food | Food & Water Watch - Part 40
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Blog Posts: Food

June 22nd, 2011

Corporate Food Executives Aren’t Struggling Quite as Much as Farmers

By Rich Bindell

This week we focus on our campaign for fair food by calling on President Obama to enact a rule on livestock marketing that would let USDA finally use authority given to them back when Woodrow Wilson was President. The “GIPSA rule” (named for the USDA branch that governs livestock marketing) would even out the playing field in the meat industry and allow small-to-medium-sized independent farmers to fairly compete with large-scale factory farms. Of course, industry is pushing back, using delay tactics to put off implementing the rule. Which is why Sunday’s Washington Post article was so timely.

The article, “With executive pay, rich pull away from rest of America,” could be the answer to the question: when industrial food giants squeeze out farmers and small processing plants and consolidate the industry, where do their savings go? It sounds like a good deal of it may go to upper echelon executives.

The article is mostly about the abuses that result from decades of deregulation and unchecked corporate consolidation as it relates to the salaries of American business executives in the last five or six decades, but it focuses on one company in particular: Dean Foods. It describes two chief executives who led the company at different times: Kenneth J. Douglas, who held the reigns during the 1970s and Gregg L. Engels, who is the current CEO. The article claims that Engels makes the equivalent of about 10 times as much in compensation as Douglas did. If you’re familiar with the consolidation of power that exists in the food industry, this should come as no surprise. Read the full article…

June 21st, 2011

Demand Fair Farm Rules—Not More Factory Farms

By Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

[Original post appears at]

President Obama made a promise back when he campaigned in farm states. He needs to keep it.

The President told farmers that his administration would help fix the rules that allow the meat industry to take advantage of the people who raise the animals Americans eat. But, under pressure from Big Meat, the Obama Administration has failed to implement the fair farm rules (also known as GIPSA rules, named for the branch of the USDA that would oversee the rules, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration).

Fair farm rules and GIPSA might sound wonky, but implementing them is crucial to leveling the playing field for farmers. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. If we want to move towards a more sustainable and regional food system, we need a fair market. We need to start fixing the nuts and bolts of what keeps farmers from being able to fairly market their products. And consolidation of the food industry is one of the major factors in why our food system is dysfunctional. Read the full article…

June 17th, 2011

No Genetically Modified Crops in Bolivia!

With Bolivia poised to pass legislation that would allow more genetically modified crops into the country, global food sovereignty activists find themselves organizing around a surprising target. The Law of Communal Agrarian Productivity Revolution (Ley de Revolución Productiva Comunitaria Agropecuaria) has passed through the Deputies and the Senate is now slated to vote on Tuesday, June 21.  The Bolivian Government is considered to be a strong ally of global justice movements and has spoken out forcefully in defense of the rights of the earth. With respect to their unique role on the global stage, we sent the following letter of concern.

June 13th, 2011

Call-in Day to Pres. Obama: Keep Your Campaign Promise on Fair Farm Rules

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Sometimes the hypocrisy is stunning. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because the presidential campaign season is well underway. Yes, it’s time for the candidates to trot around rural America lying about all the wonderful things they will do for farmers. Or in the case of the President, issue a feeble excuse for helping rural America—an Executive Order to establish the White House Rural Council. This chutzpah really takes the cake!

This is the same president that has broken the solemn promise that he made during his campaign [PDF; page 2 under header, “Prevent Anticompetitive Behavior Against Family Farms”] to issue fair farm rules. If he were really serious about helping address the economic crisis in rural America, he would stop kowtowing to the meat industry and let the Department of Agriculture write and enforce the rules that would protect farmers against abuses by the consolidated meat industry.

Obama acknowledged during the election that the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act that prohibits price discrimination by meatpackers against small and mid-sized farmers has not been enforced. He said that his Administration would issue the regulations to protect farmers against discrimination by the giant, consolidated meat industry. He promised to strengthen anti-monopoly laws and to protect farmers from fraud, abuse, and market manipulation. Read the full article…

June 10th, 2011

A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China

By Wenonah Hauter

Yesterday, someone called me a protectionist. I laughed and said, “Damn right. I’m all about protecting people’s health and safety here in the U.S. and abroad.” The cause of this heated conversation was the release of Food & Water Watch’s report, A Decade of Dangerous Food Imports from China, where we document the increasing amount of poisoned food that comes to our shores from this agricultural powerhouse.

And just to be perfectly clear up front, I am no xenophobe. I’ve been to China several times and have great respect for the people and their amazing civilization. We all know that putting profits above people is a cross-cultural problem. Besides, many of the companies and investors profiting from Chinese exports are U.S. companies or investors. After all, who created this mess in the first place? Year after year, our elected leaders allow trade to trump health and environmental concerns, not to mention common sense. Read the full article…

June 8th, 2011

Will Your Chicken be Free of Arsenic?

