AlterNet.org: Wenonah Hauter http://www.alternet.org/authors/wenonah-hauter-0 en Too Many U.S. Water Systems Are Falling Apart: Here's the Solution http://www.alternet.org/environment/too-many-us-water-systems-are-falling-apart-heres-solution <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1059218'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1059218" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The WATER Act will generate money for community water systems by taxing offshore corporate profits.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_370521509.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We’ve come a long way since 1977. We can access full libraries of information at the click of a button, ride in cars that don’t require drivers, and use pocket-sized devices to send electronic mail, listen to music and have groceries delivered right to our front doors. And yet many of our nation’s water systems—utilities that deliver services we take for granted—are falling apart.</p><p>The federal government was once a reliable steward of our drinking water and wastewater systems. In 1977 alone it invested almost $17 billion in today’s dollars. But since then, this support has dried up. In fact, federal funding for our local water utilities has declined a whopping 82 percent per capita since its funding peak in 1977. That year, the federal government spent $76.27 per person on drinking water and wastewater services; by 2014 that support had plummeted to a mere $13.68 per person.</p><p>Without these critical dollars, many communities lack the means to modernize and maintain these essential systems. In communities like Detroit and Baltimore, rates have risen to compensate for this funding gap, and many households cannot afford to pay their water service bills. In Flint, Michigan, inadequate funding and outdated infrastructure led to cost-cutting measures that ignited a public health crisis.</p><p>These developments have spurred a national conversation about fixing our water infrastructure, but most of the proposed solutions fall short of helping communities modernize their water systems and provide safe, clean, affordable water service for current and future generations.</p><p>Nothing short of a renewed federal investment in our nation’s water systems is going to help us meet this challenge.</p><p>The solution is the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5313">Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act</a>, or WATER Act, recently introduced in Congress by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). This sweeping new legislation will establish a dedicated, sustainable source of funding to update essential drinking water and sewer systems and replace aging and lead-ridden pipes.</p><p>The WATER Act is unique in that it provides a long-term, comprehensive solution to bridge the current funding gap. It generates money for community water systems by taxing offshore corporate profits in the year they are generated.</p><p>Unlike other proposed financing solutions, the WATER act preserves our water as a public service and does not give government handouts to large, for-profit water corporations. It makes sure that publicly controlled systems and small rural systems no longer have to compete with predatory water corporations for federal water resources.</p><p>For too long, for-profit water providers have attempted to capitalize on community budget shortfalls and aging water systems by offering municipalities expensive water system leasing deals that ultimately lead to rate increases and subpar service. But by renewing federal investment in local water systems, communities will no longer have to rely on water profiteers to fund system upgrades. The WATER Act will instead allocate money through the already existing State Revolving Funds—think of them as piggy banks for community water projects.</p><p>This new legislation will also reverse the swelling wave of water service shutoffs that have plagued low-income communities such as Detroit and Baltimore in recent years. An influx of federal dollars will help fund water system improvements, allowing municipalities to keep water service rates affordable to all households.</p><p>Nationally, millions of households have lead service lines, and the burden of replacing them often falls on homeowners and can cost over $2,000 per home. Those who cannot afford to pay for this risk lead poisoning. The WATER Act will help prevent another tragedy like the one in Flint by providing grants to homeowners to replace lead pipes.</p><p>While we welcome this long overdue national dialog on the woeful state of our water systems, we can’t let current interest in upgrading our infrastructure be hijacked by profit-minded corporations, or let it be sabotaged by foes of good government it on Capitol Hill. We must restore our nation’s confidence in its water, and that starts with reversing this decades-long decline in federal water funding by passing the WATER Act.</p><p><script src="https://actionsprout.io/embed.js"></script><script> <!--//--><![CDATA[// ><!-- window.ActionSproutEmbed('ED9C69'); //--><!]]> </script></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1059218'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1059218" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:24:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, Melissa Mays, AlterNet 1059218 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Environment Take Action Water water flint michigan How Fracking for Natural Gas Became the Terrible New Norm http://www.alternet.org/books/how-fracking-natural-gas-became-terrible-new-norm <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1058736'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1058736" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">For 40 years, successful Koch-funded schemes that favor the use of natural gas have meant dire consequences for the environment, consumers and our democracy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_248750227.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>The following is an excerpt from the new book</em> <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Frackopoly-Battle-Future-Energy-Environment/dp/1620970074/?tag=alternorg08-20">Frackopoly</a> <em>by Wenonah Hauter (The New Press, 2016): </em></p><p>Over my decades of work in the public interest, I have developed a thick skin. If we are doing our job in the environmental movement, it is par for the course to be sneered at and called names. So when I heard that I had been pegged as “too strident” by the president of one of the largest energy and environment funders in the country, I was hardly surprised, as it has long been an institution that funds groups promoting policies to incentivize natural gas. In fact, I was pleased. I thought: <em>Yes, it’s time to become much more forceful in protecting our threatened planet. It’s time for everyone to be strident about keeping fossil fuels in the ground and eliminating the dirty energy technologies of the twentieth century.</em></p><p>Unfortunately, even as hundreds of grassroots groups are battling to stop fracking, some of the largest environmental groups in the nation and many of their funders tout fracked natural gas as a “bridge fuel” or at least tacitly accept its use. Rather than focusing on an all-out effort to move away from fossil fuels, some of these groups provide cover to the fracking industry, claiming that fracking can be done safely or ignoring fracking’s implications for the global climate.</p><p>Meanwhile, the communities that are living with the effects of the technology, or the ones fighting the coming wave of fracking and the associated infrastructure, feel betrayed when the place where they live becomes a sacrificial zone—with the implicit approval of some environmental organizations. A closer look at the path that these groups have laid out reveals that it will take us down the road to an environmental and climate disaster. Instead, we should aggressively deploy technologies for clean and renewable resources, reorient the energy system around conservation and efficiency, and leave fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong.</p><p>In many ways, fracking looms as the environmental issue of our times. It touches every aspect of our lives—the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the health of our communities—and it ominously threatens our global climate. It pits the largest corporate interests—big energy and Wall Street—against people and the environment in a long-term struggle for survival. Understanding the impacts of fracking and the policy decisions that have led to this dangerous point in time are key to moving beyond extreme energy.</p><p>Recent climate science shows that switching to natural gas is unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for decades, a crucial time frame for stopping runaway climate disruption. When the entire life cycle of producing natural gas is examined, the damage from methane leakage puts it on par with coal, or worse. The most conservative estimate from atmospheric measurements—not from the inventorying based on oil and gas company data—is that natural gas leakage in 2010, averaged over the country, amounted to more than 3 percent of U.S. production that year. Even if methane leakage can be brought down significantly over time—a debatable scenario—the threat to the global climate in the short term is very real. The rapid transition to natural gas is sending us to a tipping point when climate change cannot be reversed.</p><p>Despite the overwhelming evidence of the harms of fracking, the Environmental Protection Agency has thus far ignored the science. Obama’s energy secretary Ernest Moniz has close ties with the industry and has claimed that he has “not seen any evidence of fracking <em>per se</em> contaminating groundwater” and that the environmental footprint is “manageable.” Obama’s interior secretary Sally Jewell has bragged about fracking wells in her prior career in the industry and has, despite radical changes in how fracking is done, called it a “an important tool in the toolbox for oil and gas for over fifty years” and even implied that directional drilling and fracking can result in “a softer footprint on the land.” And the person charged with protecting communities’ water, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, has claimed that “there’s nothing inherently dangerous in fracking that sound engineering practices can’t accomplish,” all while the EPA has ignored or buried findings that fracking has contaminated water in Texas, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania.</p><p>If we are to tackle the enormous threat posed by fracking and the fossil fuel industry, it is crucial to understand how the policy decisions of the last forty years have led us away from sustainable energy and toward a reliance on natural gas. The devil truly is in the details. While many well-meaning environmentalists believe that we are making real progress on renewable energy, the data on the percentage of electricity generated by nonrenewable energy sources tells a different story. Although the emphasis on individual action—putting solar on rooftops—is a step in the right direction, serious policy changes must be made to displace the large amount of energy produced by natural gas, coal, and dangerous nuclear power. </p><p>Solar power generated only 0.2 percent of the nation’s electricity on average between 2010 and 2014, and wind energy supplied 3.6 percent. If geothermal energy is added to the equation, the renewable share grows to 4.2 percent. Hydropower generates 7 percent of the nation’s electricity, but this amount may decrease over time because of the impacts on river ecosystems. Over the past five years, fossil fuels continued to power two-thirds of America’s electric sockets. Coal power generated almost 42 percent of electricity, and natural gas generated nearly 26 percent.</p><p>Some green groups claimed if electricity was deregulated, renewables would thrive and nuclear plants would be retired, but a close examination of the numbers shows that this has never happened. Nuclear power has hovered at around 20 percent of electricity production since the 1990s and is expected to increase little if at all. Old plants will be taken out of production over the next twenty years, although if nuclear power is allowed to benefit from cap-and-trade policies, new plants may be built, subsidized by taxpayer money.</p><p>Coal electricity has declined from 53 percent of generation between 1995 and 1999 to almost 42 percent over the most recent five years. It will continue to decline as a result of the adoption of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan—a set of policies designed to replace coal-generated electricity with natural gas. Lower natural gas prices and federal mandates to reduce mercury and carbon dioxide are shifting electricity production toward natural gas and away from coal-fired generation.