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Senators Must Stop FERC Until its Abuses are Investigated

President Trump’s Recent Firing and Threatening of former FBI Director James Comey Deepen the Cloud of Suspicion Over the Administration and FERC Commissioners Directing An Agency Deeply Tied to National Security.

WASHINGTON, DC – May 15 2017 – A coalition of national and regional organizations sent a letter today to Senator Lisa Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asking that the Committee postpone hearings for President Trump’s nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Senator Murkowski has been urging the Trump Administration to move quickly with FERC commissioner nominations. The organizations continued their call for the committee to delay nominations in orderto pursue a hearing into multiple and documented reports of FERC misusing its authority regarding the approval process for pipelines. FERC’s rubber stamping of pipelines negatively impacts the health and safety, property values, and livelihoods of people nationwide.

 

The coalition is also calling on Senator Murkowski to postpone the hearings until an investigation into the Trump Administration and campaign’s potential conflicts of interest and ties to foreign governments can be concluded. FERC plays a key role in securing and maintaining the nation’s electric power grid and energy infrastructure overall, which is an important part of the country’s national security. With a cloud hanging over the president that has only deepened with his firing of and threats against FBI Director Comey, it would be prudent for the Senate to investigate President Trump’s actions prior to considering any nominees his administration puts forward the organizations assert.

The full letter to Senator Murkowski can be found here.

Would that Congress act with the same urgency in conducting hearings on FERC, a rogue independent commission, that Senator Murkowski is using to hold confirmation hearings for two controversial candidates nominated by a president whose actions against democratic norms have put him at the center of a national firestorm," said Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth.

“FERC has already demonstrated itself to be an agency that misuses its authority to strip the American people of their legal rights and to lightly turn the power of eminent domain over to private pipeline corporations. It is untenable to think that this President who has unknown business and financial ties would appoint 4 of 5 FERC Commissioners,” said Maya van Rossum, leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network which has been among the organizations leading national campaigns challenging FERC’s abuses. “The Senate should hold off on advancing any new Commissioners and instead focus on securing congressional hearings to investigate the abuses carried out by FERC and identify needed reforms so that no matter who appoints Commissioners, our communities and environment will get due protection and regard.”

“Any FERC Commissioner nominated by Trump and approved by the Senate will be subject to behind-the-scenes pressure from Trump,” said Ted Glick, organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy. “This is clearly intolerable. The president could demand they take actions which support his business or political interests or face public ridicule from him. Until our current Constitutional crisis is resolved, there should be no hearings on Trump’s FERC nominees.”

“FERC currently acts as an undemocratic commission that tramples the rights of the people it is supposed to serve,” said Green America Co-Executive Director Todd Larsen. “The Senate will only compound the damage that FERC does if it moves forward with confirmation hearings for the nominees of a President who has clearly demonstrated that he has no respect for democracy.”

ABOUT GREEN AMERICA

Green America is the nation's leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. www.GreenAmerica.org

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255, or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

It Doesn’t End with Flint

The tragedy happening in Flint, MI, right now (see People of Color Are on the Front Lines of the Climate Crisis) may have finally shone a light on environmental injustice in a way that hasn’t happened in the past. But it’s important to understand that environmental racism, including the climate racism we’ve discussed in this issue, does not begin and end with Flint.

These are not accidents. Communities of color have been targeted for decades by toxic, polluting, climate-warming facilities and are being left out of basic government protections against global warming’s worst effects and more. Purposefully. Willfully.

In fact, the same communities are being targeted multiple times. Flint itself is home to a wood-burning power plant that releases lead and other pollutants, as well as three hazardous waste sites, all near primarily Black communities.

In Perry County, AL, resident Esther Calhoun movingly explains her community’s situation in an article for the Associated Press:

My family has lived in Uniontown, Alabama, for generations. My daddy and granddaddy were sharecroppers who grew cotton, corn, and okra. The people here, mostly African-American like me, have strong ties to the land. They are proud of this piece of the country. At least they used to be. That was before Arrowhead Land ll turned Uniontown into a dumping ground for the eastern half of the nation, before Arrowhead received permission to take in tons of toxic coal ash from the disastrous 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. The toxic heavy metals in coal ash arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and thallium have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. Children are experiencing nosebleeds, headaches, and breathing problems.

It’s not an isolated incident. Dr. Robert D. Bullard and Dr. Beverly Wright have released several studies showing that communities of color that receive one toxic facility often end up with a cluster a fact that Calhoun confirms, saying Uniontown also has a prison, a catfish-processing plant, and other polluters within its borders. Why did Uniontown become a dumping ground for the eastern half of the country? she asks. No one thought that this poor community would fight back or that anyone would listen to us.

But they are fighting back, with a civil rights lawsuit against the landfill and the EPA. This issue is dedicated to them and all the courageous people who battle these injustices on a daily basis. Join us in pledging to do all we can to stop climate and environmental and our climate justice resources for a place to start.

Methane regulations on public lands preserved

The US Senate votes against a Congressional Review Act (CRA) measure that would have eliminated Bureau of Land Management’s regulations to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands.

