Blogs | Food & Water Watch - Part 30
Victory! Farm Bureau case challenging EPA’s right to share factory farm data dismissed. more wins »
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November 8th, 2013

H.R. 2728: Congress Wants to Frack Our Federal Lands

By Katherine Cirullo

George Washington National Forest in Virginia

George Washington National Forest in Virginia

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – a federal agency congressionally mandated to act as a steward of public lands and Native American heritage sites ‑ proposed a set of regulations for fracking on public lands. In an effort to uphold historic principals of our democracy, they held a public comment period about those proposed rules. The public took that comment period by storm and made its voices heard loud and clear, showing unprecedented opposition to the expansion of fracking taking place on, and near, public lands. By the end of the comment period this past August, Americans Against Fracking, Food & Water Watch, 350.org and other groups together collected over one million public comments and signatures calling on President Obama and the Bureau of Land Management to do their job by protecting public lands from fracking. The majority (650,000) of those comments called for an outright ban on the practice, as regulations are not enough to prevent the ecological degradation, water and air contamination and public safety hazards that ensue from fracking.

The campaign was heartfelt and far-reaching. “These lands are our lands” was expressed enthusiastically from coast to coast.

Recently, House Republicans introduced a bill that undercuts these sentiments, not to mention the stewardship responsibilities of the federal government with regards to oil and gas development on federal lands. H.R. 2728, “Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act” is a vaguely worded, industry backed bill that would put states in charge of managing fracking on federal lands, overruling any federal oversight. Something here doesn’t seem right.  Read the full article…

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Jack Johnson: Inspiring Activism Through Music

By Jill Pape

Back when I was in high school, I stumbled across an article about Jack Johnson, a folk singer from Hawaii whose mellow beats and thoughtful lyrics were beginning to make waves across America. I was ready for a break from the synth-heavy pop music that was otherwise available at the time, and it didn’t take long for me to become a huge fan. Jack’s songs were fun to sing to and managed to validate my concerns about the world while still giving me a sense that people were working to change it. His bottom-line message to slow down, enjoy yourself and improve your world resonated with me — and the rest of my generation — in a big way. 

It’s easy to see why ten years later, Jack’s fan following is enormous and continuing to grow. That’s why I was thrilled when I found out several weeks ago that Jack, through his All at Once campaign, had invited Food & Water Watch to table outside his show and talk to concert-goers about our issues again this year. A Jack Johnson-loving coworker, Francesca Buzzi, and I soon landed ourselves a table at his concert venue, where we excitedly listened to his sound check and poked our heads in to watch our adolescent idol singing to an empty auditorium. But the best part of the deal was that Jack’s non-profit, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, didn’t just let us table there – they also encouraged attendees to sign our petitions and matched all donations we got that night dollar for dollar. Read the full article…

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Three Reasons to Follow Food & Water Watch on Instagram

By Katherine Cirullo

Henri Cartier Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks and others—history is peppered with creative eyes that have used their cameras to document the world around them, often transforming a simple tool into an instrument of social change.

With this in mind, Food & Water Watch joined Instagram.

While a platform that allows you to view beautiful photography at your fingertips while riding the bus or waiting for coffee is all well and good, Food & Water Watch views Instagram as a wonderful tool for us to connect with our supporters. It’s a way for us to inform you about what we’re doing and what you can do to get involved. It’s also a way for you to share with us all of the inspiring ways you’re taking action to protect water, air and ensure a healthier, more sustainable a future for all.

Here are the top three reasons why you should follow us on Instagram: Read the full article…

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November 4th, 2013

The Ongoing Farm Bill Saga

By Jo Miles and Anna Ghosh

Of all the spectacular ways Congress has failed lately, the current Farm Bill is one of the biggest and longest running sagas (we’ve been reporting on this particular farm bill mess since 2011). It’s also the most critical for the people who grow our food, families who struggle to keep food on the table, and of us who care about where our food comes from.

The Farm Bill is a massive law that makes the rules not only for farmers, but for almost all aspects of our food, affecting everything from the price of milk, to subsidies on factory farms, to food stamps for families in need. Congress was supposed to renew this bill back in 2012, but the House and Senate can’t agree on what the new bill should look like, so they’ve just let is expire. Twice. But this tortured process may finally be coming to a close. Like Slate, we’re hopeful that the silver lining to Congress’s dysfunction is that it’s running out of ways to fail.   