Alpharma, a subsidiary of Pfizer, suspended sales of Roxarsone, otherwise known as arsenic.

Roxarsone is a chemical additive used by the poultry industry – they say they need it to treat disease, but actually it allows the industry to grow chickens with more meat in a shorter time, and because it seems to make the meat look pinker. But it’s also dangerous to public health and the environment. The poultry industry has used Roxarsone — also known as 4-Hydroxy-3-nitrobenzenearsonic acid (3-Nitro) or arsenic —for years. Now the FDA has stated that Alpharma — the Pfizer subsidiary that makes Roxarsone — is suspending sales in the U.S. While this is certainly good news for anyone concerned with chemical use in food, the FDA should take an additional step and ban the drug in poultry production entirely. Read the full article…

June 1st, 2011

Selling Junk Food to Kids

By Sarah Alexander

Today one in three American children are overweight or obese. It doesn’t help that kids are bombarded with advertising on TV, the Internet, social media and through “advergames,” which are ads dressed up as games and that unfortunately, much of the food that’s marketed to children is terrible for their health: sugary cereals, soda and drinks loaded with sugar and corn syrup, fast food, and snacks.

Corporations spend close to $1.6 billion marketing food to children each year, and now kids are seeing advertising everywhere they look. Online marketing to kids now includes fun games and e-card designs made with images of candy and sugary cereals. According to Cereal Facts, a report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, one site operated by General Mills has over 767,000 young people spending more than an hour each month playing games that are branded for cereals like Lucky Charms® and Trix®. There are company-sponsored pages on Facebook for Froot Loops®, Frosted Flakes®, Lucky Charms and other products with more than 10,000 fans each.

What’s a kid or a parent to do?

The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children is actually looking at creating standards that would limit marketing junk food to kids. Marketing junk food to kids has gone on for too long, and obesity rates in the United States should be enough to prompt immediate government action.

Will you submit a comment to help end corporate marketing of junk food to kids? Can you take action to stop the junk food advertising to kids?

May 27th, 2011

Hey, Let’s All Be Microbiologically Safe Out There This Weekend

By Rich Bindell

While this weekend is supposed to encourage us to pause and think about those who have served or continue to serve our nation, it’s not unlikely that you could end up grilling out at someone’s house over the next few days. Since Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off for summer for many of us, it’s the perfect time to discuss the USDA’s big change to their refrigerator magnet of recommended cooking temperatures for meat. Well, it’s not that big, actually; technically it’s more of an update for pork.

The USDA is changing the recommended cooking temperatures for all thick, whole cuts of pork (roasts, chops, from 160 degrees to 145 degrees with a resting time of three minutes.  That means that the thickest part of the meat has to reach 145 degrees and then have three minutes of rest time. This will allow for safe meat consumption, which really means that it will properly kill the pathogens and be microbiologically safe. Read the full article…

May 25th, 2011

Growing Meat in a Lab? Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should.

By Rich Bindell

Necessity might be the mother of some inventions, but certainly not all of them. In other words: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Perhaps, we should leave room for difference of opinion on the definition of necessity. For some, it seems to reflect the notion that Mother Nature just isn’t quite efficient enough.

Take meat, for example. We’re used to getting meat from actual animals that are raised on farms (or hunted, depending upon where you’re from) and that are born from the wombs of their mothers. Apparently, this is no longer necessary, thanks to the work of biologist and tissue engineer Vladimir Mironov from the Medical University of South Carolina, who believes that we might soon be able to “grow” our own meat. Mironov is involved in the bioengineering of “cultured” or “in-vitro” meat or, as I am calling it, “In-meatro.” Is Mironov another scientist who humbly desires to help solve global hunger or is he blinded by the thought of becoming more efficient than nature? Read the full article…

May 23rd, 2011

Shameful Kowtowing to the Meat Industry: 147 Congressmen Diss Family Farmers

By Wenonah Hauter

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter calls out 147 Members of Congress for "shameful kowtowing" to the meat industry.

Last Wednesday, 147 Members of Congress proved once again that the meat industry can buy public policy. The trade associations for big meat, which are major campaign contributors, have been pitching a hissy fit that they won’t be able to squeeze every penny out of livestock producers. They wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to conduct “a more thorough economic analysis” of the proposed fair farm rules (GIPSA) that would give livestock producers a fighting chance when they contract or sell to the consolidated meat industry. This action by the Members is nothing more than yet another obstruction to implementing a rule first proposed in the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act because of the abusive practices of the meat industry that have continued and worsened through the decades. This rule would eliminate “undue” preference in livestock marketing to the biggest producers. Read the full article…

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