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September 19th, 2014

Come One, Come All: Host an Event for the Global Frackdown!

By Katherine Cirullo

frackdownEach autumn for the last several years, thousands of people across continents have participated in the Global Frackdown, a worldwide day of action to challenge the oil and gas industry and to call for a worldwide ban on fracking. This year’s Global Frackdown is shaping up to be an impressive show of solidarity. On October 11, individuals and groups in communities around the world will gather to raise their voices and tell their elected officials that they want a future lit by clean, renewable energy, not dangerous, destructive fossil fuels.

So, do you want to have a hand in this monumental global effort to protect communities from the harmful effects that fracking imposes on air, water, health and public safety? Do you want to help decrease our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and instead steer our planet towards a renewable energy future and a safe climate? Do you want to see fracking banned in your town, and in others across the globe?

Simple. Host a Global Frackdown event! We’ll give you the tools; all you need is a bit of creativity and some fire in your gut.

Global Frackdown events should be educational, and should build your local movement against fracking. They should also be fun! The more people we have as part of our movement, the more power we will have to stand up against the oil and gas industry’s global pressure to increase gas development — so let’s get to it. Here’s how you can organize a successful Global Frackdown event in your community.

Planning:

  1. First, check the map to see if there’s already an event in your area. If not, sign up to host one and we’ll get in touch with a planning toolkit and everything you need to plan a great event.
  2. Don’t go at it alone. Recruit a friend to help.
  3. Once you plan your event, add it to the map so members of your community can join. You can also get people to join your event by posting an event listing in your local newspaper, on social media or by handing out flyers.
  4. Visit our website for materials and talking points.
  5. Target your local elected officials. Their job is to listen to constituents. If you need help on who to target, contact us! E-mail katy(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

The Event:

What does a Global Frackdown action entail? That’s ultimately up to you, but we have some ideas to get you started.

  1. Collect Petitions. Set up a table at a local farmers market or school event, host a potluck at home with your friends or host a film screening (see number 3). These are all fun, simple ways to collect signatures for a ban on fracking and converse with those around you about the issue. Petition signatures are a direct way of showing local officials that your community supports the movement to ban fracking. When you have finished collecting, send them to us and we will help you deliver them to your local decision makers.
  2. Make a Human Sign. Time to get creative and be visible! What do you want to tell your local officials? Choose a public space and either spell a message with actual people or have them hold up individual letters. This is a great way to get kids involved with some poster board and markers. Decide ahead of time when and where everyone should meet. And, don’t forget to take pictures!
  3. Host a film screening. Gasland and Gasland II are compelling films about fracking that will inform your community and spark discussion after the film. To request a copy, email katy(at)fwwatch(dot)org. You can host a private screening at your home or reserve a space and invite your community. College campuses or community and arts centers are great. Tell your elected officials about it, collect petition signatures and be sure to check back with us after.
  4. Host a rally. What better way to make your concerns heard than by shouting them? Gather your community and together tell your elected officials what you are fighting for by holding a rally in a public space outside his or her office. Are you fighting for clean water? Clean air? Safe food? Safe communities? Get your friends involved by asking them to create signs and come up with a few chants. Make sure to bring petitions, take photo and video and have fun! Download our toolkit for sample chants and other materials.
  5. Don’t forget to spread the word (and the photos) on the web. Visit our social media guide for how to connect with the Global Frackdown online. Or, send your photos to katy(at)fwwatch(dot)org and we will share them. Social media is a great way for you to keep us updated on your event and to also tune in with other events around the world. Most importantly, it is a way to make our voices heard.

In recent years, communities across the United States have passed hundreds of measures against fracking. Bulgaria and France have upheld bans. The Netherlands and Czech Republic have passed moratoria. South Africa and Ireland have delayed fracking. Communities in other countries have mobilized to pass local legislation. We’re just getting started. The third Global Frackdown is just three weeks away. Join us!

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September 17th, 2014

We Knew It! Reuters Confirms Antibiotic Misuse in Poultry Farms 

By Sarah Borron Antibiotics_Pill_Bottle

Food & Water Watch has long worked to stop the nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics that are rampant in the poultry industry. Adding fuel to the fire, Reuters recently released a stunning report further detailing this disturbing phenomenon.

