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August 19th, 2013

Pesticide Drift and Real-Life Harms

airplane spraying pesticideBy Genna Reed

Pesticide drift is a common occurrence and is the simple result of wind carrying airborne chemicals onto unintended areas, like a neighbor’s farm. The impacts of drift can be extremely profound.

 Indiana Public Media dove into the issue in a three-part report (Part I, Part II, Part III) on the risks involved with drift including financial harm from crop yield loss, health impacts associated with pesticide drift exposure and how the pipeline of genetically engineered crops able to withstand spraying with volatile herbicides (like 2,4-D and dicamba) will only worsen the drift problem. Read the full article…

Protect the Wayne, Protect our Planet: Say NO to New BLM Fracking Rules

By Heather Cantino fracking for natural gas

My heart breaks when I think of the growing assaults on our commons –– on our air, our water and our public lands. In southeast Ohio, Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only national forest, has been abused for decades. Extensive logging takes place under false pretenses as “ecological management.” The area has been assaulted by “prescribed” burns, which are not even appropriate in eastern forests. ATV trails increasingly riddle the land. Non-native species invade wherever there is a disturbance. 

Recently, the Wayne National Forest faced an imminent gas and oil lease sale of over 3,000 acres, most of it in the Hocking River Valley. Maps of the parcels to be sold revealed all to be riddled with abandoned coalmines. Two cities in the watershed, Nelsonville and Athens, rely on the Hocking River aquifer as their sole-source drinking water supply.  The sale would threaten the drinking water of more than 70,000 people. 

Thanks to legal expertise provided by Nathan Johnson of the Buckeye Forest Council and to public alerts by community activists, dozens of formal protests, including letters from local officials and Ohio University, were submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency in charge of the sales process, in the final week before the October 7, 2011, public comment period deadline. The sale was canceled.

Despite further legal appeals by the Buckeye Forest Council and its state and national allies and by a dozen regional and national environmental groups, as well as thousands of petition signatures, rallies attended by hundreds of people and voluminous research and visits by community members and leaders, Wayne Supervisor Anne Carey concluded that a future lease sale could be conducted without an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This decision flew in the face of legal arguments that an EIS was necessary to evaluate risks of deep-shale drilling and high-volume horizontal fracturing. No new sale has been scheduled. 

Our region, long a sacrifice zone, was heavily affected by nineteenth and twentieth century coal mining and is just beginning to recover with an attractive university, healthy tourism and a nationally recognized farmers’ market and local food economy. The fate of this newly flourishing community now lies with the BLM and President Obama, putting it in grave danger. 

The BLM’s proposed rules for fracking on federal lands will not protect our water supplies from tens of thousands of pounds of undisclosed toxic chemicals, many of them known carcinogens or neurotoxins, used per frack. Casings inevitably leak, and acidic mine water makes well failure likely sooner rather than later. 

Furthermore, Ohio law permits unlimited water withdrawals from public waterways (each frack job uses as much as 10 million gallons of water). It also permits air emissions of volatile organic compounds, including the known carcinogens benzene and toluene, which average 23 tons per well according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There could be thirteen well pads in the Wayne forest in the next three years, each potentially containing 10 wells. Fracking and drilling there would add six million pounds of toxic pollutants to the air, excluding truck carbon dioxide emissions and methane leakage. 

Read the full article…

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August 16th, 2013

Oh you want straight bananas now do you….

Bananas wrapped in protective plastic at a banana plantation in Costa Rica. Credit: Anna Meyer

By Anna Meyer

While studying in Costa Rica for four months this past spring, I had the opportunity to tour a pineapple plantation and a Dole banana plantation. I was surprised and bemused by what I learned about these two tropical fruits that have become commonplace in American homes.

Pineapples and bananas have a long and political history in Costa Rica and most of Latin America. Much of which is a result of the United Fruit Company’s (known now as Chiquita) grab to gain control of land. They’ve even orchestrated government coups in order to be able to export more fruit north. 

Bananas are grown in massive monoculture plantations. A single planting of banana tress consists of hundreds of plants with the exact same genetic makeup; each tree is an identical twin to the one sitting next to it. Read the full article…

Protect New Mexico’s Cultural Heritage: Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

By Eleanor Bravo

Chaco Canyon Ruins

I’ve been a New Mexican for more than 30 years now. When I first arrived, I realized I found the place of my heart, a land where whatever thrives here holds on for dear life. I also found that the soul of the land dwells in a unique place we call Chaco Canyon or Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It’s a mysterious place once home to thousands between 850 and 1250 AD. The ruins of great houses still stand, showing architectural expertise and masonry techniques unique to their time.

