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June 17th, 2015

Fracking: The Latest Fossil Fuel Industry Assault on Communities of Color

By Mike Roque, Guest Blogger

When the oil and gas industry wants to set up shop, it targets areas that, due to economic and social factors, have little political power. This trend has been well documented in California, where 79 percent of the more than 350,000 children who live within a mile of an oil and gas well are non-white. Fracking has become the latest chapter in the sad, epic tale of decades of environmental injustices committed by the fossil fuel industry in low-income communities of color.

FB_1506_DFD_MikeRoque-quote-V1It’s a story that is also playing out in my home state. With over 53,000 active wells in Colorado, the fracking fiasco has spread far and wide in our state, including into the Mile High City of Denver. Two-thirds of the residents of the Northeast Denver neighborhoods at risk of being fracked are African American or Latino. These are the families who will suffer the worst impacts – including health problems and loss of property value – if decision-makers allow fracking in Denver. What effort will leaders make to ensure the concerns of these communities inform decision making?

Probably not much, if things play out in Denver as they have in Greeley, Colorado – the epicenter of the fracking explosion – where Mexican and Somali refugee communities have not had a voice in the fracking debate. These communities have traditionally been neglected and have the least political power in Weld County.

These families are the reason that Colorado Progressive Coalition (CPC) has been actively engaged in the fight to ban fracking in the Rocky Mountain State. CPC is a membership-led organization composed of low-income people of color – the exact community threatened by fracking in Denver and affected disproportionately by this dangerous oil and gas extraction process across the country.

CPC, along with Food & Water Watch and a broad range of other groups, is a proud founding member of Coloradans Against Fracking, which we helped create to protect our health, safety, clean air, water and property values. Colorado should be a national leader in transforming our economy from one that relies on fossil fuels to one that thrives on renewable energy. We are endowed with over 300 days of sunshine each year here and an ample supply of wind. But we know that the energy landscape won’t change overnight. It takes political will – and that means holding elected leaders accountable to constituents.

With Food & Water Watch and other partners in Coloradans Against Fracking, we’ve held rallies, hosted peaceful actions, bird-dogged our elected officials and have been working to help build a grassroots movement to ban fracking. CPC prefers to let our members decide their futures rather than leaving matters in the hands of corporations that only care about making money at the expense of our environment, neighborhoods, health, and our children’s schools.

The growing number of residents lining up to defend their communities from fracking is proof that the tide is turning. It’s time for Governor John Hickenlooper and our state officials to retire their drill-baby-drill rally cry. It’s time to transform our economy, save our environment, create thousands of new and quality jobs, and protect the health and future of our children and grandchildren. Together, we know this is a fight we can win.

Mike Roque is the Executive Director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition.

June 15th, 2015

Fast Track/TPP Update: Last Week’s Wins, This Week’s Shenanigans

By Patrick Woodall and Mitch Jones

*Updated on June 16

1504_FBSq_NoFastTrack-C1Last Friday, the national movement to stop Fast Track for flawed trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) scored a huge victory when the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected part of the Senate’s Fast Track legislation. The lopsided defeat prevented the measure from heading for a presidential signature. For the moment, this has stalled the corporate-backed legislation being pushed by both Republicans and the White House to cram Fast Track through the Congress over broad-based public opposition.

Score one for the good guys. But the corporate lobbyists crawling all over Capitol Hill are not easily thwarted. They will try, try again despite last week’s scalding loss. The first chance will likely be tomorrow (more below), but to understand that, you sort of need to see how the Fast Track bill worked its way through the Congress.

The Anatomy Of The Fast Track Bill

The Senate Fast Track legislation included a program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that helps workers who lose their jobs due to trade deals. (The existence of this program pretty much demonstrates that Congress knows these trade deals are job killers.) But in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) split the Senate bill in half: the Fast Track part and the TAA part. House Republicans generally oppose the worker assistance program (because it is taxpayer-funded welfare that encourages “takers,” in Mitt Romney’s parlance) and the Democrats have generally been fierce Fast Track opponents.

