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Blog Posts: Activism

April 22nd, 2014

Make Your Voice Heard on Earth Day!

By Katherine Cirullo

I’ve loved Earth Day ever since I was in pre-school and digging in the dirt for worms wasn’t a ticket to time-out, but rather a planned educational activity. In middle school, Earth Day meant we got to clean up trash at the town park – a proud moment for a budding activist. But, the dirt days are long over and, as I’ve learned that control over essential, common resources is slipping from the fingertips of the public to the clutches of large corporations, I’ve realized that protecting the planet is no small task.

Earth Day was established 40 years ago not simply as a calendar reminder of how beautiful and precious our planet is, but as a call to action. In order to protect our natural resources and ensure a truly sustainable, healthy and safe environment now and for future generations, our actions need to be unified, targeting elected officials who hold power to influence policy changes. If there’s one threat to the health of the planet that is particularly ominous, it’s rapidly escalating fossil fuel development. That’s why today, Food & Water Watch presents to you the People’s Platform Against Fracking – hop on. Read the full article…

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April 11th, 2014

Ending the Factory Farm Drug Addiction One City at a Time

Antibiotics Campaign, Cleveland, OH

Clevelanders pose with our cow mascot to send a message to council members.

By Katy Kiefer

This spring, something important is stirring in the movement for good food and healthy families. Food & Water Watch volunteers and allies have passed seven resolutions through city councils across the country, calling on Congress to take action to stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Many more resolutions are in the works. Today, we’re releasing a map to track these resolutions – the grassroots movement to save antibiotics.

Most of us know that doctors should only prescribe antibiotics when we really need them in order to prevent resistance. But many people don’t realize that a whopping 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used in agriculture, primarily to make animals grow faster in stressful, crowded, filthy factory farms. That’s not the way antibiotics should be used, and it’s resulting in a serious public health crisis.

Food & Water Watch has been advocating for legislation to rein in the abuse of antibiotics on factory farms for years. With little action in Congress, and too little, too late from the FDA, we thought, let’s empower communities to take matters into their own hands. Which is why we’ve launched a nationwide effort to help communities educate and organize at the grassroots level to build support for a national ban on antibiotics abuse.

It all started in Providence, RI, in early February when the first of these resolutions passed. Red Bank, NJ, Cleveland, OH, and Pittsburgh, PA quickly followed. In each city, council members stepped up to take this on and sponsor each resolution, and most passed the same day they were introduced. But we knew it was only a matter of time until the factory farming industry caught wind and started fighting back.

In Seattle, they sent a letter to council members right before the vote, to try to derail passage of their resolution. But after hearing from hundreds of their constituents, Seattle council members did the right thing, and just this week passed the resolution with full support. Seattle’s resolution passed on Monday followed quickly by Madison, WI, on Tuesday and St Paul, MN, on Wednesday. All were passed unanimously – a testament to the power of concerned community members coming together to advocate for commonsense policies.

Despite what Big Ag wants you to think, we don’t need to put up with this dirty, unsustainable system of producing food. An alternative is possible, and it’s necessary. The European Union has banned the irresponsible use of antibiotics on factory farms and the EU hasn’t stopped producing food. We can do the same here in the U.S. and we’re proving it one city at a time. 

If antibiotic resistance has affected you or a loved one, please share your story with us. And if you’re ready to pass a resolution in your town, we’re ready to help. Sign up here!

March 31st, 2014

The Fight Against Fracking is a Fight For Social Justice

California fracking rally

Left to right: Food & Water Watch’s Adam Scow, social justice leader Lupe Anguiano and The Center for Biological Diversity’s Hillary Aidun at the March 15, 2014, Don’t Frack California rally in Sacramento.

By Anna Ghosh

Today, March 31, we celebrate the birthday of Cesar Chavez, the co-founder of what we know today as the United Farm Workers; now in its 52nd year. His heroic leadership of a 5-year grape strike in Delano, California, in the 60s is chronicled in the newly released film Cesar Chavez. Through aggressive but nonviolent organizing, Chavez organized thousands of poor Latino workers throughout Central California to win higher wages, better working conditions and collective bargaining rights for generations of farmworkers.