The reporters analyzed industry data usually kept from the public as confidential business information, detailing the drugs put in chicken feed. Just how secret is that information normally kept? Even an FDA veterinarian admitted that the agency doesn’t have “an idea first-hand of what’s going on” with antibiotics on farms, so suffice to say, the revelations in this article are incredibly important. Read the full article…

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September 16th, 2014

Pro-GMO Database: Monsanto is Most Common Funder of GMO Research

By Tim Schwab GMO_Canola

The pro-GMO advocacy group Biofortified announced in late August that the group’s much-hyped GENERA database of GMO research is now available for public review in a trial version. Though the database contains only a fraction of the GMO research available (400 of 1200 studies, according to Biofortified), this hasn’t stopped the group from drawing sweeping conclusions about what the science says. Read the full article…

Keep Calm and Ban Fracking: Shale Gas in the UK

By Geert Decock

A view of the South Downs in from Devil's Dyke in southern England. CC by SA©IngerAlHaosului/commons.wikipedia.org

A view of the South Downs in from Devil’s Dyke in southern England. CC by SA(c) IngerAlHaosului/commons.wikipedia.org.

OK, I admit: I had never before heard about the South Downs National Park in England. However, last week, I learned that the planning committee of the park had voted unanimously to turn down an application by shale gas explorer, Celtique Energie, to start drilling and maybe fracking at Fernhurst, a two hour drive south of London.

A couple of hours later, I can call myself a South Downs fan. Yes, I want to go on holiday there. Except maybe for blue sky and warm temperatures, the South Downs has lots to offer. Wikipedia informs me that the South Downs has “a rich heritage of historical features and archaeological remains, including defensive sites, burial mounds and field boundaries”. Within the park, there are 37 “Sites of Special Scientific Interest”, protecting the very little that remains of the old chalk grassland. Needless to say, South Downs is a “popular recreational destination, particularly for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers”.

And by drilling and fracking in such an area of outstanding beauty, UK shale gas explorers hope to win the hearts and minds of locals and public opinion more generally? How out of touch can you be?

A recent report of the federal environment agency of Germany (covered in our previous blog post) details what is required to extract shale gas from an area of 260 square kilometers (about 16 by 16 kilometers) over a period of 10 years.

  • 144 well pads (one per every 2 square kilometers!)
  • 864-1440 wells (assuming 6-10 horizontal drills /pad)
  • 12.000-48.000 truck movements per well

Despite these facts, the CEO of Celtique has the temerity to state that his application “has been refused on subjective and unjustified grounds”. What is more likely to be the case, is that the planning committee analysed the existing pressures on their national park from agriculture, traffic and housing development and drew the common sense conclusion that adding fracking to the mix simply was not going to work.

Despite all this, the UK government’s energy strategy continues to be “going all out for shale”, stressed Prime Minister Cameron. The efforts of shale enthusiasts like David Cameron (but also other mainstream political parties) will continue to fight a losing battle, as people get better informed about shale gas and fracking.

In the latest licencing round, almost 60 percent of the UK territory was offered to shale gas explorers to start drilling for shale gas. It should not come as a surprise that new groups are popping up like mushrooms in areas singled out for shale gas drilling. Some of the most vocal groups are Residents Action on Fylde Fracking in the Blackpool area or the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association, where exploratory drilling was halted last summer due to protests. They are not only determined to stop this terrible development, but they are well organized. Just take a look at all the resources available on the website of a grassroots campaign like Frack Off. This summer, the No Dash for Gas campaign hosted a “Reclaim the power” anti-fracking action camp. And they have the support from larger groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

The combination of a vibrant and growing anti-fracking movement with the non-stop PR disasters committed by shale gas explorers and the UK government will mean that their shale gas strategy will slowly but surely grind to a halt.

With more than half of the UK territory now licensed for shale gas and oil exploration, anti-fracking groups in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will be at the forefront of the campaign to ban fracking. On October 11, the Global Frackdown – an international day of action against fracking – will offer a great opportunity to express our solidarity with those communities in the UK under siege from the shale gas industry and its political supporters.

Join us on October 11 for the Global Frackdown: http://www.globalfrackdown.org/.

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To Save the Climate, We Need a Ban on Fracking

By Wenonah Hauter

Fracking is an issue that touches on every aspect of our lives — the water we drink, the air we breathe, the health of our communities — and it is also impacting the global climate on which we all depend.

With the upcoming People’s Climate March and United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, it is more important than ever that the climate effects of fracking are addressed. This is why today, Food & Water Watch released The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking. With mounting evidence about the dangerous impacts of fracking and the immediacy of the impending climate crisis, this report lays out the urgent case for a ban.