</p><p>Natural gas has been the big winner, with generation increasing every five years since natural gas was deregulated in the 1980s. Natural gas generation has doubled from about 13 percent in the late 1990s to nearly 26 percent in recent years. Natural gas production increased an average of 5 percent a year beginning in 2000.</p><p>According to a 2014 report by the EIA (Energy Information Administration), between 2012 and 2040, 42 percent of the total increase in electricity generation will be from natural gas. Coal-fired generation’s share of total generation will decline to 34 percent in 2040, while natural gas will rise to 31 percent. But the predictions for renewables are shockingly low, with EIA predicting that solar will still make up 1 percent of electricity generation and wind 7 percent in 2040.</p><p>Predictions about energy use are often proven wrong, and the complexity of energy use and production means that changes in policy frequently have many unplanned consequences. But one thing is certain: over the past forty years, the schemes favoring the use of natural gas, and to provide cheap energy to the largest industrial users of natural gas and electricity have proven successful, with dire consequences for the environment, consumers, and our democracy.</p><p><a href="http://www.alternet.org/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2016-06-23_at_10.51.27_am.jpg" target="_blank"><div alt="" class="media-image" style="width: 480px; height: 393px;"><img alt="" class="media-image" style="width: 480px; height: 393px;" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://bluewww.alternet.org/files/styles/large/public/screen_shot_2016-06-23_at_10.51.27_am.jpg" width="480" height="393" /></div></a></p><p>The Koch brothers have been major funders of the scheme that has landed us where we are today. Ideologically opposed to any regulation, they also have sought policy changes that would benefit their bottom line— seeking changes in natural gas and electricity policies that would facilitate cutting special deals for cheaper energy, while shifting costs to residential and small-business consumers. David Koch founded the Cato Institute in 1974, one of the think tanks pushing deregulatory policies and working with other right-wing actors such as the Heritage Foundation.</p><p>Mindful of the tactics used by public interest groups, Charles and David Koch eventually decided to pursue a similar strategy by founding Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) in 1984, leading a grassroots-style campaign to oppose regulation and taxes. David Koch explained of their thinking:</p><blockquote><p>“What we needed was a sales force that participated in political campaigns or town hall meetings, in rallies, to communicate to the public at large much of the information that these think tanks were creating. Almost like a door-to-door sales force.”</p></blockquote><p>The fossil fuel industry had been attempting to deregulate the natural gas industry since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. After three decades of bitter legislative, regulatory, and legal battles, progressive forces lost the long fight over the pricing of natural gas and oversight of pipelines, beginning with the passage of the Natural Gas Act of 1978. By 1990, after a series of deregulatory policy changes, a highly speculative wholesale market in natural gas developed, with Wall Street gambling determining the price that consumers paid for natural gas and incentivizing future natural gas development. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), a commodity futures exchange, applied to the U.S. Commodities Future Trading Commission to trade natural gas futures on February 29, 1984, and trading commenced on April 4, 1990.</p><p>Between 1985 and 1990, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had also made deregulatory changes to the rules for moving natural gas from wellheads to end users. Pipeline companies were required to separate gas sales, transportation, and storage services, giving large industrial customers an advantage and creating an incentive to build more pipelines. The deregulatory policies spurred a frenzy of pipeline construction that has continued unabated through the fracking boom, creating widespread habitat damage and posing safety risks. Between 1984 and 2014, gas companies added at least 936,000 miles of pipeline—about 85 miles every day—and there are now 2.5 million miles of transmission, distribution, and gathering lines.</p><p>Further, thousands of miles of unregulated high-pressure pipelines with much larger capacity for transferring natural gas to processing facilities— referred to as gathering lines—have proliferated since fracking, although no cumulative record of the mileage exists.</p><p>The radical changes in the rules governing the natural gas industry inspired a ferocious lobbying campaign to make similar changes to the electric industry, changes that would eventually drive the use of natural gas for electricity. Breaking up the $200 billion (more than $300 billion adjusted for inflation) electric industry offered an opportunity to create a battle of titans, as they fought among themselves over the rules that would benefit their particular economic interest. Using a politically loaded vocabulary to win converts, they claimed that it would unleash competition, broaden consumer choice, and lower the cost of electricity.</p><p>Spearheaded by institutions affiliated with the Koch brothers, including CSE and the Cato Institute, a politically powerful coalition emerged in the 1990s to restructure the electric industry. Large coal utilities like American Electric Power Inc., and natural-gas-power marketers—companies like discredited and bankrupt Enron—were at the forefront of the lobbying machine to transform the electric industry. Proponents of deregulation sought to separate power generation from transmission and distribution, creating an unregulated wholesale market where middlemen could speculate on buying and selling electricity. Wall Street—investment houses, rating agencies, and financial analysts—fueled the drive to make electricity another tradable commodity. The changes that they wrought created a market where power producers, retailers, and other financial intermediaries could speculate on short-and long-term contracts for electricity. After deregulation, the marketplace was supposed to be self-governing, begetting cheap and reliable electricity.</p><p>The turning point began in 1992, when C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, engineered the inclusion of provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 that fast-forwarded electricity deregulation. Gray, a millionaire heir to a tobacco fortune, has been closely affiliated with the Koch-funded front groups throughout his long career as a corporate lobbyist, presidential adviser, and U.S. diplomat. Concealed within the compromise legislation was language removing important limitations on the ownership of electricity generation, which had protected consumers. It also authorized FERC to issue orders that changed the structure of the electric industry over the second half of the decade, creating a casino-like atmosphere in the wholesale electricity market and driving construction of new gas-fired power plants. The FERC orders allowed states, if there was the desire, to rewrite the rules by which residential and small business purchased electricity.</p><p>The natural gas industry, led by Enron, launched a massive lobbying campaign to “unleash market forces,” pushing for even more deregulation at the state level. Claiming that a new era of competition would replace bloated and inefficient utilities with lean and mean power marketers like Enron, California became the first state to succumb to the rhetoric, allegedly giving consumers a choice about their electricity provider. The large investor-owned utilities wrote the legislation, however, protecting their favored economic position. Between 1999 and 2001 a small cartel of energy companies was able to use the new layer that had been created between the producing and distributing of electricity to make billions of dollars by price-gouging consumers. Californians were overcharged by almost $25 billion during the first five years of deregulation, as power marketers manipulated electricity supply and natural gas prices, causing a series of rolling blackouts throughout the state. In the end, California and several other states that had deregulated this essential service instituted some form of regulation again.</p><p>CSE, Enron, and the other advocates of state-based deregulation had pushed for federal legislation that would force states to forsake cost-based regulation, which limits energy company profiteering. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the powerful coalition promoting electricity deregulation spent $50 million between 1998 and 2000 on lobbying to change the rules under which electric utilities operate. Although the calamity in California set back industry efforts to pass federal legislation compelling states to restructure the electric industry, new efforts are afoot to push this agenda.</p><p>In the meantime, the creation of the wholesale electricity market has led to a dramatic increase in natural gas–fired electricity, making the fracking industry one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's deregulatory changes. Although companies must go through a weak permitting process that varies depending on each state’s rules, no calculation of how the plan fits into a national plan for reducing pollution is made. And since the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan leaves decisions to the states, no overall examination is done on the impacts to our global climate.</p><p>Advocates who warned against the unintended consequences of electricity deregulation—both for the environment and for consumers—were ignored or scorned. Foreshadowing the future support for fracked natural gas, influential foundations and public interest advocates signed on to the efforts to deregulate electricity. Without a large grassroots campaign, the green groups negotiated from a very weak position. They naively bought the argument that, by compromising, deals could be cut to expose dirty power plants to competitive forces, and that sustainable energy would be the winner.</p><p>These same groups failed to oppose the elimination of a 1935 law, the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA). Restricting speculative ventures with ratepayer dollars and restraining electric utilities from operating outside of the geographic area that they served, this obscure law offered major protection to consumers and limited the already significant political power of the electric industry. It was repealed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, at the same time that fracking was exempted from national environmental laws. This has created a handful of enormous electric utility companies that dominate political decision making about energy-related issues.</p><p>The chilling predictions about PUHCA’s elimination are tragically coming true as the electric corporations consolidate at a rapid rate. Eugene Coyle, formerly an economist at the California utility watchdog group TURN, predicted in 1997, “What we are looking at is the shift from a situation where there are more than a thousand utilities nationwide, over which rate-payers have some control, to a future where there will be perhaps 10 big power companies operating free of regulation and acting like the oil cartels of old.”</p><p>Reversing bad energy policy and banning fracking will take a massive grassroots mobilization that holds accountable Democrats and Republicans alike and that takes power back from the Koch brothers and their ilk. It means challenging the entrenched political establishment that grovels to the dirty energy industry and facilitates its ability to operate without suffcient oversight, transparency, or accountability. It means working shoulder to shoulder with the brave activists across the country who are challenging extreme energy rather than worrying about the opinions of mainstream funders or other institutions that have close ties to dirty energy. With mounting evidence about the harms of fracking, and the immediacy of the impending climate crisis, it is time for the major green groups to fight for a transition to real sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency, not to depend on market-based schemes with no track record of working.