I had the honor last week of having a conversation with an amazing woman who worked alongside Chavez in the 60s and has been fighting for social justice her entire life. Lupe Anguiano is a civil rights activist known for her work on women’s rights, the rights of the poor, and the protection of the environment. In 2006, she founded the environmental nonprofit Stewards of the Earth to provide educational, social and economic services to low-income and Indigenous people in the United States, Mexico and Latin America. In 2007 she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project and has an archive named after her at UCLA. Now, Anguiano’s fight for social justice has led her to fight fracking and dumping of toxic waste associated with fracking and drilling where she lives in Oxnard, California.

Here’s an excerpt from our talk:

How did you get involved working with Chavez? When the strike began I was a Catholic nun working with migrants and Latino people in Los Angeles. The grape growers didn’t adequately take care of their workers – they had no restrooms or clean water to drink – and it I felt that it was part of my mission as a nun to stand up for these workers rights. We would picket in Los Angeles where they would unload the grapes from Delano.

What led to you leaving the clergy to become a community organizer? The more I learned about the injustices being waged against Latinos, the more I got involved. I fought redlining (housing and financial discrimination), as did many religious people, but Cardinal McIntyre (who Harvard historian Lisa McGirr calls “the most extreme right-wing member of the American Catholic hierarchy), objected to Los Angeles clergy speaking out. He said we were getting too political, but we knew this was about social justice. This is what Christ did (stand up for the poor). Pope John XXIII even encouraged is, which gave me wings. But I continued to be reprimanded by the Cardinal, which led me to leave the order. I felt that I could do more as a layperson. This is when I was invited by Cesar to come to Delano. But then I was called to Washington by President Johnson to work on bilingual education.

What did you think of Washington? I was very disappointed, so I went back to Delano. Volunteers were paid $5 a week plus housing and food, but it was the most rewarding job of my life. I would get up at 3a.m. so I could ride in the truck with Cesar. He used great a great method of organizing to get the attention of workers and policy makers alike. He taught us the importance of nonviolence. I learned so much.

What is your personal connection to the land and agriculture? I am a Latina and Latinos build the agricultural industry in California. When I was a child, every summer we would pick fruit on the farm that my Uncle tended. Latino workers always protected and respected the soil, the land and the environment. Agriculture is what enriches our state. It’s what makes California so special and important. Why would we want to tarnish or risk the agricultural wealth of our state?

Why do you think Governor Brown can’t see how fracking and extreme extraction threatens California’s agricultural heritage? I’m completely disappointed by Brown. I have lived in California since I was in the third grade (Lupe is now 85), and every governor and president since I have lived here has protected our agriculture and environment. For example, Nixon initiated the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts and when the big oil spill in Santa Barbara happened, Governor Reagan initiated CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act). What is Governor Brown doing destroying California’s agricultural economy? Petroleum by its very nature destroys living organisms. Has he gone out of touch? I hear his wife is invested in petroleum and she’s probably influencing him. But how can a governor not understand that agriculture is so integral to our economy? Destruction of our agriculture is criminal. More than 50 percent of the nation’s fresh food comes from California and to destroy that would be it outrageously sinful.

Then there’s his rhetoric on climate change, but he continues to stand behind dirty fossil fuels. The whole thing is crazy. Can he not see the huge opportunities in renewable energy? We are leaving behind industrial era and moving into renewable technology. California is in the lead and our universities are set. The whole nation and world are moving towards more renewable sources. But Governor Brown’s lack of action to stop fracking and drilling could destroy California’s position as a leader in renewable energy.

What are you working on now? I live in Oxnard, which is the dumping ground of Ventura County. A few years ago, we fought tooth and nail to keep a liquefied natural gas terminal our or Oxnard. We won, but it’s a continuous battle. Now they’re dumping fracking waste in our strawberry fields and trying to build wells near an elementary school. They’re trying to turn Oxnard into a Bakersfield. Why aren’t they going to Thousand Oaks or Simi Valley? Because they would never allow it. We cannot allow our communities to become toxic dumping grounds. We’re not Texas, we’re not South Dakota.

