November 18th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
Right now, some members of Congress are pushing hard for “regulatory reform” that would make it next to impossible for the federal government to create any new regulations. Their anti-regulatory battle plan attacks on two fronts: the REINS Act and the Regulatory Time-Out Act. While their rhetoric conveniently claims these bills would address issues of money, jobs and inefficiency in government, their main goal is to kill all regulations, even those regulations that are tantamount to public safety.
The “reforms” that some members of Congress are trying to pass could strip federal agencies of their ability to update meat and poultry inspection, safe drinking water standards and even fair competition in the marketplace among food producers —basic functions of government that shouldn’t be tied into the political dysfunction of the past several years.
Remember the Food Safety Modernization Act that became law early this year? This recalibration of the FDA’s food safety program should enable federal regulators to catch up to modern challenges in food production, including provisions that protect against pathogens like Listeria and Salmonella in produce and processed food. We’ve had recent outbreaks of both, complete with massive product recalls. The Regulatory Time-Out Act would push these critical regulations off for another year.
Imagine, for a moment, that your drinking water wasn’t monitored or that food processors were no longer properly inspected for safety. Life without these protections in place would be very different, indeed. While the public would go unprotected, the powerful corporations would get to operate as they please, with no one reigning in practices that could damage the environment or public health. No matter what folks think about the budget deficit or job creation, most would agree that there are basic functions best performed by the government – and protecting common resources like food and water are pretty high on that list.
The claims made about creating jobs and saving money by deregulating powerful industries are rhetoric, not reality. We need regulations to safeguard our food, water and natural resources. These are basic protections that ensure public health and safety, not a source for savings.
November 16th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
You know Jillian Michaels as the now-famous inspirational trainer (and former overweight consumer) from The Biggest Loser. Did you know that the main reason she has been able to maintain her healthy body is from eating organic foods and staying FAR AWAY from processed food products? It sounds like Jillian is well aware of the problems that burden our corporate-controlled food system, run by giants like Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson and Nestlé. If only the show could focus on that part of a better health strategy, it could really teach people about the critical importance of the Farm Bill in improving our food and our health as a nation.
Wait a minute… that gives us an idea!
America has already opened its collective consciousness to the lessons of The Biggest Loser. The show’s contestants are close to our hearts for good reason: they’ve allowed us to examine ourselves and how we view our own health. But, now it’s time to welcome a new group into the fold and follow them as they head down a path toward self-improvement and healing. Only this time, the contestants aren’t playing for themselves, but for everyone who depends upon a healthy food system.
Welcome to the Biggest FARM BILL Loser. Read the full article…
November 10th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
The USDA has once again failed to protect independent farmers from the companies that control our broken food system. They have sent part of the much-debated GIPSA rule over to the White House for final approval – without critical parts of the proposed rule that are needed to equalize competition for independent cattle and hog producers in the livestock marketplace. While there may be some positive changes in the rule for the poultry industry (see more detail in the statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter), it is clear that those companies who have solid control over the livestock market also have a lobbying arm that exerts solid control over the current administration.
In 1921, the U.S. government came to the conclusion that something needed to be done about the lack of competition in the meatpacking industry that was allowing a few companies to dominate the market. Congress passed a law called the Packers & Stockyards Act and the USDA created the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) rule to address the problem. The problem is that they have never enforced the law. What good is a seatbelt if you don’t use it? Read the full article…
November 9th, 2011
So… you think you’re a foodie, do ya? Well, why not test yourself? We invite you to take our Fair Farm Quiz and determine your Fair Food IQ.
What is a farm exactly? Is it that picturesque locale on the label of a supermarket brand of cheese or is it more like an industrial production scene, complete with conveyor belts and widgets?
Did you know? Read the full article…
Posted in Agricultural policy
,Genetically engineered food
November 3rd, 2011
By Rich Bindell
I’ve always disliked the term “natural flavors” on the occasion that I see it in the ingredients list on a food label. What does that mean exactly? I always thought it included things like lemon juice or sea salt. But natural flavors can include human hair, crushed-up beetles and, my favorite, beaver anal glands. These all sound like things that might “accidentally” make it into your food. But in the processed food industry, these items give food its distinctive taste and texture. They are purposefully added to foods and often called “natural,” according to Bruce Bradley, former corporate food executive turned blogger. (Hat tip to Grist for telling us about him.) Bradley tackles topics such as the truth behind the sugar substitute Truvia and the real meaning of the terms “natural flavors and colors” on The Blog of Bruce Bradley, which covers topics besides food, such as family, writing and animals. But the most hard-hitting entries seem to be food related, thanks to the time he spent as an executive in the food industry where he worked for companies including General Mills, Nabisco and Pillsbury. Read the full article…
October 25th, 2011
Photo by Jlastras.