</p><p>We can and we must build the political power to change the course of history—our survival depends on it. </p><p><em>Copyright © 2016 by Wenonah Hauter. This excerpt originally appeared in Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment, published by The New Press Reprinted here with permission.</em></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1058736'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1058736" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:52:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, The New Press 1058736 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books Environment Fracking anti-fracking koch brothers environmental policy Here's the Book the Fracking Industry Doesn't Want You to Read http://www.alternet.org/environment/fracking-industry-doesnt-want-you-read-frackopoly <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1057969'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1057969" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s a road map for the changes we need to make to create a sustainable energy future.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_381097588.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>My new book, <a href="http://www.wenonahhauter.org/books/frackopoly/" target="_blank"><em>Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment</em></a> will be released this week and I want to tell you why I wrote it.</p><p>In the 1990s, I worked on a project to promote <a href="http://ecowatch.com/business/renewables/">renewable energy</a>. Even then, renewables were ready. They were cost-effective and along with energy efficiency technologies, we were poised to make the transition.</p><p>But, the fossil fuel industry used its immense power to stop the necessary progress from happening.</p><p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 1em 0px; padding: 0px; font-family: Georgia, serif; font-size: 18px; line-height: 25.2px;"></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="715" style="width: 500px; height: 478px;" width="748"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="715" style="width: 500px; height: 478px;" width="748" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://bluewww.alternet.org/files/frackopoly_750_2.jpg" /></div><br /><em><span style="font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;">(image: (Wenonah Hauter/ h</span><span style="font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 25.2px;">ttp://<a href="http://www.wenonahhauter.org/books/frackopoly">www.wenonahhauter.org/books/frackopoly</a>)</span></em><p>When we started getting calls about <a href="http://ecowatch.com/news/energy-news/fracking-2/">fracking</a> at Food &amp; Water Watch several years ago and then embarked on a major campaign to ban fracking, I was shocked when we looked at the amount of electricity coming from solar and wind energy. The technology is ready and the price is right, but the rules are rigged against the quick transition that we must make. In 2015, just barely over 5 percent of the electricity used in the nation is from wind and solar power.</p><p>In the meantime, frontline communities are becoming sacrifice zones where people are sick from toxic water and poisoned air from fracking. Life on Earth is threatened if we don’t take dramatic action to save our global <a href="http://ecowatch.com/climate-change-news/">climate</a> from chaos. Yet, even though we must take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, billions of dollars are being sunk into another 40 years of fossil fuel infrastructure.</p><p>Although we face great challenges, I still have great hope for the future. A new generation of activists are demanding an end to the status quo and they are fighting for a ban on fracking and a swift transition to clean energy. Activists of all age groups are tired of settling for what’s politically possible today and they are fighting for the future they want for the next generation.</p><p>But, as Machiavelli famously said, “Anyone wishing to see what is to come should examine what has been.” Our current crisis is more than 100 years in the making and I wanted to tell the story of how we reached the point that we are at today. It’s been and continues to be an epic battle with villains, heroines and heroes. It’s a David and Goliath tale about how the fossil fuel industry perverted and shaped energy policy and corrupted our democracy.</p><p>I set out on a journey that took much of my time over the last several years. I learned that in many ways, the story of the <em>Frackopoly</em> is much like what happened in the agribusiness and food industry, which I wrote about in my earlier book, <em>Foodopoly</em>.</p><p>The stories are similar in some ways. Over the past century, a handful of powerful interests have conspired to avoid the laws designed to keep them from becoming too politically powerful and dominating a single industry. They captured our regulatory bodies and elected officials and they destroyed the set of policies that had been developed over time to protect people and the environment.</p><p><em>Frackopoly</em> tells the story and it is a road map for the changes we need to make to create a sustainable energy future. The market alone is not going to get us where we need to go. We are going to have to keep increasing the size and political power of the incredible grassroots movement that has risen up from communities all across the country to demand that we ban fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground.</p><p>In the years since I started writing the book, we’ve seen victory after victory as our movement grows (and even more since it’s gone to print earlier this year). We’ve won in <a href="http://ecowatch.com/2015/06/29/new-york-bans-fracking/">New York</a>, we’re winning in <a href="http://ecowatch.com/2015/04/10/maryland-passes-fracking-ban/">Maryland</a> and we’ve helped protect communities across the country.</p><p>We put together this video to give a taste of what you’ll find in <em>Frackopoly</em>:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BeGmMhfIJ4E" width="560"></iframe></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1057969'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1057969" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 08 Jun 2016 09:09:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch 1057969 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Books Environment Fracking Video renewable energy the environment fracking anti-fracking movement grassroots change U.S. House Caves to Big Food, Votes to Keep Americans in the Dark About GMOs http://www.alternet.org/food/us-house-caves-big-food-votes-keep-americans-dark-about-gmos <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1052395'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1052395" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why is it that so many politicians are all about letting states make decisions on controversial issues—until some states want to do something that Big Food companies oppose?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_160898930.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>This week thousands of Americans took time out of their busy days to call their Senators to demand that they vote against the DARK Act, a bill sponsored by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, which would prevent consumers from knowing if the food they eat and feed their families contains genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients. Their support for GMO labeling was echoed by more than <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/dark_act_group_letter.pdf">600 organizations</a>, including farming and fishing groups and food companies, representing tens of millions of members and customers who this week also urged the Senate to reject this troubling bill. </p><p>GMO crops are created by transferring genetic material from one organism into another to create specific traits, such as resistance to treatment with herbicides, or to make a plant produce its own pesticide to repel insects. Unlike traditional plant and animal breeding, which tries to develop better varieties by selecting traits from the same species, genetic engineering techniques can insert specific genes from any plant, animal or microorganism into the DNA of a different species.</p><p>The DARK Act passed out of committee last week by a 14-6 vote and is expected to hit the Senate floor any day now. The House already passed a similar bill in July. If passed in the Senate, it will block state laws that require labeling of GMOs, instruct the USDA to implement a voluntary labeling program and kick off a USDA propaganda program to sell the public on GMOs. </p><p>But an overwhelming majority of Americans—over 90 percent in many polls—support GMO labeling. Three states— Vermont, Connecticut and Maine—have passed laws to that effect. Now, some in the Senate want to thwart these efforts. Why is it that so many politicians are all about letting states make decisions on controversial issues—until some states want to do something that Big Food companies oppose? </p><p>As with most battles brewing inside the Beltway, the answer can be found at the end of a paper trail—a green paper trail. <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/news/five-things-monsanto-doesnt-want-you-know-about-gmos">Monsanto</a>, a leading manufacturer of GMO seeds (and the herbicides used with them) has <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/29/local-gmo-fights-smash-records-monsantos-millions-bankroll-opposition">spent</a> millions of dollars over the past several years to block GMO labeling efforts, most notably state and local ballot initiatives in California, Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon that failed. </p><p><strong>Follow the Money</strong></p><p>Since 1999, the fifty largest agricultural and food patent-holding companies and two of the largest biotech and agrochemical trade associations have spent more than US $572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, much of it to create a favorable political context to allow GMOs to proliferate. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents food companies like Kraft and Pepsi, has spent millions of dollars <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/fs_1507_darkactupd15oct-web.pdf">lobbying in favor</a> of the DARK Act too. Washington’s Attorney General recently <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/hidden-donors-poured-11m-into-fight-over-genetically-modified-food-labeling/">accused the GMA</a> of maintaining an “egregious” plot to conceal the identity of the corporate donors behind its $11 million campaign to defeat that state’s 2013 food-labeling initiative.</p><p>What’s happening here is painfully obvious. The public is rejecting GMOs, a dubious technology upon which Big Food has built its empire, and now it’s pulling out all the stops to protect its market shares and its profit margins. </p><p>The public is rightfully suspicious of GMOs. We simply don’t know enough about their long-term effects, so it’s logical that consumers would want to know whether or not they are eating them. Support for GMO labeling is so strong in fact that Campbell’s recently announced it would label GMOs in its products, and even withdrew its support for anti-labeling efforts. But we can’t rely on individual corporations to decide these matters for us.</p><p>And “voluntary” labeling is not the answer, either, since it effectively upholds the status quo and translates to very little, if any, labeling at all. While there is talk of amending the DARK Act to include an amendment to encourage voluntary labeling, it’s crucial to note that this so-called “compromise” will do little to help consumers know if the food they’re eating contains GMOs. This clearly won’t do.</p><p><strong>Reclaiming Democracy</strong></p><p>Industry’s attempt to block GMO labeling laws is yet another symptom of a democracy hijacked by corporate interests. We the people have elected our leaders to Congress to represent our interests, because we live in a democracy—not a nation controlled by a corporate oligarchy. At least, that’s the way it should be. That’s why we’re <a href="https://secure.foodandwaterwatch.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&amp;page=UserAction&amp;id=2484">urging the Senate</a>to reject the DARK Act and any compromise that results in anything less than on-package labeling that tells consumers if a product contains GMO ingredients. </p><p>"This was originally published by Food &amp; Water Watch. Read the original piece <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/news/united-states-monsanto">here</a> and dark act group letter <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/dark_act_group_letter.pdf">here</a>.