Speaker Boehner figured he could pass the two parts of Fast Track (Democrats would vote for worker assistance and Republicans would vote for Fast Track) and then stitch them back together and then send the bill to President Obama. The House and Senate must pass identical versions of legislation before the President can sign it into law. Usually House and Senate differences are patched up in a long conference committee process, but since Fast Track is politically unpalatable, they want to just pass the same bill once in both bodies without the messy conference process.

But the American people derailed that on Friday. The House soundly defeated the worker assistance portion of the Senate legislation and narrowly passed the Fast Track portion. Now the bill cannot go to the President.

Tomorrow: Another Vote To Revive Fast Track

After Fast Track was defeated in the House on Friday, Speaker Boehner immediately called for a re-vote on the worker assistance portion to try and save his Fast Track bill and that vote has to happen by the end of the day tomorrow (or they could vote to have a revote later in the week).

So, tomorrow there will be another vote on the worker assistance provisions to try and resuscitate Fast Track. Congress should continue to stay strong and block this attempt to revive it.

Other Ways To Revive Fast Track

If this vote fails, what’s next? The Fast Track zombie could be brought back with legislative shenanigans, but these likely face steeper legislative odds. The House could try to pass the exact Senate Fast Track bill, including the worker assistance program, which will face stiff Republican opposition. Or, the House could send its own Fast Track legislation without the worker assistance measure back to the Senate, and ask the Senate to pass just Fast Track, where it would face a new vote and dubious prospects.

While Friday’s vote was a real victory, we must remain vigilant against Fast Track supporters’ efforts to pass a bill. Probably their finest legislative sorcerers are ginning up even more surprising parliamentary hijinks. Stay tuned.

*Breaking Update, June 16: Last night the Republican leadership in the House realized they could not win a re-vote on the worker protection provisions and decided to extend the time they could reconsider this measure until the end of July. An extension was always one of the options, but by extending the re-vote period by six weeks, the GOP leadership and the White House now have time to cajole Congress into caving into the corporate trade agenda. 

But the delay shows that people power is working. Congress is listening to the public and recognizes the TPP and other trade deals pose genuine risks to consumers, workers and the environment. The grassroots fair trade movement will continue to passionately work to insist that Congress to stop these deeply flawed trade deals. Keep up the great work and stay tuned.

June 12th, 2015

Science or Science Fiction? Jurassic Park, GMO Salmon and the FDA

By Tim Schwab

Today’s theatrical release of “Jurassic World” appears to have all of the elements of a summer blockbuster: carnage, crude humor, and top-grossing actor Chris Pratt.

The newest sequel to the 1993 classic “Jurassic Park” also has rampaging GMO dinosaurs, genetically engineered to be bigger and badder than T-Rex. The predictable drama that ensues when the park loses control of these GMO beasts practically begs movie-goers to think about the real-life risks associated with genetic engineering. Especially GMO salmon, which, if approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be the first biotech animal to reach our plates.

Dinosaur and salmon with quoteThe parallels between the sci-fi scenarios in the Jurassic Park series and the science surrounding GMO salmon have not been lost on scientists over the years. In 2010, government scientists at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service sharply criticized the FDA for its weak environmental risk assessment of GMO salmon, noting: “Maybe they should watch ‘Jurassic Park’.”

Indeed, it’s almost as if AquaBounty designed its risky GMO salmon operation based on the failed blueprints from “Jurassic Park.”

In the original “Jurassic Park,” the park’s mastermind, Dr. John Hammond, trumpeted the safety and security of his operation by noting that he had isolated an all-female dinosaur population on a remote island under tight controls. That’s eerily similar to the promises that AquaBounty Technologies President Ron Stotish (who even looks like Dr. John Hammond!) makes about his GMO salmon, saying his company can prevent environmentally damaging escapes of its fish by using all-female, sterile salmon grown in geographically isolated facilities.