I have visited the park numerous times over the years, and each time, have discovered something new, have seen something different and have felt the presence of past inhabitants. Pueblo descendants say that it was a special gathering place where clans converged for ceremonial purposes. But no one really knows for sure.

What I do know is that the canyon and all of its ruins are a treasure not only for New Mexicans, but for all people on Earth. Those of us who are privileged to walk the Earth today are indebted to these unknown architects for the vision they created in this once thriving center of North American culture, a spiritual place to be honored and respected. A national park today, the canyon is one of only 20 World Heritage sites in the United States, designated in l987 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as an example of world cultural patrimony.

Such a remote location, you must travel about 17 miles of bumpy, dusty or muddy road to reach the entrance of the park. Sometimes during a downpour, the road is impassable. The surrounding land is a checkerboard composed of Navajo land, public lands and those managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Leases for oil and gas drilling have already been granted in the area, Several years back, grassroots organizations pressured the then land commissioner to designate a 3-mile buffer zone around Chaco and all other parks in New Mexico, but that has never been formalized. Read the full article…

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August 15th, 2013

Pinnacle Foods Makes a Wish to Buy Wish-Bone

By Lily Boyce

Merger-mania continues in August with a corporate marriage from the middle aisles of the supermarket. This week, Pinnacle Foods announced its plans to purchase Unilever’s Wish-Bone salad dressing business for $580 million. Unilever is shedding some of its processed food lines — they sold Skippy peanut butter to Hormel Foods earlier this year — to focus on its personal care businesses (soaps, scents and shampoos).

The merger highlights how most brands in the supermarket are owned by mega corporations that have a hand in many different types of products. Pinnacle Foods owns a raft of brands that most consumers probably thought were independent companies, like Birds Eye frozen vegetables, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Vlasic pickles, Armour Vienna sausages (Smithfield owns the hot dogs), Lender’s bagels, Celeste frozen pizzas, Van de Kamp’s and Mrs. Paul’s frozen fish and Hungry Man frozen dinners. Who knew?

Read the full article…

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Protect Florida from Fracking: Protect Our Ecosystems, Our Water and Our Public Lands!

A Panther in the wild.By Lynna Kaucheck

The first time I drove through the Florida Everglades was on a misty morning. The cypress trees were draped in Spanish moss, egrets and other wading birds flew above a river camouflaged in grass and the alligators’ snouts barely broke the surface of the water in the canal. The Everglades struck me as almost prehistoric, and I half expected to see a brontosaurus wandering off in the distance. I had never been any place like the Everglades in all my travels, and I immediately fell in love.

Like most people, the ocean and the warm weather are what drew me to Florida, but treasures like the Everglades, our underground springs, coral reefs and diverse flora and fauna are what make me keep exploring and falling more in love with this beautiful state.

The oil and gas industry has been drilling in South Florida for decades, and plans to expand in the very near future. Over the last year, at least four oil and gas companies have applied for permits to drill in the region. Big Cypress National Preserve, an area in the Everglades that has been drilled on in the past, is being eyed as land ripe for expansion. Companies are looking to drill old wells and build new ones. However, more oil and gas drilling on this public land threatens nearby ecosystems, precious water supplies, agricultural production and the safety of our communities. Read the full article…

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August 13th, 2013

Already Smoggy Rocky Mountain National Park Could Become Even Smoggier with Increased Fracking on Nearby Public Lands

By Molly Geppert 

Having been born and raised in Colorado, I grew up enjoying all the natural wonders this state has to offer. My favorite place by far is Rocky Mountain National Park. When I was young, my family had the tradition of going there every Father’s Day and hiking to Emerald Lake. One year in particular stands out in my memory. I must have been about five, and my two younger sisters were three-and-a-half and just under a year old.  My dad carried my youngest sister in a baby backpack; she drooled all over the back of his head and down his neck the entire hike, which he found refreshing. My other sister was old enough to manage the hike herself and insisted on bringing her plastic 101 Dalmatians backpack. I was the adventurous one in the family, and would run ahead of everyone, only to be scolded for not staying within eyesight. 

Once we reached Emerald Lake, I immediately ran out onto a log that jutted into the water and promptly fell off.  Luckily, it was pretty shallow and I only got my shoes wet. However, this did make for an uncomfortable hike back to the car. While exploring near the water’s edge, I found a dragonfly larva under a rock and was fascinated by how alien it looked and how it could possibly transform into something so delicate.  My sister had put her Dalmatian backpack down to play, and when my mom went to pick up the bag, she noticed it was very heavy for a three year old to be carrying. She opened it to find it filled with books! My little sister did not complain one word about the weight that she had carried the entire hike. My sisters and I sat down by the lake and read books while our parents took a nap.  I remember how clear the water was, how cool the air felt even though it was summer, and the beautiful scenery. Read the full article…

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August 9th, 2013

Protect Inyo National Forest and Other California Treasures: Ban Fracking on Federal Lands

By Karina Wilkinson  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to the Eastern Sierras in California to fish, hike, sail and relax. I am fortunate that my grandfather owned a sporting goods store and was able to buy or, according to family lore, barter for a cabin in the Sierras. I grew up in Los Angeles, where in the 1970’s, the skies were yellow with smog a lot of the time, even more so than now. But for at least a week or two in the summer, we were able to go to a place with fresh, crisp air. 

