Blogs | Food & Water Watch - Part 30
Victory! Governor Cuomo bans fracking in New York. more wins »


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October 15th, 2013

Fracking with our Largest Source of Fresh Water

By Anne Zukowski

Ban Fracking!I’m from Michigan. I’m deeply connected with 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water supply that surrounds my state, and consider myself a steward of this essential resource.

My husband and I recently vacationed in Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.  We hiked through fantastically beautiful and rugged rock formations, saw herds of buffalo and antelope and watched soaring golden eagles.

We also saw first-hand how large-scale fracking devastates natural spaces, turning them into heavy industrial sites.  We saw fracking wells and facilities everywhere with barracks-like housing and trailer parks thrown up around them to accommodate out-of-state workers. Unending lines of tanker trucks carrying everything from heavy equipment to toxic fracking chemicals and waste whiz through small towns and down narrow two-lane roads. Noise and diesel fumes fill the air.

Fracking has come to Michigan and multinational corporations such as Encana, Inc. have found a bonanza here. Most of the fracking taking place in Michigan is occurring on public lands.  Twice a year the state government leases our state mineral rights to drillers for rock-bottom prices, averaging about $18 an acre.  Our Department of Environmental Quality allows them to take as much water as they want for free.  As an added bonus for them  (since most of the public lands are forested) fracking is out-of-sight to most people.  The resulting destruction of natural resources however, has proven devastating. Read the full article…

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October 11th, 2013

The Struggle Against Fracking: The View from Spain

By Samuel Martín-Sosa Rodríguez 

It’s impressive to see how resistance to fracking has raced around the world like a spark travelling along a gunpowder trail. To me, this powerful struggle is in certain ways reminiscent of the global anti-nuclear movement of the 1970’s (in many ways, the forbearer of the modern-day ecological movement.) The sheer number of citizen groups, alliances and critical voices that have arisen to speak out against the practice of fracking continues to multiply. It is a struggle spearheaded by people, rather than organizations, many of whom have no background in organized activism, but who have been able to envision what is at stake – and have taken their opposition beyond NIMBYist objections, understanding that a change in our energy system is in order.

Read the full article…

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March Against Monsanto

March Against Monsanto in NYC

By Anna Ghosh

Last May, more than two million people in over 400 cities spanning six continents marched in opposition to the chemical and agribusiness giant Monsanto – read our recap of the event here. Tomorrow, Oct. 12, activists will once again March Against Monsanto, calling for the boycott of genetically engineered (GE) foods and other harmful agro-chemicals.

Food & Water Watch organizers are proud to support activists’ efforts in Manhattan; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Des Moines, IA; and Albuquerque, NM.  In Florida, we’re supporting marches in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Tallahassee, West Palm Beach and across the state – 19 in all.

In Ohio, we are supporting the Cincinnati march and working with our allies on a call-in day to ask Senator Sherrod Brown to co-sponsor federal GE labeling legislation. 

And a related global movement is also underway – Vandana Shiva’s Fortnight of Action for Seed Freedom. Dr. Shiva calls on people around the world to stand up against unjust seed laws through creative, peaceful actions in the spirit of Gandhi. Find out how to get involved here.

Can’t get to a march? March where you are. But whether or not you’re planning to March Against Monsanto this weekend, arm yourself with the facts. Food & Water Watch reports, fact sheets, blogs, press releases and sharable images can all be found here:, and more information on GE foods here:

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Food & Water Watch’s Local Coordinators: Warriors on the Front Lines of Washington’s Battle to Label GE Foods

By Julia DeGraw

Washington state is poised to make history by becoming the first state to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. While the opposition in this fight is well funded it only has the support of biotech and chemical companies. We – the Yes on 522 camp – have the support of tens of thousands of Washingtonians who believe they have a right to know what’s in their foods. We will not win this campaign by outspending the opposition but we can win it with people power, which is why we’re excited to introduce you to some of Food & Water Watch’s local coordinators leading the charge to get out the vote and pass the GE food labeling bill (I-522). Read the full article…

Government Shutdown Week 2: The Dysfunction Continues

Food Policy Director Patty Lovera

Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera

By Patty Lovera

As the Food & Water Watch blogger who seems to cover the depressing update beat, it was up to me to talk about what the federal government shutdown means for the food system. And the other food news that barely registered last week – the Farm Bill expired. Again.

First the shutdown. Obviously, the list of impacts of the federal government not being fully operational is a long one.

Food Safety: This is one is getting a lot of coverage, but it’s a mixed bag of who is at work and who isn’t, which has caused some confusion. Ron Nixon helped sort it out in yesterday’s New York Times.