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2016 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1052395'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1052395" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 11 Mar 2016 11:11:00 -0800 Wenonah Hauter, AlterNet 1052395 at http://www.alternet.org Food Food monsanto gmo DARK Act FDA Approves AquaBounty’s Genetically Engineered Salmon Despite Widespread Opposition http://www.alternet.org/food/fda-approves-aquabountys-genetically-engineered-salmon-despite-widespread-opposition <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1046011'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046011" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Despite stiff opposition by environmentalists and food safety advocates, the U.S. has given the green light for the controversial fish.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_154424333.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first genetically engineered food animal, AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon, despite insufficient safety testing and widespread opposition. This unfortunate, historic decision disregards the vast majority of consumers, many independent scientists, numerous members of Congress and salmon growers around the world, who have voiced strong opposition.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en" xml:lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Genetically modified salmon just became first GMO animal to get FDA approval for sale in US <a href="https://t.co/e0XCZEKbdh">https://t.co/e0XCZEKbdh</a> <a href="https://t.co/cfJEyIYHXe">pic.twitter.com/cfJEyIYHXe</a></p>— Popular Science (@PopSci) <a href="https://twitter.com/PopSci/status/667358131769470976">November 19, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>FDA’s decision also disregards AquaBounty’s disastrous environmental record, which greatly raises the stakes for an environmentally damaging escape of GMO salmon. In recent years, AquaBounty facilities outside the U.S. have dealt with an accidental disease outbreak, an accident that lead to “lost” salmon, and a $9,500 fine from Panamanian regulators who found the company in breach of that country’s environmental laws. </p><p>The FDA is supposed to protect public safety, yet the agency’s environmental review was done in the form of an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement that would fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations and ecosystems.</p><p>Canadian researchers found that GMO salmon readily breed with a different species of fish, a potential risk that FDA never addressed in its risk assessment. To add insult to injury, this product will be hitting store shelves without labeling, making it impossible for concerned consumers to distinguish GMO from non-GMO salmon.</p><p>Not only does this ignore consumers’ fundamental right to know how our food is produced, it is simply bad for business, since many consumers will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered. Food &amp; Water Watch will be examining all options to stop this controversial and unnecessary GMO fish from reaching the marketplace. We urge President Obama to overturn FDA’s approval and stop GMO salmon from reaching consumers’ dinner plates.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BmwQj6rXc8Y" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>RELATED STORIES</strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/salmon-lovers-beware-4-ways-avoid-getting-duped-mislabeling">Salmon Lovers Beware: 4 Ways to Avoid Getting Duped by Mislabeling</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/canadian-government-slams-aquabountys-gmo-salmon-growth-claims">Study Blows Company's Bogus Claim About GMO Salmon Out of the Water</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/monsanto-scandal-biotech-giant-solicited-academics-fight-their-pro-gmo-war">How Monsanto Solicited Academics to Bolster Their Pro-GMO Propaganda — Using Taxpayer Dollars</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/house-votes-let-monsanto-deceive-consumers-about-gmos">House Votes to Let Monsanto Deceive Consumers About GMOs</a></strong></p><p><em>Keep up to date with the latest food news and sustainable, healthy eating tips; <a href="http://www.alternet.org/subscribe-food">sign up</a> to receive AlterNet's weekly food newsletter.</em></p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1046011'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1046011" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 06:45:00 -0800 Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch 1046011 at http://www.alternet.org Food Environment Food News & Politics Video salmon fish gmo genetic engineering fda Don't Frack With the Pope: Faith Leaders Say It's Our Moral Duty to Ban Fracking http://www.alternet.org/environment/pope-francis-us-visit-faith-leaders-denounce-fracking <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1042933'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1042933" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Religious leaders across the U.S. use historic visit by the pro-climate pontiff to frame the anti-fracking message.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_164617403.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Earlier this year, <a href="http://ecowatch.com/?s=pope+francis">Pope Francis</a> called for decisive climate action in his <a href="http://ecowatch.com/2015/06/18/pope-encyclical-action-climate-change/">encyclical</a>. Now, while the Pope is <a href="http://ecowatch.com/2015/09/23/pope-miracles-climate-change/">visiting the U.S.</a> for the first time, faith leaders across the country are speaking out against <a href="http://ecowatch.com/news/energy-news/fracking-2/">fracking</a> — a form of extreme fossil fuel extraction that hurts our health and communities, contributes to <a href="http://ecowatch.com/climate-change-news/">climate change</a>, and will prolong our dependence on oil and gas at the expense of the development of truly <a href="http://ecowatch.com/business/renewables/">renewable energy</a>.</p><p><em><div alt="" class="media-image" height="498" style="width: 600px; height: 398px;" width="750"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="498" style="width: 600px; height: 398px;" width="750" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/moraldutyfracking750.jpg" /></div></em></p><p><em>Food &amp; Water Watch activists at the Moral Action on Climate Justice rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, this morning. (image: Food &amp; Water Watch)</em></p><figure class="wp-caption alignnone" id="attachment_368790" style="max-width: 760px"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text" id="figcaption_attachment_368790"></figcaption></figure><p>On Wednesday, <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/" target="_blank">Food &amp; Water Watch</a> previewed a Faith Against Fracking video with messages from faith leaders of various denominations from across the country, as the Pope addresses Congress on the Hill, and as activists <a href="http://followfrancis.org/" target="_blank">call for moral action for climate justice on the mall</a> outside the Capitol.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5R716qzQU8g" width="560"></iframe></p><p>We can’t miss this historic opportunity to highlight the moral issues around climate change—and fracking. And the faith leaders in the video are doing just that:</p><ul><li>“This is the time when all of us are being called to create a perfect world. We are all called in conscience to look to our higher self—our God image—and see the responsibility that we have.” <em>—Lupe Anguiano, Former Nun &amp; Founder, Stewards of the Earth</em></li></ul><ul><li>“The Pope has given us a wonderful gift in this Encyclical. We can see within his words the values that all people of faith can share of caring for God’s creation.” <em>—Dr. Leah Schade, Pastor, United in Christ Lutheran Church</em></li></ul><ul><li>“Pope Francis says that care for creation is not a domain of a few people. ‘Those people in the environmental movement, let them take care of it.’ No, it’s our responsibility because it is our common home, and all of those in this country have the moral responsibility to get involved.” <em>—Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, Franciscan Friar, Ordo Fratrum Minorum</em></li></ul><ul><li>“This is what is unethical. We are doing things for money that we know are wrong.” <em>—Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll, Senior Pastor, Church by the Side of the Road</em></li></ul><ul><li>“A world that values economics above human health is a world that we don’t need because ultimately it’s a detriment to all of us. It’s like creating our own cancer. If we don’t have our health, what difference does economics make?” <em>—Rev. Dr. Hubert Ivery, Pastor, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church</em></li></ul><ul><li>“We all hear the conversation about being energy independent. Energy independence doesn’t mean giving all our power to the oil industry to do whatever the heck they want with our communities. If they really want to be energy independent, they should be focusing on renewable energy, green energy. Energy that is not only going to benefit the pockets of the industry, but that is going to benefit the health of our communities.” <em>—Juan Flores, Former Seminarian and Community Organizer, CRPE</em></li></ul><p>The video also includes Rev. Joy Atkinson, Minister of Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church; Rabbi Michael Lerner, Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives; Anne Marie Sayers and Kanyon Sayers Roods, Indian Country, Coastal Ohlone; and Rev. Kelvin Sauls, Holman United Methodist Church.</p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="508" style="width: 600px; height: 406px;" width="750"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="508" style="width: 600px; height: 406px;" width="750" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/fwwrally750.jpg" /></div><p><em>Food &amp; Water Watch activists at the Moral Action on Climate Justice rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, this morning. (image: Food &amp; Water Watch)</em></p><figure class="wp-caption alignnone" id="attachment_368800" style="max-width: 760px"><figcaption class="wp-caption-text" id="figcaption_attachment_368800"></figcaption></figure><p>Communities of faith are increasingly rallying around the call to abandon fossil fuels and work for renewable energy. Last weekend, Pennsylvania faith leaders <a href="http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/09/all_of_creation_is_a_gift_of_g.html" target="_blank">sent an open letter to Governor Tom Wolf</a> asking him to stop fracking the Keystone State. Yesterday, the <a href="http://ecowatch.com/2015/09/23/pope-francis-white-house/">Pope addressed the public on the White House lawn</a>, where he invoked <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/24/us/politics/pope-francis-obama-white-house.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Martin Luther King Jr.’s words to urge climate action</a>: “To use a telling phrase of the Rev. Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”</p><p>A good first step is to show this video into your communities of faith, and help create momentum to stop fracking where you live and to work for a renewable energy future. It will take all of us getting involved to pressure our elected officials to enact policies that will bring about renewable energy solutions—and save our planet and its people in the process.</p><p><strong>RELATED STORIES</strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/8-dangerous-side-effects-fracking-industry-doesnt-want-you-hear-about">8 Dangerous Side Effects of Fracking That the Industry Doesn't Want You to Hear About</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/5-reasons-pope-francis-encyclical-environment-matters">5 Reasons Pope Francis' Encyclical on the Environment Matters</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/seneca-lake-activists-arrested-while-reading-popes-climate-change-encyclical">Seneca Lake Activists Arrested While Reading Pope’s Climate Change Encyclical</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/climate-denial-immoral-says-head-us-episcopal-church">Climate Denial Is Immoral, Says Head of U.S. Episcopal Church</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/epa-urged-nearly-100000-americans-redo-highly-controversial-fracking-study">EPA Urged by Nearly 100,000 Americans to Redo Highly Controversial Fracking Study</a></strong></p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1042933'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1042933" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 03:30:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch 1042933 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Belief Environment Fracking pope Pope Francis fracking Senate Bill Seeks to Repeal Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for Beef, Pork and Chicken http://www.alternet.org/food/senate-bill-seeks-repeal-mandatory-country-origin-labeling-beef-pork-and-chicken <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1040130'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1040130" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Some senators want to let meat companies and international trade tribunals control information about where our food comes from.