What organizations do you think are doing the best work in this area? Groups that engage Latinos, like LULAC and the Latino Congreso, and groups that focus on agriculture, like Food & Water Watch, are critical. We must align ourselves. Food and water are the foundation for life. The Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice have good attorneys, great research and information.

How can we make the most impact?  
We must cultivate more responsible leaders. We need more independent, “decline to state” voters. We need more young people to get politically active. Afterall, this is the world that they are inheriting.

March 25th, 2014

Q & A: Wenonah Hauter on GMOs and Activism

By Marissa Sherman, for GMO Inside

Wenonah Hauter has worked extensively on food, water, energy and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Her book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America looks into the corporate consolidation and control over our food system and how that affects farmers and consumers. She is a skilled and accomplished organizer. She’s lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans concerning many food and environmental issues. She has an M.S. in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland.

Q: In your opinion, what is the root of the GMO problem? Why should people care?

A: People should care because very little unbiased, independent scientific research has been done into the health and environmental implications of GMOs, and the industry works hard to keep it that way through inappropriately influencing our academic institutions and bullying scientists who don’t comply with their worldview. What we do know about GMO crops is troubling: the vast majority are designed with the sole purpose of withstanding large quantities of toxic pesticides and herbicides that pollute our environment and are linked to serious health problems. This overuse of agrichemicals is also giving rise to uncontrollable superweeds that cost farmers thousands to deal with. But the root of the problem is that GMOs are a tool that giant agribusinesses like Monsanto have used to dominate multiple sectors of agriculture and make the marketplace less competitive and more expensive for farmers.

Q: Do you see GMO labeling happening anytime soon? How do you think it might happen? State-by-state or at the national level?

A: A huge grassroots movement is gaining ground around the country. I’m excited about the grassroots state legislative campaigns going on now that are advancing GMO labeling and have the industry on the defensive. While strong national labeling legislation is the end game, we believe that Oregon’s ballot fight for labeling can be won this November and are on the steering committee of that effort. The legislative fights we’re involved with in New York, Illinois, California and Florida also look promising and coalitions in several other states are making great progress as well. The industry is on the wrong side of history on this issue – eventually this labeling will be required. Read the full article…

Dear President Obama: Big Oil and Safe Water Just Don’t Mix

By Katherine Cirullo

Pubic concern about the effects of fracking is escalating, and the breadth of actions people across the country are taking to stop this dirty method of energy extraction sure show it. Last fall, four cities in Colorado, a state peppered with gas fields, voted to pass bans or moratoria; and earlier this month, thousands of concerned community members flocked to the largest anti-fracking rally in California’s history.

Among those leading the charge against fracking are four individuals personally affected by the process,  (residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyoming) who, over the past year, have gone to great lengths to share their stories and expose the truth about the connection between fracking and water contamination. After the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) abandoned water contamination investigations in their respective communities despite evidence that the contamination was likely linked to fracking, these four courageously devoted their lives to making sure that hundreds of others don’t find themselves in the same tragic situation.

Craig Stevens, Ray Kemble, Steve Lipsky and John Fenton have garnered a massive support network to boot. Last fall, Americans Against Fracking and Stop the Frack Attack gathered 250,000 petitions from concerned citizens across the country demanding that the EPA re-open the investigations it abandoned in the three communities. In January, over 200 groups sent a letter to President Obama with the same message. Despite immense pressure, his administration has turned a blind eye and worse yet, failed to meet with affected families.

Recently, these four folks spoke out at a briefing on Capitol Hill, only this time they called on Congress for help. As John Fenton so aptly framed it:  “Congress, support the people you’re supposed to support.”