USDA meat and poultry inspectors are on the job but under extremely challenging conditions – like their supervisors and other USDA employees they work with on a daily basis not being available and the stress caused by not knowing when they will get paid or whether or not they can take a sick day. The current salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken plants in California started before the government shutdown and reflects several serious flaws in USDA management’s policies on what triggers a recall and when to crack down on plants that show food safety lapses.

Inspections for other foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration are not happening, except for inspections of imported foods. But before you breathe that sigh of relief, remember that in a normal year, FDA only looks at less than 2 percent of imported food (including seafood).

Another piece of the food safety system that is getting some attention because of the salmonella outbreak is the system for tracking foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works to figure out if illnesses reported to state governments are part of a bigger outbreak that has crossed state lines. CDC plays a key role in the investigations to find the source of what is making people sick. And a lot of the CDC employees who do that were not at work last week. After media coverage of the salmonella outbreak this week, some of them were called back into work, but they are still not at full force.

There are lots of other ways that the shutdown impacts the food system beyond food safety. I’m not going to try to list them all here. But even a partial list shows how many ways agriculture and the food industry rely on some type of government program, and why we need those programs to work well (or this week, at all).

  • Ranchers in South Dakota and other states that were hit with a blizzard that has killed large numbers of cattle can’t get advice or access any USDA programs that might help them, because the USDA’s local offices are closed (they also can’t access any disaster programs that used to exist for farmers because the Farm Bill has expired again, but more on that later).
  • States are calculating how long they will be able to fund the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program for low-income mothers and young children without more funding from the federal government.
  • Meat companies that have a new product to sell cannot get their labels approved by USDA (craft beer companies are having the same problem with seasonal beer labels that need to be approved by the Treasury Department).
  • The National Organic Standards Board will not hold its bi-annual meeting at the end of October to vote on what materials are allowed to be used in organic agriculture and food, including a vote that could potentially end the use of an antibiotic called streptomycin in organic apple and pear orchards.
  • Farmers can’t sign up for federal conservation programs  designed to protect environmentally sensitive farmlands.
  • USDA isn’t reporting data about crop yields and other market data used by farmers and ranchers to decide when and where to sell their crops and livestock.

The list goes on and on. And I didn’t even get to the Environmental Protection Agency, which took a huge hit with the vast majority of its employees off the job. But it boils down to the fact that there are a lot of federal programs that make the food system work that are affected by this shutdown and right now most of them are not working. The Republic majority in the House is using food safety as a piece of its negotiating strategy of trying to open the government bit by bit. We’ll see how that strategy plays out. But it’s worth remembering all of the other programs that need to run too.

And almost lost in the craziness of the shutdown was the fact that on October 1, the Farm Bill expired. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been down this road before. Because I’m a big believer in recycling, I’ll let you read what we had to say when this happened last year here. This time around, drastic things aren’t likely to happen until the end of the year when some of the rules USDA has to follow for pricing commodities like milk will change.

So Congress has some time to finally finish this tortured process. But it’s not clear if there is enough time in the world to bridge the gap between the different bills passed by the House and Senate. The biggest difference is in nutrition programs – the House bill would not only take a huge cut in the funding for SNAP ($40 billion) but would also put the program on a different legislative schedule than the Farm Bill, which is an unprecedented step that could make the program vulnerable to attacks that being part of a bigger Farm Bill package has usually prevented.

There are other differences too, ranging from commodity programs to crop insurance to how catfish are inspected. But the core issue of what kind of nutrition assistance the government provides to low-income families is a huge one that the conference committee will have to figure out.

Or there is scenario B, in which some version of the Farm Bill gets attached to the debt ceiling/re-open the federal government/budget extravaganza that will have to happen eventually. If this sounds familiar too, that’s because the last time a Farm Bill passed at the end of 2012, it was attached to the “fiscal cliff” bill that was the result of a similar showdown in Congress.

So that is probably enough news on the dysfunction in D.C. for now. We will know more about the Farm Bill in coming weeks, including who will be on the conference committee that is supposed to figure out how to finish the process. We’ll tell you then who you need to contact to make sure they make the right choices between the House and Senate versions.

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October 10th, 2013

How To Host A Global Frackdown Event In Your Community

By Katherine Cirullo

From last year’s Global Frackdown.

Thousands of people across five continents took part in last year’s Global Frackdown and this year’s is shaping up to be an even more impressive show of solidarity. On October 19, individuals and activist groups in communities around the world will gather to raise their voices and tell their local elected officials that they want a future lit by clean, renewable energy, not dangerous fossil fuels. So far, over 200 events are planned in 19 countries. The movement to ban fracking has grown strong and wide over the past year, but it needs your help to keep the momentum going!