By Rich Bindell
It seems unlikely that a big food corporation with a lot of money and lobbying power would need to hide to avoid taking responsibility for its own actions. But that’s exactly what Perdue Farms is doing. They are hiding behind one of their contract growing operations, as well as behind a faux grassroots website, spreading misinformation about environmental groups trying to protect the Chesapeake Bay from pollution.
Waterkeeper Alliance filed a lawsuit in March 2010, against Perdue Farms, one of the nation’s largest producers of broiler chickens, and one of their contract growing operations—owned by Alan and Kristin Hudson— to hold them responsible for run-off from the site into farm ditches that drain into the Franklin Branch before reaching the Pocomoke River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. While the Hudsons own the farm, the chickens they raise there are owned by Perdue and the company makes almost every decision about how they are raised. But when it comes to dealing with the manure created by those chickens, the Hudsons are on their own.
In order to “defend” the Hudson Farm, Perdue anonymously created the website Savefarmfamilies.org, to spread misinformation about the lawsuit. They depict the Hudsons as victims of aggressive environmental groups who need financial help to cover their bills from the lawsuit. While Perdue doesn’t lay claim to the website, the IP address of the proxy registration belongs to Perdue.
Food & Water Watch has our own response to the claims made by Savefarmfamilies.org. Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter drafted an open letter to Perdue CEO Jim Perdue, questioning Perdue’s current PR strategy. Read the full article…
September 30th, 2011
By Ryan Frazier
The unyielding pressure to minimize costs and maximize production has changed the face of animal agriculture in the United States. Decades of extensive consolidation and vertical integration have led to an industrial operating model with devastating consequences for rural communities, the environment, public health and animal welfare.
Today, the vast majority of animals raised for meat, milk and eggs live in extreme conditions where they are unable to express their most basic instinctual behaviors. Many of these animals never once feel grass under their feet or the sun on their back.
Numerous organizations are committed to exposing the reality of what factory farming means for animals welfare. This has always been a challenging task, but it may soon become even more difficult. With the help of several state legislators, the meat industry is working harder than ever to ensure they maintain exclusive control over their public image by banning unauthorized images from their facilities. Read the full article…
September 21st, 2011
By Senior Lobbyist Tony Corbo
Much of what you see on this blog is meant for the average consumer. We don’t always delve into the nitty-gritty details of some of the policy work we do because, unless you’re a policy wonk or congressional staffer, it would be like reading Ulysses in a foreign language. Backwards. But today I’m making an exception because what happened at an assembly yesterday impacts anyone who occasionally enjoys a medium-rare hamburger or turkey meatballs in their spaghetti.
Meat and poultry inspectors are the public’s first line of defense against foodborne illnesses such as E. coli, Salmonella, and listeria. There are 6,000 inspectors for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); the entire program only makes up less than 1 percent of the USDA’s budget. Read the full article…
September 14th, 2011
By Anna Ghosh
Today the most popular doctor on television, Dr. Mehmet Oz, reveals some shocking results about toxins in apple juice. Tipped off by a Food & Water Watch and Empire State Consumer Project media advisory calling on the FDA to hold juice to the same minimum standards as drinking water, the Dr. Oz Show asked our Assistant Director Patty Lovera to be on the show as an expert guest and write an article about how arsenic gets in our food supply and what we can do to get it out.
While food safety scares that originate here in the U.S. get a lot of media attention—like the two recent turkey recalls—consumers need to keep in mind that a large proportion of our food is being imported into our country, but less than 2 percent of it actually gets inspected. Read the full article…
September 7th, 2011
By Genna Reed
Recent lawsuits against the approval of Roundup ready alfalfa and Roundup ready sugar beets have spurred considerable dialogue about the lack of protection for farmers against genetically engineered (GE) contamination. When an organic or non-GE crop is contaminated with GE genetic material, the affected farmer bears the financial burden of possibly losing their market to sell their crop and could face prosecution for patent infringement. This significant economic harm, and the expense farmers go to trying to avoid contamination, is an unacceptable burden put on farmers, and should be the responsibility of the exceedingly wealthy patent-owning biotechnology companies.
On August 30-31, I attended the first meeting of The Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21stCentury Agriculture (AC21), which has been re-chartered by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. The committee is comprised of group of experts, ranging from organic farmers to biotech and seed industry representatives. The purpose of the committee is to participate in important dialogue about “coexistence.” This term was defined by a prior AC21 committee as, “the concurrent cultivation of conventional, organic, and genetically engineered (GE) crops consistent with underlying consumer preferences and ethics.”
At the start of the meeting, Secretary Vilsack charged the committee with three tasks: Read the full article…