food | Food & Water Watch - Part 10
Victory! Cleveland passes resolution against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. more wins »
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Blog Posts: Food

December 20th, 2013

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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10 Sustainable Gift Ideas for the Holidays

By Briana Kerensky & Jo Miles

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to start freaking out about what to get your friends and family for the holidays. Does she need a coffee maker? What’s his sweater size? Has he read this book before? How much money are you supposed to spend? Are gift cards rude?

This year we’ve got you covered. Below are 10 sustainable gift ideas for the holidays. Read the full article…

December 5th, 2013

ALEC’s Attack on Country of Origin Labels

By Tyler Shannon

The right wing, Koch brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a pro-big business organization that works to gut environmental protection, attack labor rights and pass discriminatory voter identification laws, is now lining up with meatpackers and factory farms to try to prevent consumers from knowing where their food comes from.

ALEC is a reactionary, pro-business group disguised as a nonprofit that writes and lobbies for state legislation and “model bills” that put business interests ahead of the public interest. Its members include numerous large corporations and Republican legislators. Some companies, such as Amazon and Coca Cola, have actually chosen to pull out of ALEC after learning of the sweeping range of its radical legislative agenda. ALEC has been the subject of IRS complaints for lobbying while hiding behind its nonprofit status.

This week at ALEC’s annual policy summit, it is jumping into food and farm policy on the side of giant agribusiness interests, not American farmers and consumers. ALEC will vote on a resolution supporting the elimination of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat and poultry products. U.S. farmers and consumers overwhelmingly support COOL. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and farmers are proud to sell livestock born and raised in America. Read the full article…

Attention Shoppers: Do You Really Know What’s In Your Cart?

By Katherine Cirullo

Imagine you’re in the supermarket. It’s an emporium, packed to the brim with shelves of colorful packaging. As you peruse the aisles, you’re confronted by brand on top of brand on top of a new brand that you’ve never heard of before. Cue sensory overload. There are hundreds of different bags of chips. There’s this condiment and that condiment, this yogurt and those “all natural” yogurts. A plethora of choice; or is choice just an illusion?

Take our new Foodopoly Quiz on our newly launched Foodopoly website and you’ll be shocked to find out who really controls what you put in your cart, and why it all matters.

In addition to what you’ll learn in the quiz, Food & Water Watch released a new report, Grocery Goliaths: How Food Monopolies Impact Consumers, which focuses on one aspect of the Foodoply – the grocery industry. Our researchers analyzed two years of grocery industry data (100 different types of groceries) and found that intense consolidation of the grocery industry leaves shoppers with stifled choice and increasingly expensive grocery bills. And, it’s not just consumers who are affected. Mega mergers in the grocery industry are pushing small food companies (and the viability of a sustainable food system) out of the game, all to make a profit. Read the full article…

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November 26th, 2013

Farm Bill Update: Rites of Fall and Winter Miracles

Food Policy Director Patty Lovera

Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera

By Patty Lovera

In what seems to be a new rite of fall, Farm Bill watchers are once again wondering how and if Congress can finish this bill before the end of the year. At the end of last week, talks between the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture committees broke down, which means finishing the Farm Bill using the normal process in 2013 would be nothing short of a winter holiday miracle.

To recap: The 2008 Farm Bill expired on October 1, 2012. Then on New Year’s Day, a 9-month farm bill extension was included in the bill that was passed to fix the supposed “fiscal cliff.” But the extension didn’t cover everything that was in the 2008 bill, and left dozens of programs for sustainable and organic agriculture, beginning farmers and disaster assistance behind. And on October 1 of this year, that short-term extension expired too.

So once again, we are finishing the year with an expired Farm Bill, waiting to see if Congress can finish the process and pass a new bill before “permanent law” (from the 1930’s and 1940’s) kicks in and affects the price of farm commodities like milk. Read the full article…

Since When Is the EPA Beholden to Big Ag?

The EPA Has the Authority to Track and Regulate Factory Farms. So Why Do We Have to Remind Them?

By Sarah Borron

Earlier this year, F&WW released a report detailing how poorly the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tracks and regulates concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In fact, the situation is so bad that Food & Water Watch is suing EPA to force them to count CAFOs accurately and share that list with the public, just as it does for other polluting industries. In our review of hundreds of internal EPA documents, we found another story to tell.

Why is EPA explaining itself to the livestock industry…

When EPA backed down from an attempt to track CAFOs in the summer of 2012 (by abandoning the “CAFO Reporting Rule” it was writing), environmental advocates wanted to get to the bottom of it. Three environmental organizations filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests asking for all the documents relating to the proposed and withdrawn regulation. The hundreds of documents EPA gave in reply included lists of CAFO names, locations, and other basic information provided to the agency by state governments in lieu of a comprehensive CAFO Reporting Rule. Such information was largely already public and represented a portion of what needed to be collected had EPA finalized the rule.

Yet, EPA made a point to give the livestock industry a special heads up about releasing this basic information under FOIA.

An e-mail EPA sent to several livestock industry organizations notifying them about something that should have been routine: that information that was already largely in the public domain was released as part of a FOIA request as required by law. The Senior Policy Advisor explained, “I have been reaching out to you and your colleagues as soon as I became aware of this situation…” She offered to (and later did) set up special meetings and conference calls and provided copies of the FOIA records to the livestock groups, and EPA staff even provided hand-delivered CDs when links to records didn’t work. Read the full article…

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