So, you want to get involved in this monumental, world-wide day of action to protect your community from the harmful effects fracking has on air, water, health and public safety? 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.


  1. Don’t try to plan the event by yourself. Recruit a friend to help you. 
  2. Register your event on our website so nearby 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. 
  3. Visit our website for materials and talking points.
  4. Target your local elected officials. Their job is to listen to constituents. If you need help on who to target, contact us! E-mail kkiefer(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 kkiefer(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 world (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 kkiefer(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 the movement heard. 

Since last year’s Global Frackdown, the movement has passed more than 336 measures against fracking in communities across the United States. 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. The second annual Global Frackdown is less than two weeks away. Join us!

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October 9th, 2013

USDA’s Failure to Stop Contaminated Chicken Goes Far Beyond the Government Shutdown

By Tony Corbo

Over the couple days, several media outlets have reported that the salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 300 people in 17 states has become a symbol of the government shutdown or its “worst-case scenario realized.” And while the shutdown has absolutely made things worse (I’ll get to how later), it’s important to realize that this crisis has been brewing for months and its origins go much deeper than this latest episode of House Republicans holding our economy hostage.

At 6:38 p.m. on October 7, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a “public health alert” announcing that some 278 consumers were sickened eating poultry products that were processed at three different California plants operated by Foster Farms. What makes this foodborne illness outbreak even more troubling is that 42 percent of the consumers got sick enough to be hospitalized – that’s double the normal rate. The pathogen that is causing these illnesses is Salmonella Heidelberg. In the current outbreak, some strains of Salmonella Heidelberg were found to be antibiotic resistant – that is, when physicians tried to treat their patients with antibiotics, the medication did not work. Read the full article…

New Mexico Is Joining The Global Frackdown, Are You?

By Eleanor Bravo


Northeastern New Mexico is a peaceful, pristine countryside that can take your breath away. It is sometimes described as “the place where the plains meet the mountains,” where open pastures run up against the eastern slopes of the majestic Sangre de Cristos. For outdoor lovers, it’s paradise. For the people who live there, it is a sacred place rich in culture, history and tradition. Many of the region’s farmers and ranchers have tended and lived off the land for several generations. It is a vital resource for them, as is the water that allows their traditional livelihoods to flourish.

Unfortunately, the way of life for many in this region is now threatened. Northeastern New Mexico is one of many rural areas across the world that is being eyed for fracking. Our pristine land sits above shale deposits where natural gas is trapped. The region is an attractive target for well drillers, but oil and gas development greatly threatens local communities. Promising jobs and big profits for locals, the oil and gas industry is intent on destroying this natural and majestic landscape with fracking. The process is likely to ruin the region’s air, water, public health and way of life. To protect what they depend on, the people of Northeastern New Mexico and agricultural communities across the world are fighting back. Read the full article…

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October 8th, 2013

How to Enjoy a GE-Free Fall

By Briana Kerensky

Is it October already? I feel like just a few days ago I was sipping lemonade at backyard barbecues and trying to find the best way to cook dinner without heating up the kitchen. Now, eschewing iced coffee for lattes and making plans for Thanksgiving, I’ve fallen into fall!

This time of year, we see delicious fall foods replacing summer’s peaches and tomatoes: apple cider, Halloween candy and pumpkin everything, just to name a few. While it’s always fun to find tasty ways to cook and eat these foods, many brands include some extra, genetically engineered (GE) ingredients you may not know about. GE corn, soy, canola and sugar beets appear in countless fall foods, but have not been tested for long-term impacts on human health and environmental safety. What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration does no independent safety testing. Instead, they rely on biased data submitted by biotechnology companies.

And because corporations are not required to label products with GE ingredients, these items could end up in your shopping cart without you even knowing it.

But across the country, concerned citizens are fed up with shopping blind and have been fighting to make GE food labeling the law. 

Read the full article…

October 7th, 2013

Bloggers Unite to make GE Food Labeling the Law!

Let me decide, make GE food labeling the lawFood & Water Watch is proud to be supporting the Yes on 522 BLOGGERS CARNIVAL this week and next with our friends at Friends of the Earth, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Environmental Health, Green America and Pesticide Action Network.

What is a Bloggers Carnival, you ask? In addition to posting our own information about genetically engineered (GE) food labeling and Washington’s Initiative 522, we’ll be sharing others’ blogs over the next two weeks. So stay tuned! 

For more information, to join the carnival or to read some of the great blogs, click here.   

And are some of our favorite blogs from the carnival:

GMO Cheat Sheet: Arm Yourself Against the Invasion

Junk Food Lobbyists Sued for Money Laundering in Washington State
Truth & Lies: Cutting Through the Propaganda of WA 522 Commercials

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