May 19th, 2011
The Food & Water Watch Factory Farm Map has created quite a buzz over the last several months, and now it’s won an Interactive Media Award (IMA). Created by our friends at New Signature, the Factory Farm Map has taken home IMA’s coveted Best in Class award under the Advocacy category, a rather high honor of which we are very proud. We would like to congratulate our food team for their hard work and New Signature for their creativity in designing a compelling media experience that allowed us to share very detailed information about factory farm statistics that reinforces our messaging on the U.S. food system.
The Factory Farm Map is an interactive resource that charts the concentration of factory-farmed animals across the country and illustrates the geographic shift in where and how food is raised in the U.S. Our researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census using information from 1997, 2002 and the most current census, 2007, for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, broiler meat chickens and egg-laying operations.
The map continues to be an annual labor of love for many people here at Food & Water Watch and we are very happy for everyone involved that this interactive map has seen such tremendous success.
Congratulations to all involved!
May 17th, 2011
A few Chinese farmers found out the hard way that using a growth accelerator could cause watermelon carnage.
The Associated Press reported that approximately 20 farmers in Jiangsu province have witnessed 115 acres of watermelons exploding like land mines, thanks in part to their overuse of a growth accelerator called forchlorfenuron, which caused the fruit to burst. Back in the United States, 80’s comedian Gallagher might be worried about losing his job.
China Central Television said the farmers were all first-time users of forchlorfenuron, which is legal in China and even used on grapes and kiwis in the U.S. While the report suggests that the farmers didn’t use the chemical correctly, the situation highlights a growing concern for Americans: China’s frequent misuse of chemicals — both legal and illegal — in food that might be exported to the U.S. thanks to free trade deals. Read the full article…
May 13th, 2011
By Rich Bindell
Certain products might help us face a future of toxic contaminants, chemical dispersants, genetically engineered mutations and unnecessary hormones and antibiotics in our food and water.
A design student in Germany created a dinner plate that informs consumers of the amount of radiation in their food. Nils Ferber, a student at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, has introduced the Fukushima Plate, which contains a meter that would allow consumers to determine if their food is contaminated with radiation. Ferber has no plans to sell the plate; rather, his invention is intended to express his cynicism about governments prioritizing profit over public health.
But, why stop with dangers triggered by unpredictable natural disasters? In the U.S., we have other dangers that are presented to consumers that could be avoided. Using Ferber’s idea, I propose we push the envelope and develop a series of products that could really help financially stable consumers prepare for a future of toxic contaminants, chemical dispersants, genetically engineered mutations and filth in our food and water. Read the full article…
May 11th, 2011
The nearly 812,000 hogs on factory farms in Bladen County, North Carolina produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Chicago and Atlanta metro areas combined.
In April, we highlighted the environmental and public health dangers associated with North Carolina’s hog industry, one of the biggest industries in the state. North Carolina’s 10 million hogs produce 40 million gallons of manure each day — that’s more than the number of people in the state. In Duplin County alone, 2.2 million hogs produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the New York City metro area. Efforts to implement a plan to ensure that factory hog farms are incorporating responsible practices of manure disposal continue to be unsuccessful. It’s a tug-of-war between those who want to pull North Carolina away from harmful factory farm methods of manure management and those who want to keep dragging the state through lots and lots of manure. Read the full article…
May 6th, 2011
Washington Post Live assembled an all-star conference entitled “The Future of Food” Wednesday at Georgetown University. Speakers included Macarthur Fellow and urban farmer Will Allen, poet/farmer Wendell Barry, professor Marion Nestle and other advocates, government officials and industry representatives. Highlights included a keynote by none other than Prince Charles of Wales (House of Windsor), a passionate advocate of organic farming, who argued that farming systems should mirror “the miraculous ingenuity of nature.”
Not to be outdone by a representative of the British monarchy, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made a surprise visit and enthusiastically covered many positive topics in agriculture including supporting local food systems, feeding hungry children, and ensuring small and mid-scale farmers can make a living from farming. In the question and answer period, however, conference participants unleashed criticisms that USDA does too little to address industrial agriculture. Read the full article…
April 29th, 2011
President Obama gives berth to industry on big issues like GE food and fracking.
