Blog Posts

March 8th, 2012

Why Will Activists Be Protesting the World Water Forum?

By Darcey Rakestraw

The United Nations recently reported that a key UN goal of halving the proportion of people lacking access to clean drinking water has been achieved five years early. This news comes on the eve of the 6th World Water Forum next week in Marseille, France with the theme, “Time for Solutions.” Despite the rosy outlook the UN report suggests, activists are sounding the alarm that we’re not on the right path—and that no one should be confused about the dangers of letting corporations guide water policy.

Certainly, activists and the corporate-backed World Water Forum don’t agree on solutions to address the nearly one billion people without access to clean water and 2.6 billion who lack proper sanitation. The forum was conceived by the World Water Council, which promotes itself as an “international, multi stakeholder forum”. Its web site touts the tagline, “A global water movement for a secure world”. 

But the World Water Council’s strong ties to large multinational water companies like Suez and Veolia, who are currently under investigation in the EU for price fixing, have led activists to view the Council and it’s tri-annual World Water Forum as a means of furthering the industry’s influence over the development agenda. This includes promoting market-based tools like water markets, pollution trading, and other schemes by which corporations can both profit off of—and keep polluting—an increasing scarcity of clean water. Read the full article…

March 7th, 2012

Food & Water Watch Europe: What We’re Working On

By Gabriella Zanzanaini

Just days before the opening of the World Water Forum in Marseille, campaigners are getting read to attend the Alternative event taking place in parallel during the corporate Forum.

The European Coordination of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAME) — including Food and Water Europe – EPSU – AQUATTAC, Belgian Social Forum and CNCD — organized a public hearing at the European Parliament in light of the Resolution that the European Parliament is debating on March 15th regarding the World Water Forum. Meanwhile, the Alternative event today has more than 1500 registered participants while the corporate event struggles to arrive go over the 2000 participants despite the huge corporate and government funding. Read the full article…

February 10th, 2012

Europe Has Every Right to Be Emotional About Fracking

Ban Fracking!By Anna Witowska

As if he were employing the pop psychology Mars-versus-Venus framework on the issue, Shell Chief Executive Peter Voser called for a less “emotional” response to fracking in Europe. He stated that the European discussion on shale gas exploration is not factual but fuelled by emotions. So, can we thus infer that Mars — embodied by oil and gas corporations — must be focused on profits and is ready to drill? No matter who gets hurt in the process?

European opponents of fracking, including Food & Water Europe, are somewhat surprised by such a facile characterization as they have always based their case against fracking on facts— such as the water intensity of fracking operations. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are pumped into 35 thousand of fracking wells annually. What the gas industry is not admitting is that hydraulic fracturing uses water to an extent that ought to strike fear in countries that are counting on a shale gas boom, particularly as water becomes an increasingly scarce resource. Well contamination is also an issue to be considered. In January 2012, a Calgary-based company injected fluids at such a high pressure into a 1,800-metre-deep oil formation that they travelled more than 1.4 kilometres underground and ruptured an oil well near Innisfail, Alberta. There are also the documented facts of roads being destroyed through heavy machinery use and real estate prices dropping to ridiculous levels.  Read the full article…

February 8th, 2012

BASF and Monsanto European Retreat

By Eve Mitchell

The new year has brought two significant developments for GM crops in the EU. BASF has pulled all R&D aimed at European markets and moved their operations to the U.S., and Monsanto has pulled sales of their GM MON810 maize from France.

BASF’s GM crop prospects in Europe suffered a serious blow in 2010 when the first ever planting of its flagship Amflora GM potato, designed to produce industrial starch, had to be destroyed when it emerged the seed stock was contaminated with an unauthorised GM potato. Caching up with what Europeans have known all along, a BASF spokesperson was reported to say, “It does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market.” The company clearly thinks it will have better luck selling its GM food in the U.S. — where there are no labels to tell consumers what they are buying.

Monsanto’s withdrawal of MON810 was more of a surprise. After all, the company had recently won a case at the EU Court of Justice against the ongoing French ban on cultivation. The French Government vowed to correct its administrative oversights and reinstate the ban, and Monsanto must have felt it wasn’t worth the fight – or perhaps didn’t want the renewed scrutiny of the crop the French would ignite so decided on a tactical retreat.

Either way Europeans are a step or two closer to the GM-free food and farming we want. Now all we have to do is clean up the problems the limited GM crops we’ve already grown and still causing for people like beekeepers.

Learn more about GMOs in Europe.

December 7th, 2011

The Nexus and Why We Should Be Worried About the Green Economy

By Gabriella Zanzanaini

Since coming back from the Bonn Conference on the water, food and energy nexus, where I met up with fellow civil society activists, I have been trying to figure out how we can stand against the corporate machine building up towards RIO+20.