Fracking affects not only the millions living within a mile of fracking sites who experience health problems, polluted water, earthquakes, explosions and declined property values, but it also affects billions globally who are affected by climate change.

As the fracking boom began in 2009, we became alarmed about the threats fracking posed to our water resources – from tap water that could be lit on fire thanks to methane leaks from fracking wells into water sources, to spills of chemicals and fracking waste that pollute waterways. While many environmental groups were hopeful about natural gas’s ability to offset carbon emissions and act as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future, we were skeptical about the trade-offs for the rest of the environment.

Over the next few years, scientific evidence mounted, showing not only that fracking won’t help moderate climate change, but that it has the potential to unleash massive amounts of methane that will worsen the climate disaster. After looking at the growing evidence of the inherent problems with fracking, and realizing how inadequately the states were regulating the oil and gas industry and enforcing those regulations, Food & Water Watch became the first national organization to call for a complete ban on fracking in 2011.

Since 2011, more than 150 additional studies have been conducted on a range of issues (from water pollution to climate change, air pollution to earthquakes) reinforcing the case that fracking is simply too unsafe to pursue. Neither federal nor state officials can effectively prevent the multitude of damages through regulation.

Fracking Methane Climate EffectsMounting evidence shows that fracking is inherently unsafe, contaminating water, polluting air, and threatening public health. Fracking damages local infrastructure, decreases property values and causes a range of social problems. And most critically for the survival of people and ecosystems, fracking exacerbates and accelerates climate change. We are facing a climate crisis that is already having devastating impacts and that is projected to escalate to catastrophic levels if we do not act now.

President Barack Obama came into office touting fracked gas as a “bridge fuel,” yet mounting evidence suggests that rather than serving as a bridge to a renewable energy future, it’s a bridge to a climate crisis.

Despite what the oil and gas industry claim, there have now been over 150 studies on fracking and its impacts that raise concerns about the risks and dangers of fracking and highlight how little we know about its long-term effects on health and our limited freshwater supplies. It’s time for President Obama and other decision makers to look at the facts. It’s a matter of our survival.

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September 12th, 2014

Where Corporate Agribusiness Meets Cooperative Extension

By Tim Schwab

Agriculture(2)As this series of blogs in recent weeks has shown, cooperative extension has come a long way since its founding in 1914, when county agents diligently reached out to farmers to address their needs and offer impartial advice on best practices. On its centennial anniversary, extension appears to avoid addressing some of agriculture’s most pressing needs, especially the economic challenges farmers face from intense corporate concentration. Elsewhere, cooperative extension acts as an advocate for the biotechnology industry, offering farmers and consumers biased materials and information about the so-called benefits and necessity of GMOs.

Today’s piece considers the explicit ways that extension, which is facing eroding federal support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is reaching out to industry as an active partner and funder of its activities, resulting in projects that aren’t clearly in the public interest. Some of the most egregious examples come from industry support for extension programs about consumer nutrition. Recent highlights include:

The corporate influence also extends to extension programs designed for farmers:

  • The CEO of Tyson Foods donated $3.2 million to endow a professorship at the University of Tennessee that will work on international programs through extension “to find solutions to encourage less-equipped societies to maximize available resources in an effort to provide better nutrition for all of Earth’s inhabitants.”

These examples illustrate the financial ties between industry and extension that could compromise extension’s ability to carry out its role as an impartial source of information and advice to farmers and consumers. Indeed, as this series of blogs has shown, on the most pressing topics of modern agriculture, extension is too often absent or advocating industry positions—and not standing up for farmers and consumers.

On the 100-year anniversary of extension, which follows the 150-year anniversary of our land-grant university system, it’s time that we take a good, hard look at the priorities and mission of our public agriculture infrastructure. Do these public institutions fulfill the role and mission that Congress intended? Do they still serve the public first and foremost?

September 11th, 2014

GM-Uh-Oh? Annie’s Inc. Sells Out to General Mills 

By Patrick Woodall  OrganicsOwnership_WEB

This week, General Mills announced that it will purchase the organic (and “natural”) food company Annie’s, Inc. This is just another in a long line of food company mergers, but it highlights how no matter what foods you love, corporate consolidation is taking over your grocery cart.  Read the full article…

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September 10th, 2014

I Read EPA’s “Clean Power” Plan So You Don’t Have To

By Ron Zucker

pollution tradingOn June 2, the EPA announced its new “Clean Power Plan.” The plan came after a long wait. Back in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the power to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. After Congress tried and failed to pass a weak Cap-and-Trade approach, eyes turned to the EPA to see if they could do better.