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/cool_650.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation introduced on July 23 by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND) repeals an overwhelmingly popular <a href="http://ecowatch.com/?s=food+label">food label</a>, surrenders to over exaggerated threats by our trading partners and creates more international trade problems than it solves.</p><p>The legislation is aimed at solving an ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute, but the WTO process is far from complete. The Senate has never repealed a statute that was challenged under international trade rules before the dispute was completed.</p><p>The legislation introduced last week fully repeals mandatory COOL for beef, pork, chicken and ground meat and gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discretion to establish a voluntary domestic label for beef, pork or chicken. It is considerably weaker than the discussion draft circulated last month because it repeals COOL labels for ground meat, which the WTO ruled were trade legal and COOL labels for chicken, which were not even considered in the dispute.</p><p>The legislation is a full repeal of COOL with the window dressing of a voluntary labeling option. But before mandatory COOL labels were re-enacted in 2008, meatpackers did not use voluntary COOL labels. In practice, a voluntary COOL label is the same as no label at all. Meatpackers won’t use it, consumers won’t see it and farmers and ranchers won’t benefit from it.</p><p>Even if voluntary COOL labels went into widespread use, a voluntary labeling program could still face a challenge under international trade deals. The voluntary “Dolphin-Safe” tuna label has been successfully challenged at the WTO. Today’s voluntary COOL label is especially subject to challenge because it only applies to domestic livestock, there are no provisions for a voluntary label on imports, which creates the presumption that unlabeled and potentially imported meat is less desirable or less safe. That distinction runs afoul of every trade agreement’s rules prohibiting discrimination against imports.</p><p>Consumers deserve to know where their food comes but today’s proposal puts meatpacking giants back in control of what we get to know about the food we buy. The Senate should not let international trade tribunals and big meat companies run roughshod over Congress’ authority to enact U.S. laws. We urge the Senate to reject this bill and stand up for mandatory COOL.</p><p>Food &amp; Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and <a href="http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/14/best-places-to-buy-seafood/">fish we consume</a> is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3vQrfzkXBKs" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE</strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/house-votes-let-monsanto-deceive-consumers-about-gmos">House Votes to Let Monsanto Deceive Consumers About GMOs</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/18-foods-you-dont-need-buy-organic">18 Foods You Don't Need to Buy Organic</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/food/5-superfoods-maximize-your-plant-based-protein-intake">5 Superfoods to Maximize Your Plant-Based Protein Intake</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/grow-your-own-food-year-round-diy-solar-greenhouse">Grow Your Own Food Year-Round with DIY Solar Greenhouse</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/seafood-going-disappear-menu">Is Seafood Going to Disappear From the Menu?</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/five-easy-life-hacks-help-environment">Five Easy Life Hacks to Help the Environment — And Your Own Health</a></strong></p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1040130'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1040130" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 03:30:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, EcoWatch 1040130 at http://www.alternet.org Food Food Video cool food Country of Origin Labeling food and water watch world trade organization wto debbie stabenow John Hoeven food labeling public health usda pork beef chicken dolphin tuna senate wenonah hauter fish Are You Ready for GMO Mosquitoes? http://www.alternet.org/environment/gmo-mosquitoes-may-be-released-us-first-time <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1035216'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1035216" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Biotech firm Oxitec have given no evidence to support claim that the modified insects will reduce dengue fever.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/640px-aedes_aegypti.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>This week, local officials in the Florida Keys will decide whether to approve the first-ever release of genetically engineered (GMO) mosquitoes in the United States. Yes, you read that right: lab-engineered mosquitoes could be released in one of America’s favorite tourist destinations very soon, even though it’s unclear if any government agency has evaluated the full array of health and environmental risks associated with these new GMO insects.</p><p>Unfortunately, the Florida Keys Tourist Development Council (TDC) and the Monroe County Board of Commissioners have been conspicuously absent from the conversation about GMO mosquitoes even though this experiment could have a direct impact on business in the Keys. The proposal to release millions of these mosquitoes by British company Oxitec is instead being vetted by a small, local board called the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District. This mosquito district has touted GMO mosquitoes as a potential boon to tourism in the Keys because they could reduce dengue fever, though the Keys haven’t had a case in a half-decade.</p><p>Of course, Florida’s mosquito problem should not be trivialized. Dengue fever is a leading cause of illness and death for those in tropical and subtropical climates, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But Oxitec has not provided evidence to support that its mosquitoes will be able to effectively control dengue. On the contrary, reports from the field suggest the opposite. Malaysia’s Health Minister recently announced that after field-testing Oxitec’s mosquitos, the country will not be pursuing the program because it was not cost-effective. Additionally, one Brazilian town was still at the highest alert for dengue fever even after Oxitec’s mosquitoes were released there in 2013.</p><p>Even if these bugs did successfully wipe out the entire population of the targeted <em>A. aegypti mosquito</em>, the Asian tiger mosquito (also a known vector of dengue and other diseases) could easily take its place. Letting tiger mosquitoes become more commonplace would only make a new dengue fever carrier more prevalent.</p><p>Oxitec claims that its mosquitoes are engineered with a lethal gene that is supposed to break the pest’s reproductive cycle because its offspring, for the most part, die before reaching adulthood. The company claims this would theoretically reduce the mosquito population and the prevalence of dengue fever without the need for pesticides. But the Mosquito Control District has not done enough to identify insecticide alternatives. Instead of exploring a range of options, they have hastily and aggressively pursued Oxitec’s GMO mosquito program despite strong public opposition and a lack of peer-reviewed data.</p><p>Significant public opposition defeated Oxitec’s first plan to release GMO mosquitoes in Key West in 2012, but Oxitec is now poised to win approval in Key Haven, a peninsula just a few miles east of Key West. <a href="https://www.change.org/p/say-no-to-genetically-modified-mosquitoes-release-in-the-florida-keys" target="_blank">Hundreds of thousands of citizens</a> from across the country have written local, state and federal officials to oppose this plan and last week, hundreds of people called the local tourism council to ask that the Keys be preserved as a national treasure for tourists and residents alike, not for GMO mosquito experiments.</p><p>It is puzzling that any local official would sit on the sidelines while GMO mosquitoes were allowed to potentially tarnish the reputation that most Americans have of the Florida Keys as a pristine island paradise. But that is exactly what the Florida Keys Tourist Development Council and the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners have been doing.</p><p>It’s high time that local officials took decisive steps to stop this bizarre plan now instead of inheriting the more difficult task of attracting visitors to a place where residents and tourists are the subjects of a science experiment. It’s clear now that GMO mosquitoes could not only harm public health and the environment—they may also be bad for business.</p><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1035216'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1035216" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 23 Apr 2015 08:00:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, Barry Wray, Food &amp; Water Watch 1035216 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment News & Politics gmo genetic engineering genetic modification florida mosquitoes Has Bill Nye Just Sold Us Down the River on GMO Labeling? http://www.alternet.org/food/has-bill-nye-just-sold-us-down-river-gmo-labeling <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1033568'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1033568" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Corporations and their hired guns love confusing people about the science behind their questionable products.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_117351301.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>You may have heard that popular scientist Bill Nye has mysteriously <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/03/what-did-monsanto-show-bill-nye-make-him-stop-worrying-and-love-gmos" target="_blank">revised his outlook</a> on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Several years ago, the children’s show host advocated for the labeling of genetically modified foods, citing concerns about what GMOs could do to ecosystems. But now his position on the controversial technology has flipped. This development is the latest in a <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/the-war-on-genetically-modified-food-critics-et-tu-national-geographic/" target="_blank">trend</a> spearheaded by agribusiness giants to discredit the GMO labeling movement, and it’s especially hard to disassociate his reversal from this PR blitz since it coincided with Nye’s recent trip to Monsanto’s headquarters.</p><p>We’ll never know what actually went down during Nye’s visit, as <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/03/what-did-monsanto-show-bill-nye-make-him-stop-worrying-and-love-gmos" target="_blank">Tom Philpott at <em>Mother Jones</em> notes</a>, but we do know that Monsanto has poured <a href="http://civileats.com/2014/01/23/whats-missing-in-the-debate-about-gmos/" target="_blank">millions of dollars</a> into public relation efforts to sell the public on GMOs. Because that’s <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/11/monsanto-agriculture-image-problem-100442.html" target="_blank">what you do</a> when you are a corporation with deep coffers and a product that the public is wisely skeptical of.</p><p>Does this mean that it’s game over for the GMO labeling movement or that we should trust Monsanto’s word? Of course not. In fact, it means we should be more suspicious than ever.