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February 17th, 2009

I Can See Your Underwear/I see London, I see France

Mayor here we comeLast week in South Africa the Coalition Against Water Privatization (CAWP) hosted an event for their Women & Water Campaign that brought home just how personal an issue the right to water is, choosing action over words to make their point. How? By having over 60 women march through Johannesburg to the mayor‚ office wearing dirty, soiled underwear, and demanding the right to water. The significance of the dirty underwear? To demonstrate that water is a human right, not a privilege, and should be treated accordingly. This issue is especially pertinent to women because, to quote CAWP coordinator Petunia Nkhasi, “Women without water and sanitation are as good as dead and have no dignity.” Read the full article…

February 13th, 2009

Victory – Senator Gregg Withdraws Nomination for Commerce Secretary!

High FiveWe are very pleased (see photos) that Senator Gregg, an offshore aquaculture advocate, withdrew his nomination for Commerce Secretary yesterday. 

High Five 2Thank you for voicing your concern. Over 15,000 letters were sent from our supporters to the White House in opposition to his nomination , you definitely helped make a difference.

February 11th, 2009

Turning Salmonella into Money?

At today‚ hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee over the contaminated peanut scandal, Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell refused to answer any questions, taking the fifth even when asked whether hed eat his own company‚ products. As reported in The New York Times, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon held up a jar of contaminated snacks, asking Parnell and the plant‚ manager, Sammy Lightsey, “Would either of you be willing to take the lid off and eat any of these products?” Both Parnell and Lightsey declined to answer, and soon after were dismissed and left the courtroom. In an email, sent after the company was identified as the source of the illness, Parnell said that the plant needed to “turn the raw peanuts on the floor into money.” Sorry, Stewart‚ turns out there is no magic trick for turning Salmonella into money. Just dire consequences and a bunch of hard questions.

– Erica Schuetz

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February 10th, 2009

Yoplait Victory

Yoplait Strawberry YogurtIt
seems that not a day goes by without another food product being deemed
unsafe. So it‚ a relief to see a company bucking that trend and making
an effort to increase its own food safety standards. In a major coup in
the fight to stop the use of rBGH, recombinant bovine growth hormone,
in dairy products, General Mills has just announced that Yoplait Yogurt will stop using any rBGH by the end of August. Why? In response to consumer demand, in other words, because enough people chose to get involved and show their concern.

This comes on the heels of New England‚ largest milk co-op, Agri-Mark
Inc., banning the use rBGH at any of its processing plants. The
ban will affect between 600 and 650 farms in New England, as well as
non-members who sell their milk to Agri-Mark. While there is concern
over the recent drop in milk prices affecting revenues for farmers, the
profitability of using rBGH is questionable, considering that while it
may increase milk production, any profit is partially or fully negated
by the costs of the hormone, of treating side effects in cows, and of
cows potentially burning out faster and having to be slaughtered. Again, it appears that Agri-Mark is responding to consumer demand for
rBGH-free products. Read the full article…

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Photos and fountains in New York City

water fountain 2nd Ave at 93rd Ever notice how hard it is to find a pay phone these days? How about a public drinking fountain? Maybe you’ve noticed it‚ not so difficult to find single serve plastic bottles of water‚ provided you shell out a dollar or two. Maybe you’ve noticed, too, that these same bottles litter our parks, while our crumbling drinking water fountains run dry. Citizens around the country have noticed this trend, and are looking for ways to reinvest in public water infrastructure rather than pad corporate pocketbooks. Many consumers are dropping bottled water and taking back the tap. Others are coming up with creative ways to raise awareness about the importance of safe, affordable public drinking water. John Famulary, for one, believes that everyone should be concerned about access to water. As Executive Director of the Urban Fitness Network, he spends a lot of time with high school students in New York City, and he can tell you that not every student he meets has spent a lot of time thinking about where his or her water comes from. Yet water is as essential to urban life as it is to all life on this planet. Read the full article…

