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November 22nd, 2013

Sustainable Energy for All

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.

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Life after Trans Fats

By Genna Reed

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they would effectively ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats. These types of oils are used in many processed foods, including desserts, microwavable popcorn, frozen pizza and margarine, and have been linked to health risks including higher cholesterol and heart disease. In 2006, FDA required that food companies include trans fats in nutrition labels, which caused a reduction in the use of trans fats.

The American Soybean Association (ASA)— the trade group affiliated with all six of the biggest biotech companies (Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, BASF, Bayer and Syngenta)— immediately questioned FDA’s move to phase out trans fats, worrying that food companies would replace soybean oil with oils containing saturated fats like palm and coconut oil. ASA doesn’t want the FDA to move too quickly and chip away at the soybean industry’s market share before production of new varieties of genetically engineered soybeans with lower saturated fat can ramp up. It’s banking on increased production of Dupont Pioneer and Monsanto’s GE “Plenish” and “Vistive” soybeans, both engineered to be lower in saturated fat. Read the full article…

The United States of Oil and Gas Interests?

By Kate Fried stack of one hundred dollar bills

Lawmakers worked overtime this week to justify the passage of a trio of bills in the House of Representatives that if passed, would increase fracking. With public opinion on fracking shifting from “huh?” to “meh,” Congress remains clumsily out of step with the people whose interests they were elected to serve. 

Of course, this isn’t so surprising, given the latest set of revelations that the oil and gas industry is bankrolling many members of Congress. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), oil and gas industry contributions to Congress rose 180 percent, to $12 million, in the last election cycle. 

While the bills passed in the House this week weren’t introduced by any of the top ten recipients of oil and gas industry contributions, it’s not hard to imagine that that these sponsors may have recently had visions of checks from Chevron or Chesapeake Energy dancing in their heads. 

Read the full article…

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November 21st, 2013

No Accounting for Taste: Natural Capital Accounting and the Financialization of Nature

Putting a price on nature will not save it.

By Elizabeth Nussbaumer

If you lie awake at night wondering what can be done to better manage the environment, the latest and greatest economic solution for doing so — natural capital accounting — might give you nightmares.

This week in Edinburgh, Scotland, corporate and financial interests will meet for the World Forum on Natural Capital to discuss this latest green washing initiative. Featured participants include representatives from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Nestle, The Coca-Cola Company, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Standard & Poor’s, Veolia Water, the World Bank Group and several other major international corporations and organizations.

The claim behind natural capital accounting goes something like this: nature is destroyed because it does not have a monetary value, and companies, countries and financial actors do not know its worth and cannot account for it in their activities. By assigning a price to nature, these actors can better see its value and then account for what gets destroyed via inputs to production or other economic processes. Thus, nature and its use can be accounted for as inputs and outputs to a country’s GDP or a company’s bottom line, and ultimately be sustainably managed. In other words, nature will be better managed by giving control of it to the very actors destroying it. Read the full article…

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November 20th, 2013

Carbon Offset Schemes: Trading Our Forests Does Not Reduce Emissions

REDD+ programs continue to be fraught with corruption and scams.

By Elizabeth Nussbaumer and Rich Bindell

For those worried about climate change, sometimes we have to be just as concerned about the solutions proposed to combat it. In order to reduce carbon emissions, the largest contributing threat to global warming—which has also reached a new high according to the World Meteorological Organization—opportunists increasingly favor trading carbon offset credits on a global market, misleadingly describing the practice as an improvement for overall emissions reductions.

Offset credits represent an emissions reduction that happens in another location away from where emissions actually occur — a polluter in California can pay a land owner in Oregon to not cut down the forest on their land because trees take carbon dioxide (CO2)out of the atmosphere and cutting them down would release CO2 back into the atmosphere. But due to the questionable practices of many offset projects, and the inability of numerous initiatives to provide proof of legitimate reductions, these programs can be more aptly described as suspicious rather than effective.  

One sad example of offset schemes has grown out of an equally troubled initiative called REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The controversial REDD+ program assigns emissions credits for CO2 sequestered by trees and then trades these credits in an international market. That value is directly tied to the protection of forests for their absorption of CO2 emissions through trees. In other words, credits are created and sold based on the idea of leaving forests undisturbed. Read the full article…

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Americans Deserve a Break (From GE Foods) Today

By Genna Reed

After nearly 20 years of mass-producing mainly herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant crops that have not delivered on their environmental promises, the genetic engineering front has moved toward nutritional and aesthetic improvement of food. Two of these new products up for approval are Okanagan Specialty Fruits Arctic Apple and J.R. Simplot’s Innate Potato.