</p><p>Companies like Monsanto hope that casting doubt on the GMO labeling debate will cause us to get caught up in the proverbial weeds of the issue. So let’s get something straight: the debate over GMOs isn’t just about GMOs. It’s about the current and future <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/another-view-on-mark-bittmans-recent-note-to-food-activists/" target="_blank">state of our food system</a>—who grows and sells our food, how it’s marketed, and what technologies were used to produce it. By selling seeds to farmers, peddling pesticides, forming <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/the-economic-cost-of-food-monopolies/" target="_blank">corporate monopolies</a>, and <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/public-research-private-gain-corporate-influence-over-university-agricultural-research/" target="_blank">funding academic research</a> on GMOs, agribusiness giants like Monsanto have one goal in mind: controlling the food system. The millions of people calling for labeling of GMO foods have a problem with that. Furthermore, it is disappointing to see such beloved science advocates as Bill Nye and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ecT2CaL7NA" target="_blank">Neil deGrasse Tyson</a> being captured by the industry.</p><p>As I outlined in my book <a href="http://www.foodopoly.org/" target="_blank"><em>Foodopoly</em></a>, Monsanto’s roots in the biotech game date back decades, and they have a long history of subverting public policy. In effect, the company used its relationship with the Reagan Administration to create a weak regulatory process that would help the company bring its products to market quickly and smoothly. A 1985 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling that allowed for plants to be <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/before-you-plant-know-your-seeds/" target="_blank">patented</a> further entrenched Monsanto’s power in this area. Since 1999, the fifty largest agricultural and food patent-holding companies and two of the largest biotech and agrochemical trade associations have spent more than <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/biotechnology-industry-spends-over-half-a-billion-pushing-controversial-projects-like-genetically-engineered-ge-food-animals/">US$572 million</a> in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, much of it to create a favorable political context to allow GMOs to proliferate.</p><p>Just because the industry has launched a <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/11/monsanto-agriculture-image-problem-100442.html" target="_blank">charm offensive</a> in the media when it comes to GMOs doesn’t change the basic facts: GMOs are largely untested, and their long-term effects on our health and our planet are still unknown; they promote the use of dangerous chemicals, and they pose a significant threat to organic agriculture. What’s more, consumers should absolutely get to decide whether the food they are buying carries these unknown risks or supports this system; <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/genetically-engineered-foods/make-ge-labels-the-law/" target="_blank">GMO foods must be labeled</a>.</p><p>Corporations and their hired guns love confusing people about the science behind their questionable products to help shape favorable public opinion (in the case of GMOs, asserting there is scientific consensus <a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/gmo_consensus.pdf" target="_blank">where none actually exists</a>). But we aren’t buying their spin, nor should you.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2015 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1033568'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=1033568" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, Food Tank 1033568 at http://www.alternet.org Food Food gmo monsanto bill nye food Pathetic: How the USDA Cowers to the Poultry Industry http://www.alternet.org/food/pathetic-how-usda-cowers-poultry-industry <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '960542'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=960542" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Email reveals shockingly feeble oversight. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/chickenfarm.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>This article originally appeared at the <a href="http://populist.com/20.4.hauter.html" target="_blank">Progressive Populist</a>, and is reprinted here with their permission.</em></p><p>Earlier this year, Food &amp; Water Watch received information that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was going to permit a trade association — the National Chicken Council — to collect data in poultry plants to assess the rate of foodborne pathogens in chicken parts. The information came in the form of an e-mail from the Assistant FSIS Administrator for Field Operations Daniel Engeljohn, informing his district managers that he was aware of the effort and gave his full blessing to the project. What was troubling about the e-mail was that it told the district managers that the purpose of the data collection was for the industry to develop its own voluntary pathogen performance standards that it was going to enforce on poultry processing plants. It went on to say that FSIS inspection personnel assigned to the plants were not to interfere with the National Chicken Council data collection and that they had no right to look at the data that was collected.</p><p>In other words, the poultry industry would create the standards for pathogen levels in chicken parts, and they would only “voluntarily” stick with them. Not only would the industry be able to decide how much salmonella or campylobacter there is on your chicken, but there would be no USDA enforcement of the standard.</p><p>Welcome to the latest in privatization of chicken inspections that the industry is pushing, with the USDA’s blessing. Another example is the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection,” the proposed plan whose “modern” twist is to turn most poultry inspection over to the very companies that produce our poultry, leaving only one government inspector per plant to inspect over 175 birds per minute — or three birds per second.</p><p>This hasn’t happened overnight. The industry has been chipping away at the USDA’s mandate to protect our food system for over a decade. Since the late 1990s, FSIS has established pathogen performance standards on the meat and poultry industry. The standards were supposed to be enforceable, but the agency lost a critical court case in 2000 when the industry successfully challenged their legality because the current meat and poultry inspection laws are silent on pathogen standards. There were a couple of attempts by Congress in the early 2000s to give FSIS authority to set enforceable pathogen performance standards, but they failed. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently introduced a bill, S 1502, The Safe Meat and Poultry Act, that would give FSIS that authority, but that bill has still not received a hearing.</p><p>In the meantime, FSIS has continued to set pathogen performance standards, but they are voluntary for the industry. For salmonella, FSIS will post on its website monthly those poultry plants that fail the agency’s testing program. The agency has claimed that its sampling program has shown that the levels of salmonella in whole raw chicken carcasses have been declining in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control continues to report that the number of food borne illnesses attributed to salmonella remains high.</p><p>In 2010, Consumer Reports conducted its own study of food borne pathogens found in chicken parts. Consumers rarely buy whole chicken carcasses, but they buy chicken parts in packages at the grocery store. It found that 62 percent of the chicken parts they bought and analyzed tested positive for campylobacter and 14 percent tested positive for salmonella.</p><p>In response to the Consumer Reports findings, FSIS – to its credit – began a study to assess the levels of pathogens in chicken parts. In 2012, it posted the results of its survey on its website, which found that 26.3 percent of the chicken parts were contaminated with salmonella and 21.4 percent were contaminated with campylobacter. Agency officials have indicated that it was their intent to set government pathogen performance standards for chicken parts. In fact, the Salmonella Action Plan released by the agency in December 2013 listed that as one of the activities for FY 2014 Now, we find out that the industry is going to set its own standards that it will enforce.</p><p>In December 2013, Consumer Reports released data on a new study on pathogen contamination in chicken parts that found 43 percent of the chicken breasts sampled were contaminated with campylobacter and 10.8 percent with salmonella. In light of the rule proposed by FSIS in January 2012 that would turn over most inspection responsibilities over to the poultry companies to perform themselves, the Engeljohn e-mail seems to indicate that there is a dangerous deregulatory effort underfoot that would take FSIS out of the food safety business altogether. Instead of trying to enhance its ability to regulate food safety standards, this agency seems to be turning the keys over to the industry to police itself. That is not in the interest of public health and it needs to be stopped.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '960542'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=960542" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:23:00 -0800 Wenonah Hauter, Progressive Populist 960542 at http://www.alternet.org Food Food Investigations usda food safety FSIS public health Food Safety and Inspection Service chicken inspection salmonella Food & Water Watch cdc privatization food-borne pathogens Daniel Engeljohn poultry industry food processing factory farming A Handful of Giant Food Companies Are Winning the Fight to Control Your Dinner Plate http://www.alternet.org/food/handful-giant-food-companies-are-winning-fight-control-your-dinner-plate <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '837085'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=837085" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Corporate consolidation has enabled Monsanto, Nestle, Kraft, McDonalds and other giant companies to determine what we eat.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_89632537.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>My new book is called <a href="http://www.foodopoly.org/">Foodopoly</a>. It’s about the corporate control of every aspect of our food system, from how what we eat is labeled to the pesticides we’re exposed to.</p><p>We, the people, must reclaim our democracy. We must reestablish strong antitrust laws to begin the work of fixing our broken, corporate-controlled food system. Our food system should work for consumers and farmers, not big agricultural, processing, retail, and chemical conglomerates.</p><p>How has consolidation enabled Monsanto, Tyson, Nestle, Kraft, Cargill, McDonalds and other giant companies to write our food policy, and why is it about to get worse? For starters, consider the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in the landmark Citizens United case. It allows corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to buy the political system. This practice comes at the expense of citizens and democracy itself.</p><p>The top 10 fast-food companies control 47 percent of all fast food sales. Together, these industries have commandeered local economies, and now it is clear that the era of family farmers and mom and pop stores has ended. What’s not as clear is the effect this has on our political system.</p><p>Foodopoly delves into the history of food and farm policy to explain how the food supply became so consolidated. For example, only four gigantic companies process 80 percent of the beef we eat, and only four retailers sell 50 percent of the groceries. Today, one out of every three dollars spent on groceries in the United States goes to Walmart.</p><p>Make no mistake: When those companies enjoy near monopolies and vast market power — both domestically and globally thanks to crooked free trade agreements — their profits enable them to contribute large sums of money to groups that lobby Washington very effectively.</p><p>The food industry spent $40 million lobbying the federal government in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And the biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures since 1999. Additionally, special interests spent $173.5 million lobbying on the 2008 Farm Bill.</p><p>Food &amp; Water Watch, the non-profit organization I run, tries to fight back against the corporate control of our food system. Our organizational budget is about $12 million a year.</p><p>This summer, President Barack Obama will attempt to fast-track two trade deals — the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both favor the interests of corporations and their financers over consumers.