The House and Senate both managed to pass a Farm Bill this summer but their versions of the bill are light-years apart. Now a special committee is reconciling those bills but all of Congress needs to feel pressure from concerned citizens to keep the essential protections for farmers, organic standards and everyday people who need access to safe, healthy, affordable food in tact. That’s what the Farm Bill is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to level the playing field for family farmers, so they can compete with Big Agriculture and provide the fresh, local food that’s needed. It’s supposed to protect the safety of our food and the environment from abusive practices by big corporations. And it should make sure that all American families, regardless of their income level, never have to go hungry.

The biggest risk is that the new Farm Bill might gut the food stamp program that millions of low-income Americans rely on to feed their families. But lots of other areas that we care about are at stake, too. It could damage our hard-won victories like Country of Origin Labeling, weaken food safety standards, remove vital rules that protect small farmers from abusive corporations, and more. You can be sure that corporations like Monsanto are pressuring Congress to pass a Farm Bill that’s friendlier to them at the expense of folks trying to know what’s in the food they’re feeding their families. That’s why your voice is so important. Let your Members of Congress know that you want a Farm Bill that protects ordinary Americans, not big corporations.

October 31st, 2013

What’s Really Scary on Halloween

By Jo Miles

When I was a kid, I loved Halloween (okay, honestly, I still do). Like most kids, I loved it for the candy, and I always went for the chocolate: Hershey’s bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and so much more.

But for me, the very best candy was from Hebert’s, the local candy shop that’s been in my hometown in Massachusetts for nearly a century. Their “store” is a big old house, which they call the Candy Mansion, and it was packed wall to wall with every sort of candy, all of it homemade. I remember it seeming like Willy Wonka’s factory when I was a kid; it was larger than life.

Sadly, I won’t find Hebert’s candies where I live now. In fact, you have to make a real effort to find any local candy at Halloween. That’s because over 99 percent of Halloween candy is made by just three mega-companies.

That’s right. For all the types of little, individually wrapped chocolates you see on the shelves at Halloween, 99.4 percent of it is made by just three companies: Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé. Those are your only choices — and that really is scary! Read the full article…

October 30th, 2013

Majority of Top Hospitals Ban Infant Formula Marketing

By Eva Seidelman

This post originally appeared on Public Citizen’s blog. To read our original post on the issue, click here.

I love being the bearer of good news. Eliminating infant formula marketing in hospitals is decidedly a best practice employed by the vast majority of U.S. News and World Report’s top-ranked hospitals. Public Citizen’s new report, “Top Hospitals’ Formula for Success: No Marketing of Infant Formula,” co-released by the Ban the Bags campaign shows how the vast majority of the nation’s most reputable hospitals are acting ethically and thwarting pressure from formula companies to aggressively market their harmful products.

Numerous studies show that mothers breastfeed with less frequency and for shorter durations when they receive formula company-sponsored bags with formula samples in hospitals at discharge. The bags often lead moms to believe hospitals endorse formula feeding and give up more easily on breastfeeding. Healthcare professionals overwhelmingly recommend that women breastfeed exclusively for the six months after birth, given its numerous health and economic benefits.

The report makes the following findings:

- Sixty-seven percent of top hospitals in gynecology (30 out of 45) reported not distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags, formula samples or other formula company promotional materials to mothers in their maternity units. Another 11 percent (5 of 45) reported limiting formula company-sponsored discharge bags and sample distribution to mothers who request them, or based on other criteria.

- Eighty-two percent (14 of 17) of U.S. News’ “Honor Roll” of overall best hospitals, reported having a policy or practice against distributing formula company-sponsored discharge bags or other promotional materials.

- Eleven percent of hospitals in gynecology (5 of 45) still distribute formula company-sponsored materials, and a handful of hospitals did not respond to the survey.

The report reaffirms other data showing that hospitals have been steadily trending towards ending formula promotion over the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey, 27.4 percent of hospitals had discontinued the formula discharge bags in 2007 and by 2011, 45.5 percent had ended the practice. The number of Baby Friendly designated hospitals, prohibiting formula marketing, is increasing. Further, all hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voluntarily banned discharge bags, while others including Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma and New York are progressively moving in that direction.