This week, we are asking consumers to tell USDA not to approve the genetically engineered apple, designed not to brown when exposed to oxygen. In its new Environmental Assessment, the USDA does not address many of the concerns of the nearly 73,000 comments sent in during the previous comment period. USDA is not doing itself any favors by ignoring the public opposition of this GE apple. Already, the biggest food chain in the world, McDonald’s, and one of the most popular baby food brands, Gerber, have affirmed that they have no plans to use these apples once they are commercialized. Read the full article…

November 19th, 2013

Celebrities Ask: What the Frack?

By Briana Kerensky

Marisa Tomei

Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei asks, “What the Frack?”

Last month, thousands of people around the world united for a global day of action against fracking: the Global Frackdown. We asked government officials to consider the harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing on our environment, our communities and health, and ban the practice before it’s too late. 

Today, more voices are joining our cause and asking an important question: What the Frack? 

Celebrities and environmental advocates – including Marisa Tomei, “Trophy Wife” star Malin Akerman, Lance Bass, “Modern Family’s” Julie Bowen, “Nashville” actress Hayden Panettiere, “Glee” cast member Darren Criss, and more, are appearing in a series of online videos in order to educate Americans about the dangers that fracking poses to the nation. The videos were created as a joint-effort between Food & Water Watch, Americans Against Fracking, the Environmental Media Association, and Environment America. Read the full article…

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November 18th, 2013

O’Malley’s Broken Promises for a Dying Bay

 

Photo CC-BY © Office of the Maryland Governor/Flickr.com

By Wenonah Hauter

Three years ago Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley drafted an email to Jim Perdue, head of the giant Eastern Shore chicken integrator, assuring him that he would never hold the chicken industry liable for its pollution of the Bay, despite the fact that agriculture – and the chicken industry – continues to be the most significant source of pollution in this dying waterway. Then, just last month, the O’Malley administration struck a deal with the environmental community on a critical chicken manure application tool, known as the Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) in which he promised that, in lieu of an emergency enactment of the PMT in time for the 2014 planting season, the new tool would be phased in over time, with full implementation achieved by January 2015.

Then, late last Friday, the Maryland state department of agriculture announced it was withdrawing the PMT regulations.

In the face of ag industry fist pounding, O’Malley once again showed his true colors, he’s got Perdue’s back, not ours.  Read the full article…

November 15th, 2013

The U.S. Coast Guard is Pushing for a Fracking Disaster Waiting to Happen

By Katherine Cirullo

A Barge on the Mississippi RiverOn October 30, 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard proposed a policy that would allow oil and gas companies to ship fracking wastewater down our nation’s waterways by barge. The amount of waste that fracking produces is a bottleneck for oil and gas development, but this proposal would help remedy that problem on the industry’s behalf. The public was given only thirty days to comment. If we want to protect our natural resources and our health now and for future generations, we must voice our concerns today.

The Coast Guard’s proposed policy contradicts their own mission to “develop and enforce regulations to avert the introduction of invasive species into the maritime environment, stop unauthorized ocean dumping, and prevent oil and chemical spills.” In fact, it’s another instance of the Obama Administration’s failure to protect our nation’s precious resources by bolstering fossil fuel development instead.

If passed, major waterways, including the nation’s largest river, the Mississippi River, and its largest tributary the Ohio River, could face widespread contamination from hard to clean spills. Read the full article…

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November 14th, 2013

Popular GE Labeling Measure Defeated By Corporate Millions

By Mark Schlosberg

Let me decide, make GE food labeling the lawThere’s no better example of why the organizing we do is so important than the repeated loss of GE food labeling at the polls, this time in Washington State.

Pesticide manufacturers—like Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience—and junk food peddlers like PepsiCo, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, General Mills, ConAgra—spent more than $22 million to buy Washington state’s election this week in order to prevent consumers from having basic information about their food. This infuriating outcome provides yet more substantial evidence that a small handful of mega corporations wield way too much power over our food supply and our democracy and they must be stopped.

In an off year election, while these giant corporations had to spend record sums in order to mislead consumers, the “Yes” side was supported by contributions of over 15,000 individuals and, the campaign projects, won 49 percent of the vote.

The food industry may have won this battle, but the fight to label genetically foods comes out of Washington stronger than ever. In the last year, legislation requiring labeling of GE foods passed state legislatures for the first time, in Connecticut and Maine, and other robust campaigns are under way from New York to Illinois, New Jersey to Florida and elsewhere.

In the coming year, Food & Water Watch will continue to work with allies old and new at the national, state and local level. We need to organize in key legislative districts and hold our elected officials accountable. They are elected to represent the vast majority of Americans who want to know what’s in their food, not the big chemical and junk food companies that spent record sums this year and last to mislead consumers in California and Washington.

Consumers want to know what is in their food and I am confident we will ultimately win labeling across the country. But what elections like California and Washington really highlight is our broken democracy. As we fight for important policy goals like labeling of GE foods, we also need to look towards lasting reforms including overturning Citizens United, that are needed to curtail the power of corporations in our political system.

Click here for the official campaign statement.

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