</p><p>These trade deals would increase export-oriented natural gas fracking, boost our food imports, undermine yet more domestic laws, and increase the corporate control of our natural resources. They will forever enshrine the very economic system that has led to an ever greater imbalance in income and wealth and increasingly frequent economic crises.</p><p>The changes needed to reform our food system and strengthen our democracy can only happen when the people demand better leadership. We need to address the political reasons our food system is so broken.</p><p>And we can’t just shop our way out of this problem.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><span style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px;">Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food &amp; Water Watch and author of </span><i style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px;">Foodopoly: The Future of Food and Farming in America</i><span style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px;">. </span><a href="http://www.foodopoly.org/" style="color: rgb(0, 51, 102); text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px;">Foodopoly.org</a> <i style="color: rgb(102, 102, 102); font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px;">An earlier version of this article originally appeared at TripleCrisis.com.</i></p> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '837085'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=837085" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 08 May 2013 10:58:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, Other Words 837085 at http://www.alternet.org Food Food food corporate control walmart foodopoly 'Foodopoly:' Exposing the Handful of Corporations That Control Our Food System From Seed to Dinner Plate http://www.alternet.org/food/foodopoly-exposing-handful-corporations-control-our-food-system-seed-dinner-plate <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '782578'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=782578" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Wenonah Hauter&#039;s new book, &quot;Foodopoly,&quot; delves deep into the history of the food system and how we can fix it. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/wenpic.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The following is an excerpt from <a href="http://thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&amp;task=view_title&amp;metaproductid=1858">Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America</a>, published by The New Press and reprinted here with permission. Copyright © 2012 by Wenonah Hauter. </p><p class="p1">In 1963 my dad bought a ramshackle farm with rich but extremely rocky soil in the rural Bull Run Mountains of Virginia, forty miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Today it is on the verge of suburbia.</p><p class="p3">He grew up in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, rode the rails, and eventually, in his late fifties, found his way “back to the land.” So we moved to what was then a very rural landscape -- a place culturally a world away from the nation's capital and physically linked only indirectly by two-lane roads. Our old farmhouse, with a mile-long rutted driveway accessible only by fourwheel drive, was off another dirt road and had no electricity or plumbing. Eventually my dad did manage to get the local rural electricity co-op to put in poles and hook up power, but he never did get around to installing indoor plumbing.</p><p class="p4">He was an unusual man -- a religious iconoclast and an organic gardener at a time when few people knew the term. He was considered a crank and a hobby farmer, if you can call it that, growing a few vegetables and keeping bees. His wild-blossom honey was the only vaguely successful part of his farming venture. My dad, who died in 1991 at the age of eighty-one, would be shocked now to see both his farm and the massive development around it. </p><p class="p3">Today the hundred acres of mostly wooded land is bordered by a megamansion subdivision on one side and an expensive “gated community” a mile away as the crow flies. Thousands of town houses and new subdivisions have cropped up where once there were fields dotted with cows. This has brought on the box stores, including Walmart and fast food joints-blights on the once bucolic rural landscape. A major highway, I-66, recently engineered to be either six or eight lanes depending on the location, means we can zip into the nation's capital during the rare times that commuters are not clogging the road.</p><p class="p3">Since 1997, my husband has run the farm as a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, feeding five hundred families each season with subscription vegetables grown using organic practices. It's a successful family business that suits my activist husband, who taught high school and college and worked for public interest organizations, but who really prefers the challenge of farming without chemicals. It works financially, because we own the land outright, and because we live near a major metropolitan area where urban and suburban residents are seeking greater authenticity in the food they eat. They want their children to see where food comes from and to learn that chickens enjoy living together in a pasture. We often joke that for most people the CSA is more about having a farm to visit than the vegetables.</p><p class="p4">As a healthy-food advocate, I feel privileged to have grown up a rural person and to have had the real-life experience of pulling weeds, squishing potato bugs, canning vegetables, gutting a chicken, baking bread, and chopping wood for the cookstove. As a teenager I felt deprived, but as an adult I am grateful to know where food comes from and how much work it takes to produce it. My family is also extremely lucky that my dad bought almost worthless land in the 1960s that today is located near a major metropolitan area populated by a largely affluent and educated population. But most farmers, or people aspiring to be farmers, aren't so lucky. Fortunately, farmers' markets and similar venues help capture the excitement and nostalgia for farming, and for a simpler and healthier lifestyle, and they are delightful for the customers and can be profitable for farmers.</p><p class="p3">But despite my firsthand knowledge of and appreciation for the immense benefits of CSAs and farmers' markets, they are only a small part of the fix for our dysfunctional food system. Food hubs, which aggregate and distribute local food, are beneficial for participating farmers and the purchasing food establishment. But, so far, they must be subsidized by nonprofits or local governments because they are not self-sustaining. We must delve deeper into the history of the food system to have the knowledge to fix it. I decided to write this book because understanding the heartbreaking story of how we got here is not only fascinating but necessary for creating the road map for changing the way we eat.</p><p class="p3">The food system is in a crisis because of the way that food is produced and the consolidation and organization of the industry itself. Solving it means we must move beyond the focus on consumer choice to examine the corporate, scientific, industrial, and political structures that support an unhealthy system. Combating this is going to take more than personal choice and voting with our forks -- it's going to take old-fashioned political activism. This book aims to show what the problem is and why we must do much more than create food hubs or find more opportunities for farmers to sell directly to consumers. We must address head-on the “foodopoly” -- the handful of corporations that control our food system from seeds to dinner plates.</p><p class="p3">While the rhetoric in our nation is all about competition and the free market, public policy is geared toward enabling a small cabal of companies to control every aspect of our food system. Today, twenty food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, even organic brands. Four large chains, including Walmart, control more than half of all grocery store sales. One company dominates the organic grocery industry, and one distribution company has a stranglehold on getting organic products into communities around the country.</p><p class="p3">Further, science has been allowed to run amok; the biotechnology industry has become so powerful that it can literally buy public policy. Scientists have been allowed to move forward without adequate regulation, and they are now manipulating the genomes of all living things-microorganisms, seeds, fish, and animals. This has enabled corporations to gain control over the basic building blocks of life, threatening the integrity of our global genetic commons and our collective food security. Biotechnology has moved into the world of science fiction, as scientists actually seek to create life-forms and commercialize them. Reining in and regulating the biotechnology industry is critical to reforming the dysfunctional food system.</p><p class="p3">These structural flaws are often overlooked by the good-food movement, which focuses on creating an alternative model from the ground up that will eventually overtake the dysfunctional system. However, this approach raises the question: for whom and how many? A look at the most recent statistics on local food illustrates this point. A November 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, using 2008 data (the most recent available), found: “Despite increased production and consumer interest, locally grown food accounts for a small segment of U.S. agriculture. For local foods production to continue to grow, marketing channels and supply chain infrastructure must deepen.”</p><p class="p3">The study found that levels of direct marketing to consumers are highest in the Northeast, on the West Coast, and in a few isolated urban areas outside these regions. Direct marketing of local foods to consumers at farmers' markets and CSAs, along with local food sales to grocery stores and restaurants, generated $4.8 billion in sales in 2008. This figure is infinitesimal in comparison to the $1,229 trillion in overall sales from grocery stores, convenience stores, food service companies, and restaurants. </p><p class="p3">According to the USDA, only 5 percent of the farms selling into the local food marketplace are large farms (with over $250,000 in annual sales), but these large farms provided 93 percent of the “local foods” in supermarkets and restaurants. Eighty-one percent of farms selling local food are small, with under $50,000 in annual sales, and 14 percent of farms selling local foods are medium-sized, with $50,000 to $250,000 in sales. The small and medium-sized farms sell nearly three quarters of the direct-to-consumer local foods (both CSAs and farmers' markets) but only 7 percent of the local foods in supermarkets and restaurants. Although the 5,300 large farms averaged $772,000 in local food sales, small farms sold only $7,800 and medium-sized farms sold only $70,000 local foods on average.</p><p class="p3">Of special significance is the finding that over half of all farms that sell locally are located near metropolitan counties, compared to only a third of all U.S. farms. This illustrates the difficulty that farmers who grow corn, soy, wheat, and other feed or cereal grains for commodity markets have in converting their farming operations to direct sales to consumers. These farmers sell crops that reenter the food system as a component of another food-as a sweetener, an oil, a starch, or as feed for animals. The lack of a local market, a distribution network, or in many cases the infrastructure needed to harvest, aggregate, or process local foods is also a tremendous hindrance to creating an alternative food system.</p><p class="p3">Look at a map of the large agricultural middle of this nation to understand that the few remaining farmers who grow the millions of acres of corn and soybeans, fencerow to fencerow, do not live where they can sell directly to the consumer. Most farmers don't have nearby affluent urban areas to which to market their crops. They can't switch from commodities to vegetables and fruit even if they had a market, because they have invested in the equipment needed to plant and harvest corn and soy, not lettuce, broccoli, or tomatoes.</p><p class="p3">Overly simplistic solutions are often put forward by some leaders in the good-food movement that take the focus away from the root causes of the food crisis-deregulation, consolidation, and control of the food supply by a few powerful companies. One of the most prevalent policy solutions put forward as a fix for the dysfunctional system is the elimination of farm subsidies. This silver bullet prescription implies that a few greedy farmers have engineered a farm policy that allows them to live high off the hog on government payments, while small farms languish with no support. Proponents of this response say that if we remove these misapplied subsidies to these few large farms, the system will right itself.