food | Food & Water Watch - Part 10
Victory! Governor Cuomo bans fracking in New York. more wins »
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Blog Posts: Food

January 3rd, 2014

2014 Starts With a Biotech-sponsored Bang

By Genna Reed

In a completely unpropitious start to the new year, the USDA released its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Dow AgroScience’s 2,4-D tolerant Enlist corn and soybeans today after taking just six months to analyze over 400,000 comments and write a 223 page assessment.

Many of you sent in comments to the USDA regarding its Environmental Assessments released in 2011, which prompted the USDA to open a comment period for a proposed EIS (the more thorough of two options for environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act). Now farmers, farmworkers, consumers and environmental advocates will have 45 days to comment on the USDA’s EIS for Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant corn and soybean varieties. This is the public’s last opportunity to tell USDA to deny the approval of these genetically engineered crops.

The biotech industry wants to claim these new GE crops will help control herbicide resistant weeds, but instead these new herbicide tolerant crops will just perpetuate the problem and tack on harsher environmental consequences for good measure. In Food & Water Watch’s “Superweeds” report released last summer, we predicted that once 2,4-D corn is approved and adopted at the same rate as Roundup Ready corn, 2,4-D application on corn could increase by 2 million pounds in just two years. USDA’s own models in its EIS show that with the approval of Dow’s new corn and soybeans, 2,4-D use would increase two to six-fold.

This could have devastating impacts on grapes, tomatoes and all other specialty crops because 2,4-D is very prone to drifting away from the field where it is applied and killing other plants that aren’t engineered to survive it—not to mention the potential health effects associated with 2,4-D exposure, including non-Hodgkins lymphoma. (If 2,4-D sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it was one of the ingredients in the infamous Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam War.)

2,4-D-tolerant corn and soybeans are not only dangerous, but completely unnecessary.

The Union of Concerned Scientists just released a policy brief on superweeds and found that, “herbicide use could be reduced by more than 90 percent—while maintaining or increasing yields and net farmer profits—through practices based on the principles of ecological science that reduce weed numbers and growth.”

We hope you will join Food & Water Watch in calling on the USDA and EPA to deny approval for these toxic crops. Look for an opportunity to send in your comment in the coming weeks!

January 2nd, 2014

Starting the Year Off Right

By Briana Kerensky

With the holiday season finally rolling to a close, it’s time to see if we can make good on our New Year’s resolutions. Getting healthy; spending more time with our families; being more productive at the office; these are all things we promise ourselves when the ball drops.

Here at Food & Water Watch, we’ve made our own resolutions. But as always, we need a little help from you to make sure we can achieve them. Here are some of the urgent priorities we’ll be focusing on early this year that will be crucial to win if we want to protect our essential resources—and our democracy. Read the full article…

December 26th, 2013

Top 13 Reasons to Raise Your Glass to 2013

By Katherine Cirullo

As the year comes to an end, Food & Water Watch has a lot of reasons to celebrate. And the truth is, we owe it all to you! Without the dedication and support of our members, activists and allies, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the 40-plus victories we achieved in 2013. Whether you volunteered your Saturday morning with us, signed a petition, wrote a letter to your local elected official, gave a donation, attended a rally, asked questions at a hearing or spread the word on Facebook – you contributed to reaching goals that we could never have accomplished without you. Your enthusiasm about our work – ensuring safe food, clean water and access to common resources now and for generations to come –never ceases to inspire us. We couldn’t be more grateful.


Food & Water Watch Greetings

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In 2013, together with our allies we: Read the full article…

December 23rd, 2013

A Year of Victories

 

Earlier this month, the entire Food & Water Watch staff gathered to map out our work for 2014. We planned to briefly celebrate our victories from 2013, too… but from local fracking bans to protecting our food from arsenic, it took us over an hour just to list them all! 

These victories are all thanks to you, and we made this infographic to show you all you’ve done in 2013.