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February 9th, 2009

The wrong kind of change

Change. It‚ the promise that propelled our new President into office. Recently, however, I watched the state of our fisheries change for the worse as the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council approved a plan to allow industrial fish farming in Gulf waters. school of fishOcean fish farming, also known as offshore aquaculture or open-water aquaculture, is the mass production of fish in large floating pens or cages in ocean waters. With the U.S. already dealing with issues such as run-off pollution, loss of wildlife, and overwhelming coastal development , what incentives would there be to worsen the situation through aquaculture? The answer lies in personal profits. Proponents of offshore aquaculture on the Council have already received over $10 million in financial support from the federal government for aquaculture research and endeavors , which explains why the 16,000 letters and e-mails protesting the Council‚ plan fell on deaf ears. Read the full article…

February 6th, 2009

Animal Engineering

Move over, common sense. Here comes FDA with their latest display of bad judgment.
The Food and Drug Administration issued on January 15 a final guidance on regulating genetically engineered (GE) animals, which pretty much gives producers the go-ahead to make them a reality. The process is already being laid out, companies will have to apply to FDA as if GE animals were new animal drugs before being allowed to put the livestock on the market. So where‚ the nonsensical part? There‚ the fact that the long-term health effects for both the animals themselves and the humans who consume them are still largely unknown. And that the agency is considering approving transgenic animals without requiring them to be labeled. But it goes even further, believe it or not.

CowFDA tried, in their own defense, to convince consumer groups of a new “benefit” of GE animals, one that they hadn’t mentioned before. (Previously their standard two arguments were that GE fish can grow faster than normal, and therefore alleviate overfishing, and that GE pigs will produce manure that pollutes less.) This time, agency officials used the example of engineering a cow that is resistant to mastitis, an udder infection. Sounds great, no? Well, wouldn’t it make more sense to just avoid giving cows the artificial hormone (recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH) that can cause mastitis as a side effect? Read the full article…

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February 5th, 2009

"Another one bites the dust"

Slowly but surely the fight against bottled water is being won. Coca-Cola recently announced that they would be closing a Dasani water production line in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The main reason? Consumers are spending less on bottled water, according to company spokesperson Percy Wells. Nestlé and PepsiCo have both recently reported similar situations, in which their sales have gone down due to consumers being concerned about the environmental impact of bottled water. And with bottled water being, in effect, thousands times more expensive than tap water, it makes even more sense in our struggling economy to stick with the option that is the most environmentally friendly, safe, and economically efficient.

What about the jobs that come from this industry? Considering our economy, that‚ a fair question. Studies have actually shown that this industry provides few jobs, which in turn pay low wages and have been known to be dangerous. As for the 17 workers affected by this plant‚ shutdown, they are all being offered the opportunity to work in a nearby Coke distribution center or a severance package. Read the full article…

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Getting the ball rolling (we hope)

Peanut Depot - Morris AvenueWhile there‚ not much good that can be associated with the peanut scandal that has dominated recent headlines, there may actually be a silver lining to this whole affair. President Obama has promised that the Food and Drug Administration will be undergoing an extensive review of operations. Which, considering how clearly negligent FDA was in issuing late recalls and in not even catching this problem until after people became sick, is long overdue and eagerly anticipated.

FDA contracted state officials from Georgia to conduct inspections on their behalf at the Peanut Corp of American plant in Blakely, Ga., a move that indicates clearly how understaffed the agency is. This brings
back the unpleasant memory of the infamous melamine scandal of recent months, in which it became alarmingly clear how easy it was for melamine-tainted products to pass into the United States undetected. Read the full article…

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Another Fishy Cover-up?

Chemical-laden industrial fish farming may have found a new ally this week with the development of a new fish feed additive in Spain.
fish marketAccording to a team of scientists from Spain‚ Superior Council of Scientific Research, “[The additive] mitigates the toxic effects produced by organic contaminants and parasiticides used in fish farming.” Apparently, the additive contains antioxidants that help rid the fish of the toxic effects from contaminants, whether they are organic contaminants or those resulting from the use of chemical parasiticides.  As a consumer advocacy group, we at Food & Water Watch are always on the lookout for safer, contaminant-free foods, but something about this sounds more like a cover-up than a solution. Read the full article…

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