I’ve hiked into the Yosemite Valley from Porcupine Creek, and all around Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining in the Inyo National Forest, including the Ansel Adams and Hoover Wilderness Areas. There are hikes to lakes and waterfalls and mountain passes, through Jeffery Pine forests and a wildflower hike with a series of cascades that in some years, thunder with water.  Some friends and members of my family have not taken to my hikes, since I go out even if afternoon temperatures hit 80 or 90 degrees, and reach an altitude anywhere from 4,000 to over 10,000 feet. I often walk for five to six hours with a break for lunch. 

Unfortunately, last year I couldn’t enjoy one of my favorite hikes, which connects to a former Native American trail, because in November 2011, a freak windstorm from the north blew down tens of thousands of trees throughout the Sierra Nevadas. The winds don’t normally come from the north, which is why so many trees fell and blocked formerly passable trails. Read the full article…

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August 7th, 2013

Five Things to Consider When Ordering Seafood…(Make That Six!)

By Rich Bindell

While traveling through Oregon’s central coast in July, I stopped in Newport, a pretty port town with a lot of seafood places. I quickly learned that the local version of crab chowder meant Dungeness crab, as opposed to the Maryland Blue Crab I’ve grown accustomed to in and around the District of Columbia region. I asked the server if she knew where the crab was from, an important question, even when eating in a seaside town.

She pointed and said, “See that red boat over there, third from the left? That’s our guy. He just brought it over two hours ago.” “That’s great,” I replied. “Sorry to doubt you. I just want to make sure that if I’m in a great seaside town like this, I actually get to enjoy genuine, locally caught seafood.” She agreed and wondered aloud why it’s so hard to figure out seafood these days. 

“That’s why we have the Smart Seafood Guide,” I enthusiastically shouted!

We’re still technically in the middle of summer, with plenty of primetime for enjoying the edible gems of our lakes, rivers and seas. While it can be rather challenging to find locally-sourced, sustainably caught seafood at restaurants and supermarkets, it’s not impossible. Like solving a puzzle, you just have to learn to ask the right questions.

That’s why Food & Water Watch publishes our Smart Seafood Guide. We’re happy to introduce our new model for you, which includes a special section called, “5 Things to Consider When Ordering Seafood,” that should prove helpful to anyone looking to make it a little easier to make smart decisions about seafood.

1. Local fish are few and far between.

2. “Atlantic” salmon is farmed salmon.

3. “Organic” seafood is not what it seems.

4. Beware of imported shrimp.  

5. Bivalve shellfish are often good options.

For more detail behind the Big 5, check out our Smart Seafood Guide, which still includes our classic Dirty Dozen list. What’s the sixth thing to consider, you ask? Make sure you remember to have the Smart Seafood Guide with you when you get a hankering for a hunk of haddock or halibut or… you get the idea. Just make sure you get the guide.

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August 5th, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, and Salmonella Testing At USDA

By Tony Corbo

In the August 4 edition of the Washington Post, investigative reporter Kimberly Kindy unmasked a potential scam that has been going on at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regarding its salmonella testing program for poultry products. In her article, various scientists raised questions about the protocol FSIS uses to evaluate the results of the tests it conducts. In large chicken processing facilities, where the line speeds can run in excess of 175 birds per minute, chemical interventions are used to douse the birds as a way to clean off fecal and digestive content materials from the carcasses. These materials are frequently the reservoirs for food borne pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter, and the chemicals are used to reduce the number of bacteria carried on the bird carcasses. FSIS conducts periodic government sampling and testing of chicken carcasses to evaluate how well the companies are doing in controlling the levels of salmonella and campylobacter.

As Ms. Kindy explained in her article, when FSIS collects its samples, an inspector will take birds off the slaughter line after they’ve gone through the chemical treatments, putting the birds in a plastic bag filled with a solution that collects any remaining pathogens that are on the carcasses. The birds are re-hung on the slaughter line where they are further processed and put into commerce. The plastic bags filled with the solution are sent off to an FSIS lab for analysis. Results are often reported within 24 hours of the lab receiving the sample.  Read the full article…

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