December 5th, 2013
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…
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…
December 3rd, 2013
New legislation guts the purpose of a carbon tax in order to clear a glut of CDM credits on Mexico’s market, avoiding real emissions reductions.
By Elizabeth Nussbaumer
In October 2013, Mexico’s senate passed a carbon tax on fossil fuels that would require companies to pay $5 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted. However, if a company doesn’t feel like paying the $5 per ton tax, they can pay it with a corresponding amount of Certified Emissions Reductions credits (CERs) generated from United Nations-approved Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. Unfortunately, these projects are riddled with problems.
CDM initiatives are meant to help developing countries that invest in emissions reducing technology. A power plant in Mexico can invest in clean technology that reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and then sell credits for the prevented emissions. Industrial countries then buy these credits to count toward their own emissions reductions, in place of directly reducing emissions in country. Currently, China, India, Brazil and Mexico have the most CDM projects.
However, as some of you might have heard, CDM projects have become notorious for problems with fraud, corruption, increased emissions and not even decreasing emissions. Not to mention that offsets of any kind are a zero sum, pay-to-pollute scheme, allowing pollution to continue at the source while a reduction may or may not happen at the CDM project site. Read the full article…
November 27th, 2013
By Rich Bindell
The Thanksgiving table connects folks with a diverse array of opinions, even—and sometimes especially—within your own family. When conversations turn to politics, sports, religion, or entertainment, even the most patient and level-headed debater can become unhinged if their views are challenged by a family member regarding a controversial topic. Before you know it, you feel like you’re twelve years old again, just trying to get some respect. I know the feeling. My family loves a good debate, and my brother-in-law works for an oil and gas company.
Since long before I began working for Food & Water Watch, I’ve participated in many a discussion where my views on the importance of protecting shared natural resources have butted against those of a friend or relative. But none of those situations were as challenging, or even as rewarding, as when my brother-in-law and I engage in a conversation about fracking in front of our family.
Read the full article…
November 26th, 2013
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…
By Briana Kerensky
While Thanksgiving always falls on the last Thursday of November, Hanukkah moves around every year. For the first time since 1888, it just so happens to start the night before Thanksgiving. Since the holidays won’t collide again for another 79,000 years, my family is having a very special “Thanksgivukkah,” to commemorate the occasion.
The two holidays couldn’t be any more different. On Thanksgiving, Americans celebrate the fall harvest and give thanks for another year of health and loving family. On Hanukkah, the Jewish community commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was ransacked and defiled. This is done by lighting candles or oil every night for eight nights in a menorah, or ritual candelabra. It’s also traditional to eat foods fried in oil, like potato pancakes (latkes).
The one thing Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have in common is an emphasis on the dinner table. Both holidays are steeped in delicious traditions, and this year, both are steeped in trouble from the biotech industry. Read the full article…
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…
By Kate Fried
A water main break in Washington, D.C.
If you drank a glass of water, brushed your teeth or made a meal for your family today, chances are that you were able to do so thanks in part to a crucial program. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs) are state-administered programs that provide the primary source of federal money to communities needed to ensure the upkeep of critical drinking and wastewater systems. But funding for the SRFs has eroded in recent years, and Congress is now considering a proposal that if passed, will undermine the integrity of these important cash flow systems even more.
Tacked onto a big water infrastructure bill is an industry-backed program known as the Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA). It would give low-interest loans primarily to private water corporations to finance certain projects. If approved, WIFIA will make it harder for smaller communities to maintain and upgrade their drinking water and wastewater systems.
It may strike one as odd that a bill with the words “water” and “innovation” in its title would cripple local water systems. That’s because WIFIA is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. WIFIA would, in effect, compete with the SRFs for federal resources and place inappropriate pressure on local governments to privatize their drinking water and wastewater systems.
As we’ve seen time and again, private companies are not responsible stewards of our essential water systems. When profits are an entity’s main motivation, integrity of service goes down the drain. That’s why cities like St. Louis, Missouri and Fort Worth, Texas are just two of many that have recently opted to keep their water systems under public control. Read the full article…
November 25th, 2013
By Wenonah Hauter
Thank you for all that you do!
This year has been a whirlwind for me. After finishing my book, Foodopoly, I’ve been spending most of my time on the road, speaking to communities all across the country about the corporate control of our food system. And let me be honest, it’s tiring work.
But whenever it seems like I’m too exhausted to make it on to the next leg, I have a conversation with one of you. You’re the reason I’m doing this work, and I can’t thank you enough for standing with us.
This time of year always gets me thinking about the things that are most important in life — the things that Food & Water Watch is fighting to protect, with your help. Today, we’re thankful for livable communities, clean water and safe, wholesome food — and we believe that these things are for everyone, not just a few. Read the full article…
November 22nd, 2013
By Briana Kerensky
Image courtesy United Nations Development Group
Over the past few years, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been presented by the oil and gas industry as a silver bullet to our economic woes. According to the industry, the mining of unconventional shale gas and oil deposits is supposed to flood our communities with money, jobs, and other development opportunities. But the truth is this: fracking comes with a price. This dangerous, harmful practice puts our health, our environment, and the stability of our communities on the line.
The UN is currently engaged in a multi-year process to develop Sustainable Development Goals that will chart a common global path towards merging economic development with environmental stability. How can people around the world the chance to succeed and improve their lives, without furthering damage to our planet and communities? Some states are moving ahead quickly with fracking in the hopes of achieving energy independence from imported oil and gas. Meanwhile, other states, such as France, have banned the practice, believing that it cannot be done without resulting in the risks mentioned above.
This Monday, the UN will address the role of fracking in the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals in an event called “Sustainable Energy for All: Can a Just Solution Include Hydraulic Fracturing?” Speakers at the event include Ambassador Stephan Tafrov, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN; François Gave, Permanent Mission of France to the UN; and Food & Water Watch’s own Senior Organizer for New York, Eric Weltman.
It is the goal of Food & Water Watch to work with the UN and help people understand that fracking is a short-term solution to energy consumption, with long lasting, disastrous results. Sustainable energy is a goal that we can achieve. But fracking is hardly the answer.