But that’s pure science fiction. GMO salmon are not all sterile. Even the FDA acknowledges that up to five percent may be fertile. And the company’s operations are not biosecure: AquaBounty has already experienced several major accidents, one of which involved a bad storm and “lost” salmon. Once fish escape, they can never be retrieved, and their impacts on the environment, while perhaps not of Jurassic proportions, could be severe.

To me, the biggest message that the Jurassic films offer on AquaBounty’s GMO salmon is the way profit-minded companies promote totally unnecessary and highly risky technologies as scientific breakthroughs. As one character in the new “Jurassic World” film notes, “Corporate thought the genetic modification would add the ‘wow’ factor” to the Jurassic tourist attraction.

Or as Jeff Goldblum’s character from “Jurassic Park” noted in one of his memorable monologues:

“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it…but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

With AquaBounty’s GMO salmon, it’s not just a question of whether we “should” commercialize this risky and unnecessary fish, but also where the line lies between science and science fiction. AquaBounty has constructed all sorts of mythologies around its fish, saying it grows twice as fast as normal salmon, will be grown in a “Fort Knox” aquaculture facility that prevents escapes, and somehow will be able to help feed the world.

Unfortunately, this fairy tale serves as the basis for the FDA’s still-pending risk assessment, which itself has been a bit of a science-fiction farce. Independent science continues to emerge contradicting AquaBounty’s claims about the safety and benefits of GMO salmon – and FDA’s rubber-stamping of those claims.

So while you’re watching this summer blockbuster, think about whether the “Jurassic” approach to commercializing risky new technologies makes sense for our food supply. Check out Food & Water Watch’s fact sheet on GMO salmon and tell the FDA to stop its flawed review and ban GMO salmon.

June 11th, 2015

Fast Track/TPP UPDATE: House Vote Tomorrow

IMG_0211By Patrick Woodall

Yesterday, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives announced that the vote to Fast Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership would take place on Friday, June 12. The Fast Track vote is expected to be extremely close and it remains uncertain and fluid even a day before the votes are cast. This week groups across the political spectrum announced they not only were opposed to Fast Track but that they would include the vote in their annual scorecards of the Congress. Both the environmental League of Conservation Voters and the conservative Heritage Action opposed Fast Track and announced the vote would be included in their congressional ratings.

The Republican leadership has established a complex parliamentary gambit to pass the trade legislation that may backfire. The Senate bill combined Fast Track and the reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, designed to help workers that lose their jobs because of trade deals. The House will split these into two votes and fund the TAA with severe and unpopular cuts to the Medicare program. Then the Republicans will “fix” the Medicare cuts in a different trade bill first, but Democrats would ultimately be asked to vote for the Medicare cuts, a vote that would assuredly make it into Republican attack ads next election cycle.

The last ditch push for Fast Track has put intense pressure on the few remaining “undecided” members of Congress. The Republican Leadership, President Obama and the Big Business lobby are pulling out all the stops to pass Fast Track. But a broad-based coalition has been mobilized to ensure that Congress does the will of the American people and votes against Fast Track. On Wednesday, Food & Water Watch joined more than a dozen members of Congress and a host of consumer, labor, women’s, environmental, seniors and other groups in a press conference demonstrating the broad based opposition to Fast Track.

The vote remains too close to call. The Republican leadership seems to be trying to rush Fast Track to the floor even though they are unsure of the outcome to try and stampede skeptical Republicans into supporting Fast Track. But it will be a down-to-the-wire, razor-thin vote that will probably happen late at night. Congress has recently taken a lot of late night votes, including repealing country of origin meat labeling at 10 PM last Wednesday night. The Congress has become a parliament of vampires.

Now is the time to contact your Member of Congress and tell them to vote NO on Fast Tracking the secret TPP.

