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Blog Posts: April 2012

April 27th, 2012

5 Reasons a “Global Cattle Drive” to China Is a Bad Idea

By Wenonah Hauter

The Wall Street Journal reports that China is importing 100,000 heifers — 25 ships’ worth — to boost domestic dairy production in the wake of melamine and other milk-powder scandals that have decimated China’s relatively small dairy industry since 2008.

Where to begin? There are so many problems with this scenario, but here are just five reasons why this is a terribly bad idea:

1) The cows are destined for factory farms. China may be importing the cattle from Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand, but they are importing the model for factory farming from the U.S. The animals’ long nightmare starts on a harrowing journey overseas in ships, where they are confined tightly and face multiple health issues that may result in death. Those buried at sea might be the luckiest cattle, because once the animals get through the 45-day quarantine, they will continue their confinement in “football-field-size sheds” that resemble electronics factories more than farms and are milked three times a day on “bovine merry-go-rounds,” according to Wall Street Journal reporter Alex Frangos. Read the full article…

Creating a Secure Water Future: Looking Beyond Personal Change

By Sam Law

Take Back the Tap poster by Phoebe Konig

This is the second of two blogs  from Take Back the Tap Coordinators in honor of Earth Week. Food & Water Watch is working with 62 active Take Back the Tap campaigns on college campuses across the country. Emory University, Carleton College, American University, and Reed College have passed resolutions banning or significantly reducing bottled water usage on their campuses. Over the past two years, Food & Water Watch has trained over 100 student leaders on how to run successful Take Back the Tap campaigns.

College students, like many people, are incredibly involved in their own lives. This presents two unique challenges for organizing on campus around environmental justice issues. The first problem, so prevalent in our culture, is apathy. Whether a defense mechanism to protect individuals from the realization that people have very little power in this country when they organize against the moneyed interests of transnational corporations, or pure laziness is hard to tell. It’s likely a combination of the two. The second problem this egotism presents is that people, when they do get involved, so often want to focus on personal change such as turning out light switches, buying sustainable products or reducing waste.

Read the full article…

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Farm Bill Update

Food Policy Director Patty Lovera

Patty Lovera, Assistant Director and Food Policy Director, Food & Water Watch

By Patty Lovera

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 farm bill. The next step in the process is for the bill to go to the Senate floor. We do not know when that will happen, although the Chair of the committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), says it will be in “a few weeks.” 

Overall, this is not the fair farm bill we have been fighting for, although there are a few bright spots (mostly on existing programs that were threatened but survived.) The Senate bill cuts support for nutrition programs that feed the neediest families, fails to provide an adequate safety net for farmers when prices are low and costs are high, and does nothing to address the power of big agribusiness over farmers and consumers. While it increased funding for some local food systems and organic farm programs, the funding for these programs remains about one out of every thousand dollars spent by this bill.

The Senate Agriculture committee kept the bill secret for months and only released it to the public less than a week before it was passed out of committee. Over a hundred amendments were listed when the committee met to consider the bill, however many of them were never introduced for a vote. Some of the potential amendments would have been dramatic improvements to the bill, such as Senator Grassley’s packer ban amendment and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-New York) amendment to fund research into non-GE seeds and animal breeds, but these were not put up for a vote. Read the full article…

April 26th, 2012

Light at the End of the Bottle

From left to right: Chloe Lyon, Triana Tello and Meagan Lyle are Taking Back the Tap at American University.

By Meagan Lyle

This is the first of two blogs from Take Back the Tap Coordinators in honor of Earth Week. Food & Water Watch is working with 62 active Take Back the Tap campaigns on college campuses across the country. Emory University, Carleton College, American University, and Reed College have passed resolutions banning or significantly reducing bottled water usage on their campuses. Over the past two years, Food & Water Watch has trained over 100 student leaders on how to run successful Take Back the Tap campaigns.

You know that campaigning is taking over your life, when you find it hard not to glare at strangers you see buying bottled water, when every paper you write is about water privatization or green and blue washing, and when you subconsciously start typing Take Back the Tap in the middle of an unrelated homework assignment. While it is exhausting to want positive change in the world because even the smallest shift requires much time and effort, every single ounce of energy we invest in organizing our campaigns becomes worth it at the sight of victory.

The small Take Back the Tap team at American University has worked relentlessly to see tangible change in the blind consumption of bottled water on campus. Similar to other campuses, we want people to see through the bluewash of advertising that claims bottle water is safer than tap water. We aspire to inform students and faculty that every building on campus provides free, safe, regulated tap water. Yet, even after the documentaries, tabling, panel discussions, taste tests, bottled water art displays people continued to succumb to the convenience of bottled water. Discouraged by the lack of change from our efforts, we hit a crossroads. Read the full article…

What Does the Plight of Japanese Farmers Have to Do With Fracking?

By Darcey Rakestraw

After I wrote a blog last week about banned pesticides and nuclear fallout in tea—looking at how the Fukushima disaster and use of banned pesticides in the growing of tea might affect consumers—I immediately wanted to work on a blog showing the other side of the coin: how environmental disasters harm the very farmers that seek to bring us our food sustainably.