The formula companies should be the first to comply with the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and stop co-opting hospitals into advertising their products. But with profits at stake, they’re ignoring the Code. More than 16,500 people have signed Public Citizen’s petition calling on the three major formula companies – Abbott, Mead Johnson and Nestlé—to stop marketing in healthcare facilities. Sign the petition and forward to friends before we deliver it to the companies next month. Visit http://www.citizen.org/infant-formula to learn more about Public Citizen’s campaign to end formula marketing and what you can do to make change in your community.

Eva Seidelman is a Researcher for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert.

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October 29th, 2013

Even the Industry Cannot Stand the Stench

By Tony Corbo

It is pretty rare when the editor of a major meat industry publication and Food & Water Watch can agree on an issue. But I am here to report that we have. After being away from the office for a week, I picked up my mail that had accumulated and started to go through it. Among the pieces in the pile was the October edition of MeatingPlace magazine, a publication that promotes the domestic meat industry. I find the publication useful since it helps me understand viewpoints from the meat industry. The articles are usually very well-written. What caught my attention this month, however, was a very critical editorial entitled, “Plague,” written by MeatingPlace editor Lisa Keefe. Read the full article…

When it Comes to Water Advocacy, Maude Barlow Sees a Blue Future

Maude Barlow is a lot of things to us here at Food & Water Watch: a human rights activist, leader in the movement to protect our water and crusader against corporate control of public resources. But she’s also a talented writer, and a friend and ally who continues to broaden the scope of our work and makes us proud to do what we do. In her brilliant new book, Blue Future, Barlow lays out an important vision for the next phase of our battle to protect our human right to have access to the most important common resource.

Blue Future—available now in Canada and in the U.S. by January 7, 2014*— identifies the principles behind our best approach to water management across the entire planet and, in the process, lays out the work ahead. Barlow organizes Blue Future into chapters that serve as the tenets of water advocacy for the next several years, and it’s based on the idea of communities coming together, empowering themselves, and establishing control of their own water supply.   Read the full article…

October 25th, 2013

GE Salmon Growing in the Dark in South Dakota

By Tim Schwab         

Working to Ensure Safe and Sustainable SeafoodLast week, the Washington Post reported some unwelcoming news to AquaBounty Technologies, the producers of genetically engineered (GE) salmon: grocery stores are lining up to sign a pledge saying they won’t sell the fish if, or when, it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

This action by some of the nation’s largest retailers, including Meijer, HEB, Target and Trader Joe’s, reflects widespread consumer opposition to GE salmon.  But where consumers see potential health concerns, environmental problems and a lot of hype surrounding the benefits of this fish, the state of South Dakota apparently sees dollar signs.

The Post reports the governor saying the state is making “concerted efforts” to bring AquaBounty to South Dakota, and it appears that South Dakota State University (SDSU), the largest public research institution in the state, is helping out.  

The school maintains very close ties to the biotech industry. SDSU President David Chicoine is also a director at Monsanto, which pays a handsome salary, and he owns around 10,000 shares in the company, worth around $1 million. The school’s vice-president and director of research, Kevin Kephart, is an advisor to the South Dakota Biotechnology Association, the state level affiliate of BIO, a biotech lobby group whose members include AquaBounty and which spent around $8 million in 2012 lobbying on issues, including GE salmon. Read the full article…

October 23rd, 2013

Highlights: The Second International Day to Ban Fracking

By Mark Schlosberg

Food & Water Watch staff in Brussels.

Across the world last weekend, communities rose up and came together to call for a ban on fracking in the second Global Frackdown. From France to Argentina, Australia to South Africa, India to Mexico and all across the United States, actions took place opposing fracking and related projects like frac sand mining, pipelines and other infrastructure projects. It was a beautiful and powerful day for the anti-fracking movement and shows our movement stronger and more unified than ever.

The largest rallies were in Europe, where 3500 people rallied in Montelimar, and 2500 people gathered in Saint-Claude to say no to fracking. France’s high court recently upheld the country’s ban on fracking, but organizers are concerned that experimentation is still possible. These were the two largest of several actions happening across France.

In eastern Romania, a thousand people demonstrated in Pungesti and 700 people took to the streets in Barlad to protest against Chevron’s attempts to explore and develop shale gas. Actions in solidarity with these local communities took place in the capital Bucharest. Resistance has been growing, since the government has failed to be transparent about the licenses that were given to Chevron in 2012.

Read the full article…

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