Stay tuned…

 

June 10th, 2015

Artisanal Bulls**t: Antibiotic-Free Marketing

By Briana Kerensky

BlogThumb_ArtisanalBS-C1Late this spring, McDonald’s unveiled a new item on their menu: the “Artisan Grilled Chicken” sandwich. Simply seasoned with salt, garlic and parsley, the company says the grilled chicken breast contains “nothing but lovin’.”

In an effort to combat flagging sales and court more health-conscious eaters, McDonald’s recently announced plans to require its chicken suppliers to stop feeding the birds antibiotics that are used to combat human infections by March 2017. Other poultry purveyors, such as Costco and Chick-fil-A, have also publicized strategies to eventually phase out unnecessary use of some antibiotics. But once you get past the surface of these commendable plans, the truth about restaurants and other food corporations is pretty unsavory.

Let’s backtrack: why have McDonald’s and other restaurants been feeding chickens antibiotics in the first place? These companies grow and process their poultry in factory farms, which are notoriously overcrowded and filthy. In order to compensate for these deplorable conditions, many factory farms give animals low, daily doses of antibiotics.

This practice, called nontherapeutic use, creates the perfect stew for bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics to thrive and spread. These superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria bred on factory farms – end up in food and in the environment, which puts everyone at risk, regardless of where you live or what you eat.

As science continues to point out the toxic relationship between factory farms and antibiotic-resistant infections, more and more people have said they’re not “lovin’ it” and taken their business from McDonald’s and other fast food giants. Using the hot term “artisan” and limiting antibiotics in its chicken is a blatant attempt by Mickey D’s to get diners back on its side and in its drive-thrus, without enacting progressive, organization-wide change. What about the nontherapeutic antibiotics they’re feeding cows and pigs? “Artisanal” chicken nuggets might be on the value menu soon, but the factory farm status quo remains for burgers and McRibs.

McDonald’s, Costco, Chick-fil-A and other corporate restaurant chains voluntarily limiting some antibiotic use in chicken is not enough to stop the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms. The problem is too big to rely on individual companies to make the right decision. Consumers deserve a baseline of good practices when it comes to antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production, and it shouldn’t be left up to consumers to try to keep track of which brand is using which practices. We need Congress to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms and create enforceable standards across the industry. Tell Congress to stand up for the public, not corporations, by introducing tighter regulations that will help stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

How The Release of The EPA’s Draft Assessment on Drinking Water Impacts Was Spun

By Hugh MacMillan

1The subtitle of the EPA’s press release announcing the assessment — presented by the Obama Administration as the topline finding — read as follows (emphasis added):

“Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.”

Media reports ran with this framing of the assessment, and a barrage of headlines whitewashed fracking as safe. This outcome, which has delighted both the oil and gas industry and the financial elites who are banking on decades of fracking, was the result of multiple levels of EPA and Obama Administration spin.

Although still deeply problematic, the framing of the major findings in the actual text of the nearly 1000-page assessment was very different than the topline of the press release. The actual assessment states (again, emphasis added):

“From our assessment, we conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources. … We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. … This finding could reflect a rarity of effects on drinking water resources, but may also be due to other limiting factors.” (p. ES-23)

That is, for the EPA’s press release, the major finding of the assessment was changed from “we did not find evidence” to the “Assessment shows” there is no evidence.

In reality, what the assessment shows is that, at almost every turn, the efforts of EPA to evaluate the impacts due to the “above and below ground mechanisms” were thwarted. At times, the agency was thwarted by circumstances out of its control, but in many other cases the agency’s own timidity is to blame.

The Spin Within The Assessment

The conclusive use of the phrases “widespread, systemic” and “rarity of effects” in the actual draft assessment is what enabled the Obama Administration to whitewash fracking with a small but enormously consequential change in the phrasing for the press release.