Read the full article…

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March 21st, 2014

Field Notes from the Campaign to Label GMOs: Marching Forward

On March 19, 2014, Food & Water Watch and its allies delivered a 2,500-signature petition to New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney to urge him to support GMO labeling legislation. From Left to Right: Katie McCarthy, Jim Wilday, Stephanie Rossi, Jennifer Kolarsick, Steph Compton and Nicole Souza.

By Anna Ghosh

Food & Water Watch has been fighting – and winning – campaigns to defend consumers’ right to know what’s in their food since its inception in 2005. As a result of our campaign, Starbucks committed to make its stores rBGH-free in 2007, and in 2008, we successfully fought in nine states to keep rBGH-Free labels on dairy products. In 2009 we won a campaign to get the federal school lunch program to specifically allow schools to use federal dollars to choose rBGH-Free milk for their students.

Since 2010, we’ve collected more than 150,000 signatures opposing the FDA’s approval on AquaBounty’s GE salmon, and in 2011 and 2012, along with our allies Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Sum of Us, Corporate Accountability International and CREDO Action, we collected more than half a million signatures from consumers refusing to purchase genetically engineered (GMO) sweet corn and asking Walmart not to sell the biotech corn. We’ve also been involved in collecting and submitting official comments to oppose dozens of new GMO crops that have been considered since we started in 2005.

Over the past few years, our focus has been on the fight to label GMOs. Despite the narrow defeats of Prop 37 in California in 2012 and I-522 in Washington last year, momentum around GMO labels has never been stronger. Food & Water Watch is on the ground in over 12 states, joining with national, regional, and local allies to make GMO food labels the law once and for all. Here are the latest updates from our field team: Read the full article…

March 6th, 2014

Rick Berman Strikes Again With Environmental Policy Alliance

By Darcey Rakestraw

He’s been called an “arch-enemy of do-gooders” by 60 Minutes. Thanks to his orchestration of massive corporate PR campaigns using “deceptive corporate front groups” to discredit public interest efforts, he’s earned the nickname “Dr. Evil.”

And now, thanks to our outsized effectiveness in relation to our relatively small budget, he’s targeting us.

We’re honored to be called one of the “Big Green Radicals” by notorious corporate lobbyist Rick Berman through his apparent latest astroturf operation, the Environmental Policy Alliance, a “project of the Center for Organizational Research Education”. Ever heard of it? We hadn’t either. After doing a bit of digging, we found out that the Center for Organizational Research Education was recently known as the Center for Consumer Freedom led by the head of Berman & Co.—Rick Berman.

If you’ve never heard of Rick Berman, he earned his reputation in Washington, D.C. for spreading attacks on advocates through the Center for Consumer Freedom, which was funded initially through a sizable grant from Phillip-Morris. Other funders of Center for Consumer Freedom have included Monsanto, Cargill, Tysons Foods and various fast food restaurants. Sites like BermanExposed.org and Sourcewatch have helped reveal several other industry-funded front groups led by Berman.

It appears he’s now doing the same sort of work to discredit advocates for environmental protections. Who exactly is behind the effort? We don’t know but we’re pretty sure we’ll hear from them again.

If you’re interested in standing with us Big Green Radicals—if you support our mission to keep corporations accountable and to force government to do its job to regulate the industries that profit from our essential resources—then you can make a donation to Food & Water Watch today. After all, as Mr. Berman’s new organization implies, we’re getting the job done.

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February 12th, 2014

Field Notes: Working to End Abuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms

By Katy Kiefer

A woman in Seattle, WA, holds a sign to express her concern about resistant bacteria bred on factory farms.

For the past several years, awareness about all they ways that factory farms make animals, workers, the environment and consumer sick has been on the rise thanks to movies like Food, Inc. and Food & Water Watch’s Factory Farm Map.

But what you might not know is that 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used by the agriculture industry to promote growth and to compensate for filthy, crowded living conditions at these industrial livestock facilities. Nontherapeutic use of antibiotics on factory farms is making antibiotics less effective in healing infections, which is creating a public heath crisis. According to the CDC, each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result of these infections.