By Rich Bindell
It’s probably safe to say that a majority of Americans were pretty surprised that President Obama hosted an official press conference to share his birth documentation with the nation. Why did the President feel compelled to dignify Donald Trump and other “birthers” with a response at all? Surely, as President, the relationship of power is such that he does not need to lower himself to respond to such a ridiculous and empty allegation. Many have said that the entire situation is an embarrassment and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick even said that American politics has hit “a new low.” But Obama’s quick response to quell Trump’s desire for press reminds us of the President’s other recent acts of acquiescence: the deregulation of genetically engineered crops, the pending approval of GE salmon, and the lack of action on fracking including the potential effects on the drinking water of millions.
President Obama may have just delivered to the nation his certificate of birth, but for the past two years, he’s been yielding to the influence of industry, practically offering various lobbying groups a “certificate of berth.” Here are three areas where Obama gives wide berth to the interests of big companies… Read the full article…
April 21st, 2011
North Carolina still uses old methods of waste management on their factory hog farms. 40 million daily gallons of untreated hog manure can be a threat to public health.
If you think of it literally, that’s pretty close to what’s happening with North Carolina’s hog industry — specifically within large factory farm operations that collectively raise most of the state’s 10 million hogs… and their 40 million daily gallons of untreated manure. Sadly, North Carolina has one of the oldest and worst ways of disposing of hog waste: they use manure lagoons and sprinkler systems, which presents a serious threat to public health. The state passed a legislative measure in 2007 that asked factory farm operations to voluntarily phase out their old practices and improve their quality standards for air and water. But it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that, when something is voluntary, industry doesn’t usually do it. So far only a few factory farms have implemented the new systems. It’s time for North Carolina to make these standards mandatory. Read the full article…
April 19th, 2011
Last week, eaters were treated to another food safety reality check: drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus are in our meat, and it’s likely coming from the way livestock are produced on crowded factory farms.
Researchers collected and tested 136 meat and poultry samples from five U.S. cities, encompassing 80 brands of beef, chicken pork and turkey from 26 grocery stores. They found 47 percent of the meat and poultry samples were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. The study, published last week in the journal Clinical Infections Diseases, concludes that food animals themselves were the major source of contamination, presumably raised in factory farms where they are routinely fed low-doses of antibiotics. MRSA, methicillin-resistant S. aureus, was found in three of the samples.
Just how big are these farms, and how fast are they growing? According to our Factory Farm Map, which analyzed the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Census data for beef and dairy cattle, hogs, broiler meat chickens and egg-laying operations, the total number of livestock on the largest factory farms rose by more than 20 percent between 2002 and 2007. At the same time, the number of dairy cows and broiler chickens nearly doubled. Read the full article…
April 15th, 2011
Large agricultural firms have enough influence in the food industry to squeeze out smaller farmers by not offering fair prices for their products.
Over the past few weeks, as we’ve been preparing for our Sowing the Seeds events, some interesting discussions have been brewing about city mice vs. country mice and how they relate to agricultural subsidies. We think this issue will be a hot topic in the months to come and understanding it is critical to the success of the next Farm Bill, so we wanted to add our two cents to the discussion, as well.
It began with Washington Post writer Ezra Klein’s blog post, “Why We Still Need Cities,” which included a brash comment about subsidies. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack wasn’t happy with Klein’s comments about rural life, so he requested a chance to respond. A second post followed in the form of a Klein interview with Vilsack where the Ag chief defends the culture of rural life and its denizens’ contributions to the nation. Our thoughts on their exchange? Klein: wrong; Vilsack: wrong. They both seemed to talk around the real issue. Monica Potts from American Prospect and Grist’s Tom Philpott both have a similar opinion. Read the full article…
Sowing the Seeds events will be kicking off throughout the country. It's time to get involved in shaping food policy because it's not enough to try to change our food system with our dollars.
As more and more people are making better and more informed food choices, the realization sets in that there is only so much we can do with our purchasing power to fix our broken food system. We need to focus on the policies that shape the way our food is planted, grown and distributed. This is why this weekend, and throughout the spring, volunteers, activists and anyone who cares about healthful food will be Sowing the Seeds.
What is Sowing the Seeds?
Sowing the Seeds is a series of events that bring communities together to celebrate good food and empower people to take action in large numbers. Many participants get together to plant food in local gardens and collect petitions from members of their communities. There are currently events scheduled to take place all across the nation: From Baltimore to Bismark, from Brooklyn to Seattle, and from Providence to St. Cloud, people who want to make positive changes to our food system are getting ready. Read the full article…