The implication is that, for the EPA and the Obama Administration, only problems that are deemed “widespread, systemic” warrant proactive concern about the current direction of energy policy.

To this point, the lead caveat in the summary of the assessment’s findings is:

“In particular, data limitations preclude a determination of the frequency of impacts with any certainty.” (p. ES-22)

The nearly 1000-page assessment is littered with additional caveats specific to each of the “mechanisms” identified as “having the potential to impact drinking water resources.” For example, the EPA’s assessment of impacts from 457 spills identified as related to hydraulic fracturing contains the following caveat:

“Of the volume of spilled flowback and produced water, 16% was recovered for on-site use or disposal, 76% was reported as unrecovered, and 8% was unknown. The potential impact of the unknown and unrecovered volume on drinking water resources is unknown.” (p. 7-33)

On the question of contamination of underground sources of drinking water due to the migration of shale gas, the assessment states:

“In most cases, the methane in the [water] wells likely originated from intermediate formations between the production zone and the surface; however, in some cases, the methane appears to have originated from deeper layers such as those where the Marcellus Shale is found.” (p. 6-17)

The assessment goes on to conclude:

“Evidence shows that the quality of drinking water resource may have been affected by hydraulic fracturing fluids escaping the wellbore and surrounding formation in certain areas, although conclusive evidence is currently limited.” (p. 6-57)

But with with the conclusions clouded by “data limitations and uncertainties” — including of its own making — the Obama Administration has succeeded in dismissing the impacts to drinking water resources from fracking as not “widespread” and “systemic.”

Limitations of Federal Government’s Own Making

The Obama Administration has not only slanted the narrative around the pollution documented in the study, it has failed to ensure that the EPA gather adequate data.

This failure is not just due to the fact that oil and gas companies — riding a legacy of decades of political influence peddling — enjoy exemptions from key statutes in all the major environmental laws. Rather than compel companies to cooperate, the EPA’s assessment is hamstrung by the vagaries of relying on the voluntary cooperation and disclosures by industry.

For example, because after-the-fact studies of contamination are difficult, the EPA had planned prospective studies, which would include baseline data on water quality and elaborate monitoring over time, from drilling and fracking the well to production. But the agency was not able to come to terms with any companies over site access or plans for monitoring and oversight.

Importantly, to see precisely why and how contaminants are leaking from some fracked wells, the EPA would likely needed to have monitored hundreds of individual wells as closely as technologically possible. Nonetheless, oil and gas companies would not accept the spotlight and close regulatory scrutiny on their fracking operations even once.

This is remarkable given that, according to the EPA’s own Inspector General, a primary reason that the agency withdrew its emergency order against Range Resources, regarding a case of contamination in Parker County, Texas, was that the company had agreed to participate in the assessment. The EPA’s failure to complete that investigation adds to the agency’s failure to carry out investigations, after the fact, of contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming and Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Ban Fracking

The Obama Administration has chalked up the experiences of those who have been living with contamination as nothing more than collateral damage, and as the result of rare effects. The assessment is nonetheless clear that such collateral damage to water resources, both recognized and unrecognized, will continue to mount as a result of both accidents and routine operations.

Among the uncertainties acknowledged in the assessment is that more contamination may be yet to come:

“Given the surge in the number of modern high-pressure hydraulic fracturing operations dating from the early 2000s, evidence of any fracturing-related fluid migration affecting a drinking water resource (as well as the information necessary to connect specific well operation practices to a drinking water impact) could take years to discover.” (p. 6-56)

This amounts to unacceptable risks to vital drinking water resources.

In dismissing concerns about such impacts on drinking water resources, including those made clear in the assessment, the Obama Administration has upheld its vision for the country: decades more widespread and systematic drilling and fracking, to maximize the extraction of unconventional oil and natural gas.

The oil and gas industry and the financial industry share this vision. Together these bastions of political influence continue to sink billions of dollars in infrastructure to build out demand for unconventional oil and gas.