The FDA has known about this problem since the 70s and has yet to take meaningful action (read how its voluntary guidelines released in December fall short here). Despite this, consumer demand for better chicken has never been higher. This week, Chick-fil-A announced that within five years, it will join the ranks of companies such as Chipotle, Niman Ranch and Applegate Farms that already sell meat raised without nontherapeutic antibiotics. However, the burden should not be on consumers. We deserve the right to buy and eat better chicken no matter where we shop or dine. We need laws that protect against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. We can no longer sit by and wait for the FDA or Congress to act on this urgent public health issue, which is why we’ve kicked off a campaign to encourage local governments to take a stand.

This spring, Food & Water Watch is partnering with the Green Corps training program for organizers to pass resolutions in seven cities in support of banning the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. We’ve already passed the first of these resolutions in Providence, RI, with more to come. Read more about our local efforts below. We will keep you posted as more resolutions are passed. In the meantime, tell your members of Congress to support federal legislation to save antibiotics for life-saving medicine, not animal feed on factory farms.

Read the full article…

February 6th, 2014

Communities Ask Congress: Come See What Life is Like in the Gas Patch

By Katherine Cirullo

Residents whose water has been contaminated speak out against fracking on Capitol Hill. Left to Right: Craig Stevens, Ray Kemble, John Fenton. Not picutred: Steve Lipsky

According to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, making her agency “active and visible” in the communities it serves is a top priority. As of yesterday, she even went the full mile and declared February “Environmental Justice Month.” What’s ironic is, the EPA has yet to make communities affected by fracking-related water contamination a top priority. They’ve received no justice. Instead, they’ve been abandoned and left to advocate for themselves and many others.

“There’s a possibility that thousands of people we represent can get some help if we stand up,” said John Fenton, of Pavillion, Wyoming as he stood courageously in front of a room full of congressional aids, reporters and allies. “Knowing that, maybe it’s worth being the example.”

As we’ve blogged before, Fenton, along with Ray Kemble of Dimock, Pennsylvania, Steve Lipsky of Parker County, Texas and Craig Stevens of Pennsylvania years ago turned to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the connection between their contaminated water and nearby oil and gas drilling. The EPA intervened on behalf the communities, but, to no avail, as it eventually dropped all three investigations. After months of nation-wide public pressure and despite a recent EPA Inspector General report that asserts the EPA was justified in its initial intervention in Texas, the agency refuses to re-open the cases. Moreover, the Obama administration refuses to meet with these people who have been affected by water contamination ‑ those who now devote their lives to making sure that the truth is heard and that thousands of others are protected.

Yesterday, John, Ray, Steve and Craig came to Washington, D.C. to continue their mission to expose the harmful effects of fracking. Only this time, they came to demand Congress’s help. At a Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by Representative Matthew Cartwright (D-PA), Stop the Frack Attack and Americans Against Fracking, these activists, joined by Josh Fox, director of Gasland and Gasland 2, urged Congress to listen to their stories, share them, and pressure the Obama administration to re-open the abandoned water contamination investigations that leave them without drinkable water. “Support the people that you’re supposed to support,” declared Fenton. Read the full article…

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January 28th, 2014

The Risky Business of Being a Monsanto Shareholder

Monsanto Super FundBy Anna Meyer

When readers of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch opened their papers yesterday morning, they saw a full-page ad welcoming Monsanto shareholders into town and asking them to vote for full disclosure of the true costs of genetically modified foods (GMOs). The ad depicts the quintessential American farm (red barn and all), and is very similar to many of the ads that Monsanto released implying that the chemical giant has a rosy relationship with farmers. But the veneer of Monsanto’s advertising has worn thin and shareholders are questioning that very relationship and looking for honest answers as to the impacts that GMOs are having on farmers.

Monsanto is generally seen as the most nefarious and targeted corporation in the food movement. The past few years have seen multiple states fight for the right to know what is in their food, international bans on GMOs and increasingly visible negative environmental impacts. Now, even Monsanto’s own shareholders are demanding answers about their controversial products and practices. Read the full article…

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