</p><p class="p3">Unfortunately, the good-food movement has been taken in by an oversimplified and distorted analysis of farm data. It is based on a misinterpretation of misleading U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics that greatly exaggerate the number of full-time family farm operations. A close look at the USDA's Census of Agriculture shows that  one third of the 2.2 million entities counted as farms by the agency have sales of under $1,000 and almost two thirds earn under $10,000 a year. These small business ventures are counted even though they are far from being full-time farming operations. In most cases these are rural residences, not farms, and the owners are retired or have significant off-farm income. They have a part-time agriculture-based business as part of their rural lifestyle -- anything from having a vineyard to growing flowers or mushrooms.</p><p class="p3">Counting these small ventures as farms not only skews the statistics on the number of farms in the United States; it also makes it appear that only a small percentage receive government payments. In reality, we have under a million full-time farms left, and almost all of them, small and large, receive government subsidies. This is not to say that the subsidy system is good policy. Rather that it is a symptom of a broken food production system, not the cause of the problems. If we penalize farmers for policies that the powerful grain traders, food processors, and meat industry have lobbied for, we will never create a sustainable food system. We need midsize farming operations to survive and to be transitioned into a sustainable food system.</p><p class="p3">Midsize family farmers have an average income of $19,277 -- a figure that includes a government subsidy. The cost of seeds, fertilizers, fuel, and other inputs is continuing to rise as these industries become more monopolized. Most farmers are scratching by, trying to hold on to their land and eke out a living. We are losing these farms at a rapid rate, resulting in the consolidation of smaller farms into huge corporate-run industrial operations with full-time managers and contract labor. Telling these farmers that all they have to do once the subsidies are taken away is grow vegetables for the local farmers' market is not a real solution for them or their communities. Rural communities are seeing the wealth and the profit from agriculture sucked into the bottom lines of the largest food corporations in the world.</p><p class="p3">Economically viable farms are the lifeblood of rural areas. Their earnings generate an economic multiplier effect when supplies are bought locally, and the money stays within the community. The loss of nearly 1.4 million cattle, hog, and dairy farms over the past thirty years has drained not only the economic base from America's rural communities, but their vitality. These areas have become impoverished and abandoned, and the only hopes for jobs are from extractive industries such as hydraulic fracturing or from building and staffing prisons.</p><p class="p4">Something is fundamentally amiss in a society that does not value or cherish authentic food that is grown full time on appropriate-size family farms. The benefits of farmers -- rather than corporate managers -- tending crops and the land are many. Fred Kirschenmann, a North Dakota farmer and a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement, along with his colleagues at the Agriculture in the Middle project write extensively on this point and poignantly outline the benefits of these vulnerable midsize farms in today's economic landscape. They fall between the large, vertically operated commodity operations and the small-scale ones that sell directly to consumers. Farms in the middle also provide wildlife habitats, open spaces, diverse landscapes, soils that hold rainwater for aquifers, perennials that reduce greenhouse gases by removing carbon from the atmosphere, and crop and pastureland that reduce erosion and flooding.</p><p class="p3">These are the farms that could be changed to provide sustainably grown organic food for the long term. Many are located in the Midwest and South, where there is no large population to buy directly from them, but they have the capacity to produce food for the majority of Americans-if given a chance.</p><p class="p3">Changing farm policy to provide that chance is key to preventing our nation's rural areas from becoming industrial sites and to truly remaking the food system for all Americans. We must address the major structural problems that have created the dysfunction -- from the failure to enforce antitrust laws and regulate genetically modified food to the manipulation of nutrition standards and the marketing of junk food to children. We need to move beyond stereotypes and simplistic solutions if we are to build a movement that is broad-based enough to drive policy changes.</p><p class="p3">Most people are several generations away from the experience of producing their own food. This leads to many misconceptions-from over-romanticizing its hard, backbreaking work to the dismissal of farmers as greedy, ignorant, and selfish “welfare queens.” Understanding the difficult challenges they face is critical to developing the policy solutions necessary for saving family farms and moving into a sustainable future. We need to develop a rural economic development plan that enables farmers to make a living while at the same time providing healthy, affordable food choices for all Americans.</p><p class="p3">We have the opportunity, before it is too late, to change the course of our food system's development away from factory farms and laboratories and toward a system that is ecologically and economically sound. We can challenge the monopoly control by fighting for the reinstatement of antitrust laws and enforcement of them. We have the land and the human capacity to grow real food -- healthy food -- but it will take a wholesale effort that includes restructuring how food is grown, sold, and distributed. It means organizing a movement to hold our policy makers accountable, so that food and farm policy is transformed and environmental, health, and safety laws are obeyed. It will require a massive grassroots mobilization to challenge the multinational corporations that profit from holding consumers and farmers hostage and, more important, to hold our elected officials accountable for the policies that are making us sick and fat. We must comprehend the complexity of the problem to advocate for the solutions. We cannot shop our way out of this mess. The local-food movement is uplifting and inspiring and represents positive steps in the right direction. But now it's time for us to marshal our forces and do more than vote with our forks. Changing our food system is a political act. We must build the political power to do so. It is a matter of survival.</p><p class="p3"><em><a href="http://thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&amp;task=view_title&amp;metaproductid=1858">Buy a copy</a></em> of Foodopoly.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '782578'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=782578" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:41:00 -0800 Wenonah Hauter, The New Press 782578 at http://www.alternet.org Food Activism Economy Environment Food Visions foodopoly wenonah hauter food agriculture farming food system organic A $2,167.02 Water Bill? How a Water Company Forced a 91-year-old Woman To Sell Her Home http://www.alternet.org/water/216702-water-bill-how-water-company-forced-91-year-old-woman-sell-her-home <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '706088'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=706088" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The consequences of having a profit-driven multinational corporation controlling the supply of water to our homes.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/waterhouse.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">The notion of a profit-driven multinational corporation controlling the supply of water to our homes (yes, the water we as humans rely on daily to drink, bathe and live) seems odd to many. Perhaps as odd as the notion of a corporation controlling (and charging us for) the sunshine we enjoy, or air we breathe. But with so much to worry about these days, it often takes an extreme case to remind us all just how absurd the privatization of water is. The recent case of 91-year old Camden, N.J., resident Eleanor Sochanski and her $2,167.02 water bill should do the trick.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">Actually, there have been many examples recently of privatized water delivery gone amuck. There was the matter of Toni Ray, of Carmel Valley, Calif., and her unexplained $9,800 monthly water bill from California-American Water last September. After a fight, Cal-Am agreed to reduce Ms. Ray’s bill to $2,300 out of “goodwill” but did nothing to explain the drastic increase over her typical $40 monthly usage.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">And there was the matter of Joe Pezzano, of Middletown, N.J., whose water was completely shut off by New Jersey American Water Co. last month over an apparent overdue balance of $0.84. New Jersey American eventually blamed a computer error on the water disconnection.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">There are a whole handful of similarly absurd behaviors by private water companies that we documented earlier this year (<a href="http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/meet-some-of-the-faces-of-water-privatization" target="_blank">http://www.foodandwaterwatch.<wbr></wbr>org/blogs/meet-some-of-the-<wbr></wbr>faces-of-water-privatization</a>).</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">Which brings us to the latest disgrace – and potential home-loss tragedy – involving Ms. Sochanski. As reported by the Courier-Post on Sunday, the elderly Camden resident, accustomed to $50 or $60 quarterly water bills from United Water, received a bill for $2,167.02 earlier this year. She hadn’t filled up an Olympic-sized swimming pool; according to her water bill, the water she used could have done so. No water leaks in her home were found, and her bill the next quarter was back to normal. United Water insisted that the insane charge was accurate, but couldn’t explain why.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">As a result of the unpaid water bill, a lien against Ms. Sochanski’s home was sold in June. Ms. Sochanski was facing homelessness, and United Water wasn’t talking.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">Mistakes happen. But for United Water to continuously deny requests for comment or explanation from both the customer and the press, was unconscionable. Private companies don’t have to tell the public anything about issues like this, as they are shockingly exempt from many public disclosure laws that local government utilities must abide by.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">Even the city of Camden – which itself recently settled a lawsuit with United Water over billing and performance issues, like the fact that the system was losing 45% of its water – couldn’t help Ms. Sochanski. For corporations like United Water, profit, not customer service, is the bottom line.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">After an international outpouring of outrage and sympathy for Ms. Sochanski following the publishing of her story, an agreement was apparently made to resolve the lien on her home. But questions remain unanswered by United Water, and her now-increased $2,312 bill apparently still stands.</p><p style="font-family:Times;font-size:medium">State legislatures in New Jersey and elsewhere must tackle the issue of negligence and overcharging by private water companies and get to the bottom of cases like Ms. Sochanski’s and about 1,000 other homeowners in Camden who are currently facing property liens. In the meantime, the plight of Eleanor Sochanski and her water bill will surely not be the last in the saga of disastrous water privatization in America.</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '706088'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=706088" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 06 Sep 2012 15:08:00 -0700 Wenonah Hauter, Progressive Populist 706088 at http://www.alternet.org Water Activism Human Rights Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Economy News & Politics Personal Health Water camden new jersey Eleanor Sochanski water privatization water bill United Water