The bitter irony is that decades more climate pollution, locked in by such sunk costs, will bring impacts on drinking water resources that are certain to be widespread and systemic.

Take action today to tell EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to correct the misleading press release about the study.

June 5th, 2015

The EPA’s Fracking Study, Explained

By Wenonah Hauter
BLOGthumb_1506_EPAphotoDon’t be fooled. Headlines in the New York Times and other news media about the EPA’s long-awaited study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water are another tragic case of not looking beyond the timid agency’s spin. Despite the lack of new substantive data and the limited scope of the study, the EPA did find instances of water contamination and outlined the areas where this could happen in the fracking process.

Rather than seriously undertaking its mission, the EPA’s headline and conclusions in the study reflect the agency’s on-going narrative about the safety of fracking. The agency asserted in the report on the study that there were no “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.” They based this outrageous conclusion on the limited industry controlled data and analysis that was included in the poorly designed research project.

The multi-million dollar study did not answer the fundamental questions about the pollution of water from hydraulic fracturing. The oil and gas industry pressured the agency in the design of the study, narrowing its scope and focusing it on theoretical modeling conducted by researchers that often conduct research favorable to the industry.

In a shocking display of the power of oil and gas interests, they successfully blocked the agency from gathering data from direct monitoring of fracking operations. Rather than demanding that companies like Exxon (the largest fracker in the U.S.) or Chesapeake allow them to monitor water wells near fracking operations, the EPA caved to industry pressure. For the study to be meaningful, the agency needed to conduct baseline water testing at prospective wells that would provide a snapshot of water quality before fracking and that would be retested after a year or more after oil or gas production began.

Geoffrey Thyne, a geochemist and a member of the EPA’s 2011 Science Advisory Board, a group of independent scientists who reviewed the plan for the study, remarked on the failure of its design: “This was supposed to be the gold standard. But they went through a long bureaucratic process of trying to develop a study that is not going to produce a meaningful result.”

Yet even with the study’s poor design and the deceptive headlines, the 600-page document does include concrete examples that fracking does indeed contaminate groundwater resources, a fact already confirmed by numerous studies based on existing scientific data. The study confirmed cases of water contamination with five after-the-fact, or retrospective, case studies, each focused on a community where residents have complained about water problems for years. This embarrassingly limited review of the impacts from spills and releases, water withdrawals, and issues with waste disposal provide proof that fracking negatively impacts our water resources. They included:

  • Drinking water monitoring wells had “chemicals or brine” from a blowout that occurred during fracking operations in Killdeer, ND.
  • “Up to nine out of 36” wells considered in a Northeastern Pennsylvania case study “are impacted by stray gas (methane and ethane) associated with nearby hydraulic fracturing activities.”
  • In Southwestern PA, wastewater pits and other storage sites caused chloride contamination. Regarding stray hydrocarbon gas found in domestic water wells, the EPA determines it was from shallower gas formations, not the targeted shale formation, but whether nearby drilling through the shallower formations led to such contamination remains unanswered.
  • At the same time as hydraulic fracturing operations in Wise County, TX, two water wells were impacted by increased presence of brines.

This incomplete and inadequate study is an embarrassment for the Obama Administration and the EPA. It falls far short of the level of scrutiny and government oversight needed to protect the health and safety of the many millions of Americans living in watersheds impacted by fracking — nearly ten million within one mile of a fracked well, according to the study.

Unfortunately the study and related media coverage will provide the industry more cover for continuing its poisoning of our nation’s drinking water via widespread drilling and fracking. Oil and gas industry foxes have once again been allowed to call the shots at the EPA’s henhouse, and protect their vision for widespread fracking, with what the EPA now confirms to be over 25,000 new oil and gas wells each year.