That’s why we work on energy issues like fracking. The oil and gas industry injects millions of gallons of a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to fracture rocks deep below ground and release oil or natural gas, posing a risk to not only surface waterways (from spills or inadequate treatment of waste) but also groundwater resources. Read the full article…

April 25th, 2012

The Financialization of Nature is a New Battle Based on Old Tricks

By Rich Bindell

Shared Public ResourcesLast week, in a small conference room in Washington, D.C., connected by video link to attendees in New York, Italy and elsewhere, members of several consumer and environmental advocacy groups held a roundtable discussion on a growing global trend that pits people and corporations against each other in a battle over public resources. The topic is one that you’ll probably be hearing more about in the near future, especially with Rio+20 in June, which will focus on the so-called “green economy.” If you really think about it, you’ve most likely seen evidence of it already: the financialization of nature.

The Institute for Policy Studies hosted several groups with sponsors including Corporate Accountability International, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth-U.S., Heinrich Boell Foundation, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, and Public Citizen, many of whom have been working to protect public resources for years. The mood of folks around the room was one of concern, but it was reassuring to see the unification of experienced advocates.

Read the full article…

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Forgot to Pay Your Traffic Ticket? There Goes Your Water…

By Mary Grant

Tough fiscal times are driving some cities to take extreme and often outlandish measures to generate revenue, but an action by Las Cruces, New Mexico, may take the cake. 

Earlier this week, Las Cruces told its residents that if they fail to pay their traffic tickets, they would lose their water, sewer and gas service. This is disgraceful and dangerous. As summer approaches and temperatures rise, the loss of water service poses a particularly serious health risk for residents of this desert city. This enforcement policy presents a clear violation of the human right to water. 

While cities understandably want to shore up their finances, they must not take drastic actions that endanger the lives and wellbeing of their inhabitants. 

Find out more about the human right to water

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You Won’t Move Us Away

By Laetitia N’Dri

2012 Goldman Prize winners, left to right: Evgenia Chirikova, Edwin Gariguez, Ma Jun, Ikal Angelei, Caroline Cannon, and Sofia Gatica. Photo courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize

“You won’t move us away.” This is the final message that Ikal Angelei of Kenya—one of the 2012 Goldman Prize Award winners and a member of the global water justice movement—sent to those willing to sacrifice people and the environment for the sake of short-term profits. The power of grassroots organizing was once again revealed at the 23rd Annual Goldman Prize Award Ceremony on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at the National Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. This award honoring grassroots heroes (and “sheroes”) proves that the power of organizing can move mountains.

The recipients of the world’s largest environmental prize are tackling some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time—fighting against large dams, massive mines, poisonous pesticides, devastating roads, and criminal polluters—through grassroots efforts, civil disobedience, and education. Read the full article…

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April 24th, 2012

What Is Mad Cow Disease?

Food & Water Watch talks about why we can do more to prevent mad cow disease.Today, the USDA announced that a dairy cow in California’s Central Valley tested positive for Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease. Mad cow disease is spread among cattle when their feed contains infectious material from other cattle or sheep, which get a similar disease called scrapie.

While the U.S. has strengthened some rules to protect the public from mad cow disease, they have not gone far enough. Practices are still allowed which can spread mad cow disease, such as allowing cows to eat waste from the floors of poultry houses, cattle blood, and processed leftovers from restaurants. Testing for the disease should also be expanded.

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Nestlé Targets Developing Nations for Bottled Water, Infant Formula Sales

By Darcey Rakestraw

Yesterday, Nestlé announced it had purchased Pfizer’s infant nutrition unit, which will strengthen their ability to sell infant formula in emerging markets, particularly in Asia. The move is not surprising, since 85 percent of Pfizer’s infant nutrition revenues came from developing countries, where Nestlé is also looking to expand its sales of bottled water.

How do we know this? Nestlé has declared both its Pure Life brand of bottled water and infant formula as “Popularly Positioned Products” (PPP) that target “less affluent consumers in emerging markets”. Two weeks ago, we mentioned Nestlé’s report outlining this strategy in this blog. For some reason, the report is no longer available on Nestlé’s site without the requisite log-in information. But we’ve reposted the document here.

Yesterday, our executive director, Wenonah Hauter, released this statement in response to Nestlé’s purchase of Pfizer’s infant nutrition unit:

This renewed focus on growing the market for its infant formula products is troubling given the corporation’s track record of using dubious practices to market infant formula in developing countries, where it is often prepared in unhygienic conditions with unsafe water….Surely, it is no coincidence that many mothers will prepare the formula with bottled water—which will no doubt benefit Nestlé’s emerging market strategy.

Selling bottled water to poor people, and pushing infant formula on poor but otherwise healthy mothers who may not have access to safe drinking water is doing what Nestlé does best: undermining public health in the name of profit.

For more on Nestlé’s plan to market bottled water in developing nations to offset the drop-off in sales from developed countries, read our report, Hanging on for Pure Life.

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