The Bonn conference organized by the German government in November 2011 aims to influence Rio+20 (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) outcomes while using transformation to a Green Economy as a framework. The follow-up conference will be organized by the World Economic Forum in January 2012 and its policy recommendations will also go through a “test” at a Ministerial Round Table at the 6th World Water Forum in mid-March 2012.

What stood out at Bonn was how increasingly aware of its image the corporate machine is and how it has learned to package its message in a more palatable way, while trying to get civil society “participation” to legitimize its decisions. This new, softer rhetoric means that it is harder to see what truly lies behind seemingly well-intentioned speeches. Most of the outcomes of the conference were decided beforehand, but the dominant rhetoric repeatedly placed emphasis on poverty eradication and inclusive growth – how to make resource efficiency work for the “bottom billion” (flagged up by many of us at the conference as a term that should stop being used). Yet the essence of what the Green Economy actually is – turning the financial, environmental and climate crisis into an economical gain was largely absent.

In a Green Economy world, the financialization of nature will take place through new technologies, focusing on innovations funded by public money to profit private companies in the name of resource efficiency. Among the nexus solutions are the promotion of desalination based on renewable energy, genetic engineering/breeding for food security and large dams. Read the full article…

July 5th, 2011

Don’t Gimme That Filet-O-Fish!

A few of us here blinked our eyes a few times when we saw the headline, “McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish to carry MSC eco-label.” Did McDonald’s just earn itself an eco-label in Europe? Maybe it was the reputation of the fast food giant that fueled our doubt. But another reason behind our skepticism is the questionable claims behind the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label.

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish is made with New Zealand hoki — a fish that many believe should not have been certified by MSC. This particular fishery, in fact, has previously violated that country’s Fisheries Act. Because of the hoki’s troubled history, its certification by MSC has been controversial. MSC’s decision to certify the fishery that supplies McDonald’s’ with their hoki is a prime example of how eco-labels are not always what they seem. Read the full article…

June 21st, 2011

MIT’s Fracking Report Backs its Donors: Gas Companies

By Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

I almost gagged on my coffee when I finally got around to reading the corporate sponsored pro-fracking propaganda by MIT on natural gas, entitled, “The Future of Natural Gas.” Isn’t this academic institution embarrassed to sell its reputation to corporations?

I guess not, because right on its website, MIT advertises its enormous corporate funding for research and its proud affiliation with the oil and gas industry. Read its philosophy for yourself: Read the full article…

June 15th, 2011

Italian Voters Turn Out Against Water Privatization

By Rich Bindell

Italians voted earlier this week to overturn laws established by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government. Voters blocked efforts by the Italian government to privatize water, reestablish the nuclear energy program and grant Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. If you’ve perused some of the articles in places like The Washington Post, The New York Times or Bloomberg, you may have noticed that most of the attention was paid to Berlusconi and his political survival. But, to many of us, the most critical element of this story is that the people of Italy do not want their water privatized. Read the full article…

June 9th, 2011

Should We Irradiate Away Harmful Bacteria in Our Food?

When a food safety outbreak occurs, like the one that is unraveling currently in Europe, the topic of food irradiation makes headlines. According to the AP, food safety experts like Michael Osterholm think consumers should give irradiation a chance:

“‘We need to do whatever we can to give us a wider margin of safety,’ says Dr. Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious disease specialist who frequently advises the government. ‘Food irradiation for a number of produce items would give us not just a marginal increase, but give us probably the Grand Canyon increase of safety.’” Read the full article…

April 28th, 2011

The Next Big Thing In Industry: Water Profiteering

Executive Director Wenonah Hauter got the inside scoop on what the water industry is up to at the 2011 Global Water Summit in Berlin.

Last week I was in Berlin at the Global Water Summit 2011, a meet up for corporations that want to profit from water as it becomes scarcer. Sponsored by all the bad actors in the water industry, from Veolia to General Electric, the conference URL was www.watermeetsmoney.com. Even the Koch Brothers’ empire was represented (Koch Industries helped pollute water with its fossil fuel operations, so why not profit also from cleaning up the mess?)

My colleague, Anil Naidoo from the Council of Canadians, and I were invited to the meeting to debate the libertarian economist David Zetland and William Muhairwe, managing director of Uganda’s national water company. Both Zetland and Muhairwe are big proponents of full-cost pricing and dismissive of the government’s role in providing water.

Some may wonder why Anil and I would go there to debate, especially when the audience was comprised of people employed in the water industry. The truth is that there is no better place to really figure out what they are up to. An hour debate was a small price to pay for free entrance to the $2,500.00 event that gave us real insight into the newest plans of the global water cartel. Read the full article…

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