Simply put, the EPA admits that fracking has been found to contaminate water, but its incomplete analysis and false characterization of its findings greatly downplays the severity of the problem. Industry’s pressure on the agency has politicized what is a basic public health concern. Putting a resource as precious and universally important as drinking water at risk is simply unacceptable, and the EPA, which is charged with protecting Americans from environmental risk, should be working to do everything it can to safeguard these vital water resources. This study is fodder to continue our ongoing fight to ban fracking everywhere.

June 4th, 2015

You’ve Got Questions About Antibiotic Resistance; We’ve Got Answers

The original version of this blog post was published in June 2014. It has been updated to reflect recent statistics and events.

By Sydney Baldwin

Antibiotic-resistant super bugs pose one of the most threatening public health problems.You’ve heard about antibiotic-resistance: that scary scenario when someone is sick with an infection, but the medicine that’s supposed to treat it doesn’t work. Major health organizations around the world warn that antibiotics are quickly losing their effectiveness, and pharmaceutical companies aren’t acting fast enough to create new ones. What’s scary is that, according to our researchers’ analysis of Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, over 20 percent of antibiotic-resistant infections are linked to food.

Even if you don’t eat meat or live near a factory farm, you’re still susceptible. Read on to learn why we’re all at risk to contract an antibiotic-resistant infection. Then tell Congress to stand up for the public, not corporations, by introducing tighter regulations that will help stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

1.    Exactly how do factory farms misuse antibiotics?

Factory farms give animals low doses of antibiotics to compensate for overcrowded, filthy conditions that lead to disease.  In fact, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in agriculture, but not necessarily because the animals ingesting them are sick. Unfortunately, that’s making us sick.

This practice, called nontherapeutic use, creates the perfect stew for bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics to thrive and spread. These superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria bred on factory farms – end up in food and in the environment, which puts everyone at risk, regardless of where you live or what you eat. Read the full article…

June 2nd, 2015

Progressive Trade Deal? Show Us the Text of the TPP!

The Super Secretive TPP and the Corporate Cabal Writing the Deal

By Patrick Woodall and Elizabeth Schuster

BlogThumb_AFLTPPbannerBefore the Senate left on its Memorial Day “recess,” it barely managed to pass Fast Track trade authority designed to essentially rubber-stamp the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). That the legislation limped across the finish line of a pro-trade Senate demonstrates the controversial and politically charged nature of Fast Track. The Obama administration has kept the TPP negotiations and the text largely secret — except from the corporate advisors that have been inserting special interest mischief into the TPP trade deal.

The President contends the TPP is the “most progressive trade deal in history,” but if the terms of the deal are good enough to draw support from progressive America, why won’t the President release the text of the agreement?

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Perhaps surprisingly, President George W. Bush released the draft text of the Free Trade Area of the Americas to the public, and his team’s rationale should be illuminating for the Obama administration. According to then U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, they released the FTAA text “to make international trade and its economic and social benefits more understandable to the public.”

But the TPP has been shrouded in so much secrecy that even Members of Congress have had difficulty accessing the TPP negotiating texts. Up until this year, Members of Congress had to request access to the text that was secured in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). In March, USTR set up a room in the Capitol where Members of Congress could visit the text without making an appointment.

Not everyone took advantage of the convenience. Even the Senators voting for Fast Track were unsure what is in the agreement. Fast Track sponsor and TPP proponent Senator Orrin Hatch admitted that he does not “know fully what’s in TPP myself.” Read the full article…

May 29th, 2015

Merger Mania Spring Updates

By Tyler Shannon Grocery_Shopping_Dairy_Aisle_Woman

2015 is shaping up to be the year of food mega-mergers, which is bad news for consumers. Recently, Hormel announced its intention to acquire Applegate Farms. Over the years, Food & Water Watch has intervened in several of these deals to let shoppers know these mergers impact their wallets. It is difficult for most people to stay up to date on the host of changes sweeping through the food and agribusiness industry, so here are a handful of updates on some recent deals, long-standing food antitrust cases and a few rumored mergers. Read the full article…

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