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

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.

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Europe

5 Reasons a “Global Cattle Drive” to China Is a Bad Idea

The Wall Street Journal reports that China is importing 100,000 heifers — 25 ships’ worth — to boost domestic dairy production in the wake of melamine and other milk-powder scandals that have decimated China’s relatively small dairy industry since 2008. Where to begin? There are so many problems with this scenario, but here are just five reasons why this is a terribly bad idea:

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Europe

Why the Water Justice Movement Was Denied Equal Press Access at the World Water Forum

Last week, we sent a letter to World Water Forum organizers asking to hold a press conference there about the fact that Veolia, Suez and Saur—among the biggest private water corporations globally—are being investigated for price fixing in the EU.

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Europe

Why Will Activists Be Protesting the World Water Forum?

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.

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Europe

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

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.

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Europe

Europe Has Every Right to Be Emotional About Fracking

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.

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Europe

BASF and Monsanto European Retreat

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 US, 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 US — 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.

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Europe

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

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.

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Europe

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 — and the fisheries that provide it have 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 McDonald’s’ hoki is a huge part of the problem.

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Europe

MIT’s Fracking Report Backs its Donors: Gas Companies

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: