full article…

100 Years of Natural Gas?

Ban Fracking!By Hugh MacMillan

Thanks to the wonders of modern fracking, we are now blessed with 100 years of natural gas from shale rock, right? Wrong. If we follow the logic that leads to the claim of 100 years of natural gas, we actually have only 23 years of shale gas.

It’s understandable that people are conflating the estimated supply of natural gas with that of shale gas. A few weeks ago, in his 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama stated that “we have a supply of natural gas that can last America for nearly 100 years,” and then he quickly pivoted (to land a jab), saying “and by the way, it was public research dollars, over the past 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas from shale rock.”

But the claim that the U.S. has 100 years of natural gas doesn’t just assume drilling and fracking for shale gas, tight sands gas and coalbed methane anywhere and everywhere it can be found. It also assumes unrestricted drilling and fracking throughout Alaska, up and down the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and all along the Gulf coast. Florida? New Jersey? California? Wouldn’t that do wonders for your billion-dollar coastal economies? Read the full article…

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February 24th, 2012

Everyone’s Got a New Cereal. Check Out Ours!

If Cereal Using GE Corn Had an Honest Label...

Frankencorn Says: "GE Food Good!"

By Darcey Rakestraw

This week Kellogg’s unveiled a new cereal named “Totes Amazeballs,” as recently suggested by a musician in a tweet to the company. Apparently, it’s just the latest in a trend of celebrity-inspired cereals in the UK.

This got us here at Food & Water Watch thinking about the fact that most people don’t realize their favorite breakfast cereals may contain potentially risky genetically engineered ingredients. So we jumped on the bandwagon and created our own cereal as well.

Genetically engineered (GE) corn and soy have been around for years in processed foods from cereals to cookies, candy bars, snack chips and beyond. And genetically engineered sugar beets now provide GE sugar used in some processed foods like cereal. Last year, the Cornucopia Institute tested several breakfast cereals—marketed as “natural,” no less—and found they contained high levels of GE ingredients. (Here’s a tip: one way to avoid GE cereals is to stick to those labeled certified organic —genetically engineered ingredients are not allowed under the certified organic label.) Read the full article…

February 21st, 2012

A Soy Shot in the Dark

By Lane Brooks

Say no to Agent Orange corn.

Stop Agent Orange Corn Before It Reaches Your Plate!

We’ve been focused on our campaign to tell the nation’s largest grocery retailer – Walmart – to not carry Monsanto’s GE corn because it is unlabeled, untested and potententially unhealthy. We’ve had hard hitting actions, a call-in day that closed down Walmart’s customer service lines with the volume of calls, and even a fun Facebook campaign. (We also just released a report that shows why Walmart can’t fix the food system.)

Unfortunately, corn is not the only thing on Monsanto’s menu of Frankenfoods. Now they want a new GE soybean, but like the corn, this soybean has not been tested enough to prove it’s safe – which is especially weird since it will be marketed as “healthier” due to the Omega-3 engineered in. Is it healthier for human consumption? Is it healthier for the environment it’s grown in? Since it hasn’t been thoroughly tested, there is no way to know for certain. Tell the USDA not to approve this soy shot in the dark.

Parting thoughts:

Do you live in Nevada? Check out the real story on the unsustainable, multibillion-dollar water pipeline under discussion for your state. You can probably think of a better use for that money – I know I can.

Do you live in Alaska (or love wild salmon)? Wild salmon depend on the watershed from the 17,000 square-mile Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. But it’s being endangered with excess logging and too little conservation and restoration. Help protect the Tongass.

Lane Brooks is Chief Operating Officer
See my recent posts
A Message from Food & Water Watch's COO Lane Brooks

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February 14th, 2012

On Valentines Day Send The Very Best to Show You Care About Food Safety

Send a GE Sweet Corn Valentine to Your Friends and Family Today

Roses Are Red. Violets Are Blue. A Monsanto-Walmart Romance Means Mutant Sweet Corn for You.

Are you still thinking of how to show that special someone you care this Valentine’s Day?

What about protecting your loved ones’ health from untested and unlabeled genetically engineered sweet corn?

We’ve created a special Valentine’s e-card you can send to friends and family today, asking them to join our campaign against GE sweet corn!

By sending them our Valentine’s Day e-card you can make sure your loved ones know that you don’t want unlabeled, untested GE sweet corn sneaking up on them at the grocery store. Plus, you’ll show you are an insider to Food & Water Watch’s new campaign to get Walmart to reject the advances made to it by Monsanto to buy its GE corn.

Join us in wishing your friends and family a happy Valentine’s Day today with a GE sweet corn Valentine’s Day card!

Then stay up-to-date on the latest scoop on the Walmart-Monsanto romance we’re putting the breaks on.

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February 10th, 2012

Europe Has Every Right to Be Emotional About Fracking

Ban Fracking!By Anna Witowska

As if he were employing the pop psychology Mars-versus-Venus framework on the issue, Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser called for a less “emotional” response to fracking in Europe. He stated that the European discussion on shale gas exploration is not factual but fuelled by emotions. So, can we thus infer that Mars — embodied by oil and gas corporations — must be focused on profits and is ready to drill? No matter who gets hurt in the process?

European opponents of fracking, including Food & Water Europe, are somewhat surprised by such a facile characterization as they have always based their case against fracking on facts— such as the water intensity of fracking operations. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are pumped into 35 thousand of fracking wells annually. What the gas industry is not admitting is that hydraulic fracturing uses water to an extent that ought to strike fear in countries that are counting on a shale gas boom, particularly as water becomes an increasingly scarce resource. Well contamination is also an issue to be considered. In January 2012, a Calgary-based company injected fluids at such a high pressure into a 1,800-metre-deep oil formation that they travelled more than 1.4 kilometres underground and ruptured an oil well near Innisfail, Alberta. There are also the documented facts of roads being destroyed through heavy machinery use and real estate prices dropping to ridiculous levels.  Read the full article…

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