 Read the full article…

December 20th, 2013

Top Five Movies to Watch this Winter Break

By Briana Kerensky, Katherine Cirullo and Miranda Carter

‘Tis the season for peppermint hot chocolate, warm fuzzy socks and of course, movie marathons. This year, forget driving to the movie theater and overspending on a two-hour flick and what is, most likely, genetically engineered popcorn. 

Below is a list of thought-provoking, socially, politically and environmentally conscious films that our staff at Food & Water Watch enjoys and thinks you will, too! Got a movie to add to our list? Share your picks in the comments below.

  1. Gasland and Gasland 2: In this Oscar-nominated documentary, Director Josh Fox takes viewers on a cross-country journey to discover the hard, shocking truths behind the fracking boom that has swept across the United States. Interested in hosting your own Gasland or Gasland 2 screening in the new year? Food & Water Watch can help!
    Read the full article…

Clones, the Commission and Ethical Contortionism

By Eve Mitchell

The European Commission’s proposed Directives on clones in the food chain fall woefully short of what citizens want and the Parliament demands.

The draft laws are not all they appear to be at first glance. One draft Directive “provisionally prohibits” cloning farm animals and the sale of farm clones or clone embryos. The other “provisionally prohibits” the sale and import of food from clones. Once enshrined in law the Directives would be reviewed to enable any “improvements” in cloning techniques that reduce animal suffering to be taken into account in future regulation.

Any prohibition of cloning is welcome, based as it is on the acknowledgement that cloning for food is unwanted and unconscionably cruel, but it‘s not enough.

The draft laws do not prohibit the sale of food from the offspring of clones, which renders them next to useless in the real world. The Commission emphasises, “[C]loning is so expensive that its use for food production is not lucrative.” This is a tacit admission that the proposed measures don’t actually tackle the real problem – food from cloned offspring. Read the full article…

December 17th, 2013

Fighting, and Winning, Against the Status Quo

By Miranda Carter

A few months ago, the FDA announce it would no longer allow most arsenic-based drugs to be used in raising chickens. For years, arsenic was used as a growth-promoting agent that supposedly made the flesh of chickens and turkeys look pinker. But that pink poultry came at a serious cost: arsenic increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits and other health problems through chronic exposure, either in meat and poultry, or in the animal waste that is left behind in the environment. 

Now that there’s a ban, parents across the country no longer have to worry about serving arsenic to their children in their chicken dinners. I can tell you first-hand that it wouldn’t have happened without grassroots organizing.

I was the field organizer for the three-year campaign to end the use of arsenic in chicken feed in Maryland that helped pave the way for this national ban. It really shows how organizing locally is critical to creating national change. For two years, our opponents — companies like Perdue chicken and Pfizer — defeated us. They fought fiercely to maintain the status quo and keep profits as high as possible, even at the expense of public health. So we fought back by organizing. 


Organizing is hard work, but Marylanders were with us. When I told people about our campaign, they were appalled that companies were allowed to use a known poison in our food. In the end, we beat Big Ag and Big Pharma with thousands of phone calls and emails to lawmakers, and hundreds of doors knocked in a key district in Baltimore. Then the FDA issued a national ban on arsenic use. It’s a real testament to the power of grassroots organizing — it couldn’t have happened without concerned citizens taking action.
 

But our work is far from over. Big industry lobbyists are fighting in state capitols and in Washington, D.C. to keep the status quo and evade regulations that protect consumers. They may have money, but we have something they don’t: people. It’ll be a long fight against fierce opponents like Monsanto, Perdue and Cargill, but we know we can win with your support.


In 2014, we will continue working in communities across the country to take on Big Ag. We are fighting to pass more laws to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, and we will ramp up our work to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, which threatens to render antibiotics ineffective for us when we need them most.

As you know, Food & Water Watch doesn’t take any corporate or government donations — this independence is what allows us to take principled positions. It is one of the reasons I’m so proud to work for this organization. We rely on concerned citizens like you in order to do the work we do — please donate to Food & Water Watch today.

Donate to help build a movement of people fighting for a just and sustainable food system.