Unfortunately, the answer is that they didn’t do better. The proposed regulations don’t go nearly far enough and rely on bad or nonexistent solutions to the problem. This plan makes insufficient progress to address an existential crisis.

We’ve just released a new fact sheet that brings together the shortcomings of the plan. Read the full article…

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September 9th, 2014

Detroit’s New Regional Water Authority: A Prelude to Privatization

By Mitch Jones

Water_Manhole_CoverEarlier today, Detroit and three of its suburbs announced the creation of a new, independent regional water authority. The deal creating the authority is part of the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings in Detroit. And while it’s being sold as a panacea to the woes of Detroit’s water system, it’s anything but. In fact, it’s another false solution that will likely leave Detroiters worse off than they are already — with no way to hold decision makers accountable.

The city and the suburbs released the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that forms the basis of the agreement. A reading of the agreement reveals that it will likely lead to the privatization of the water system.

The creation of the regional authority, the Great Lakes Water Authority, corporatizes the system by putting appointed, unelected officials fully in charge of the big decisions that determine the cost and quality of service. The agreement treats water provision as a business instead of a public service. Corporatization itself is the first step to privatization. The new authority can privatize the management and operation of the water and sewer system without real city input or public approval.

Currently, the Detroit city council must approve any privatization deal because it has oversight of water contracts worth more than $2 million. With this new agreement, the city council will lose that power.

In fact, an independent authority will not give ballot-box accountability to county residents, either; it will just cost city residents their ability to hold the system’s decision makers accountable.

The MOU says that the city will hire Veolia Water North America to review the water and sewer systems and to make recommendations “in evaluating operating models.” Veolia is the largest private operator of municipal water systems in the United States. We can expect that Veolia will likely recommend that the authority privatize the operation and management of the systems. And, we can expect the new authority to pursue those recommendations.

According to the MOU, the authority will be established if Detroit and one of the three suburbs formally approve it. If the other two counties refuse to officially join, the governor would appoint representatives for those counties to the new authority’s six-member board of directors. Because of this and because the MOU allows the governor to appoint one board member anyway, the governor could potentially appoint half the members of the new authority’s board.

Should Detroit approve the deal now, while under the rule of Emergency Manager Orr, but decide to withdraw once the city is returned to democratic governance, the MOU states that the governor would then be able to appoint the city’s representation to the authority’s board and the city would lose the “sweetener” funding for local infrastructure it is being given to buy into the deal.

We know what happens when cities privatize water systems: rates tend to go up, service tends to go down and jobs tend to be cut. That’s why the powers that be try to distance themselves from these decisions and insulate themselves from the potential fall out by establishing these undemocratic boards to do the dirty work. There’s a word for this: cowardice.

But the city council still has the opportunity to reject this deal — and it should. The elected representatives of the people of Detroit should stand up against this sham agreement. It’s possible Emergency Manager Orr will overrule them, but it is the one opportunity they have to put on record that the people of Detroit deserve better. It may even give pause to the unelected forces behind the deal.

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September 5th, 2014

Where the Jobs Are: U.S. Manufacturing, China, and Free Trade

TPP_SecretBy Mitch Jones

I’ve highlighted before the threat to our food and water posed by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated by the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim countries. But a few recent events have shifted my attention to the other big story about which we don’t speak as much: manufacturing jobs.

Earlier this year, I traveled to New York to give a talk about the TPP and food safety. Traveling north on the train it struck me that the tracks passed through many neighborhoods filled with boarded up houses. I noticed that all of those neighborhoods had one thing in common: they all surrounded shuttered factories. Then this summer, while visiting family, I drove past the abandoned Motorola factory outside Harvard, Illinois. When I returned to work I saw a new “working paper” from economists working with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) entitled “Import Competition and the Great U.S. Employment Sag of the 2000s” (pay walled). NBER is a nonprofit research organization that represents mainstream economic thinking. Many economists associated with NBER have gone on to work as advisors to both Democratic and Republican presidents.

The paper confirms what progressive economists have long been saying; so-called “free trade” has a massive negative effect on U.S. manufacturing employment. The authors of the paper estimate that between 1999 and 2011 the U.S. had a net job loss of 2.0 million to 2.4 million jobs because of imports from China. A quick, back of the envelope calculation shows that, were these jobs still in the U.S., it would have knocked a full percentage point off of our unemployment rate. And these aren’t just any jobs—they are more likely to be better-paying jobs with better benefits. Read the full article…

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