December 11th, 2013

New Antibiotic Guidelines, but the Devil’s in the Details

By Sarah Borron


Today the FDA released voluntary guidelines for drug companies and livestock producers, in a long overdue update to the policy antibiotic use in livestock. But as always, the devil is in the details.

For background, livestock producers routinely give livestock low doses of antibiotics in feed in order to promote growth and prevent disease, a practice known as subtherapeutic use. Unfortunately, this practice promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing public health crisis.

FDA’s new guidance requests that pharmaceutical companies change the labels on medications used in feed. The medication label states how the medicine is legally allowed to be used, and the change FDA is requesting is that antibiotics important in human medicine no longer be labeled for growth promotion purposes. 

FDA assured stakeholders in a call today that two major pharmaceutical companies have already agreed to this label change for the drugs they produce. Once the label has been changed, the drug can only be used in feed to “treat, prevent, or control disease” and requires a veterinary prescription for those uses. Currently, most antibiotics sold in livestock feed are available over the counter without veterinary oversight. 

But FDA’s new strategy still isn’t enough. There are two main problems: Read the full article…

December 10th, 2013

Merger Mania in the Food System Continues

By Tyler Shannon

stack of one hundred dollar billsGiant food companies are once again trying to consume their competition as Foodopoly 2013 continues. On Monday, the number one food distribution company in the United States, Sysco, announced it was buying its only major competitor, US Foods, for $3.5 billion plus all of US Foods’ debt, bringing the value of the deal to $8.2 billion.

Restaurants, hospitals, schools, hotels and even the military need to get their food from somewhere, and Sysco is already the dominant player in foodservice distribution. Their distinctive chrome-sided trucks can be seen making deliveries all over the country, and if you or anyone you know works in the food service industry, you’ve probably dealt with Sysco at some point. Even high-end restaurants get at least some of their food from Sysco.

The usual excuse companies use to justify mergers is once again on display here – achieving “synergies.” Companies, including Sysco, explain that these synergies will save them lots of money, presumably because they now get to lay off a significant number of “duplicate” staff, and in this case, no longer have a major competitor to worry about. Their customers, on the other hand, won’t be getting any sort of synergy to help them out; in fact they may end up paying higher costs for their food. Just last month, a Sysco subsidiary settled a case in which it was alleged to have overcharged the military after acquiring a different company several years ago.

There are a number of small regional players all around the country, but they do not play nearly as significant of a role in foodservice distribution as do Sysco and US Foods. If this merger gets approved, the lack of competitive alternatives for institutions needing to purchase foods will drop significantly, and Sysco will essentially have a lock on the industry, potentially increasing prices that these institutions must pay.

These mergers need to stop. The Federal Trade Commission needs to start doing its job and preventing this opportunistic monopolization from taking over our food system.

Learn more about the Foodopoly we’re living in—take our quiz now to see how well you know everyday items sold by just a handful of companies under thousands of brands.

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The Foodopoly Never Sleeps

By Lily Boyce

Just days after releasing an analysis of 100 food products’ increasing consolidation, Food & Water Watch’s newest report is already due for an update. This week, WhiteWave Foods announced their agreement to buy Earthbound Farm. This acquisition consolidates two of the biggest players in the organic/natural food industry, further limiting consumer choice.

WhiteWave was spun off from Dean Foods earlier this year, and produces well-known products including Silk soymilk and Horizon Organic milk. Earthbound Farm grew rapidly as an organic bagged salad producer to become one of the largest organic produce companies today. WhiteWave plans to operate Earthbound Farm as a separate company, which means consumers likely won’t see any change on packaging or marketing for Earthbound Farm products. Many companies operate their newly acquired brands this way, which leads consumers to believe they are choosing among competitors when really the products are made by the same firm.

The Foodopoly continues to eat up consumers’ choices at an aggressive pace. We can’t just shop our way out of it – check out our Grocery Goliaths report to learn about the problems caused by rampant consolidation, and take the quiz at www.foodopoly.org to test your grocery store knowledge.

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