Green America's individual and business members spoke out strongly in favor of preserving the rule.  We also mobilized businesses and individuals to support the original rulemaking in 2016. 

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Waste Not, Want GMOs Not

If you’ve ever spoken to anyone who is pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) you have probably heard the argument that we need GMOs to feed the world. The global population is growing rapidly and unless we produce a higher volume of food, even more people will go hungry. GMOs are the only solution. This simply isn’t true; we do not need GMOs to feed the world. Somewhere along the way (with help from the biotech industry) this myth has been created and perpetuated.

Studies show that GE (genetically engineered) crops fail to promote higher yields than their non-GMO counterparts. Actually, some GE crops have been found to have even lower yields in comparison to traditionally-bred crops. This does not bode well for their future as a world-feeding cure-all.

The truth is that we have enough food to feed the world. The reason so many go hungry is that barriers keep them from accessing this food and, in fact, much of this food goes to waste.

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How much food do we waste?

An estimated 40% of the food in our country goes to waste. If this food were better distributed and the infrastructure were in place to allow access, hunger would be lessened or eliminated. Much of this food is discarded by grocery stores after reaching (sometimes even before reaching) its sell-by date.

Grocery stores also discard fruits and vegetables due to slight physical imperfections that can keep consumers from purchasing them. While these foods might have superficial defects, their nutrition and flavor is identical to that of their “perfect” produce counterparts. Even worse, these foods are typically transported to dumps instead of feeding those in need.

A large quantity of food is also wasted by individuals. It is estimated that a family of four wastes about $1,500 worth of food a year. This wasted money and food could be utilized to feed more people. Instead, this food ends up in landfills where it contributes to climate change and pollution.

What barriers exist to feeding people?

Donating food that would otherwise go to waste may seem like an easy fix, but there are factors that prevent this from happening. Food companies often have liability concerns when it comes to donating food surplus to the 42 million Americans that are food insecure. There is a fear that this food could make people sick as it has reached the sell-by or best-by date displayed on the package. An existing bill, the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, protects donations to non-profits , however it does not extend to non-profit retailers or donations that go directly to individuals.

There is a lot of confusion that surrounds expiration dates, and many of them (such as those that read “sell by” “use by” or “best by” are merely suggestions for peak freshness, rather than warnings of spoilage. The numerous ways of phrasing these warnings has resulted in uncertainty about safety and, in turn, food waste when perfectly good food items are thrown out.

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The good news?

  • Labeling bills have been proposed to combat food waste.

The Food Donation Act of 2017 is a proposed bill that will protect food producers from liability when donating food. This would make it easier to donate “past-date” food that is still fresh. It will also take away strict labeling requirements on donated food that are not related to safety.

The Food Recovery Act is another piece of  introduced legislation that will try to reduce food waste through the entire food system in a comprehensive way.

The Food Date Labeling Act has also been proposed, which will make expiry date labels less confusing to prevent food from being wasted.

  • “Ugly produce” companies are taking off.

There has been a recent upsurge in food startups capitalizing on “ugly produce” that supermarkets throw out due to imperfections. These companies operate on the idea that superficially flawed produce should be enjoyed instead of rotting in landfills.

Companies like Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest deliver this recovered produce right to your door for a reduced price. Hungry Harvest donates produce to people who need food assistance for every box you buy, helping to alleviate hunger and food waste at the same time!

  • Food waste recycling is gaining momentum.

Could food waste become electricity, natural gas, and even tires? Yes! The technology is being developed that can turn our wasted food into important resources we use every day. Who knows what the future holds for food waste?

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What can you do?

While these promising developments inspire hope, it is vital we take responsibility as consumers for the food waste we create. Savethefood.com is an amazing resource for useful tips and tricks for reducing food waste at home. Their helpful advice includes shopping guides, meal plans, and recipes.

Sticking to a shopping list, meal planning, freezing food, and learning how to decipher expiration dates are all measures you can take to cut food waste. Composting is another great option if you have backyard or access to a farm or service in the area that will take your food scraps.

You can also call and write your members of congress urging them to support the proposed bills mentioned in this post that will help those in need and fight food waste.

Thank you GMOInsiders for doing your part to feed the world without GMOs and prevent food waste!

5 Things You Need to Know about Nano

For the last few years we have been educating consumers about the impacts of GMOs. While GMOs are still deeply concerning and we are continuing to push manufacturers to remove them, companies are developing and using nanoparticles, a new technology that is equally concerning. Nanotechnology allows scientists to engineer nature at the atomic and molecular level, creating nanoparticles. Similar to GMOs, these new technologies are being released into our environment and our food without regulations and adequate safety testing. Nanoparticles are cause for concern and it is important that we let companies know we don’t want nanoparticles in our food, clothing, health care products, or cosmetics.

Here are the top 5 things you need to know about nanoparticles:

  1. They are unregulated. The use of nanotechnology is currently unregulated by the FDA, meaning it does not go through an approval process or adequate safety testing before entering our food system.
  1. They are really really small. Nanoparticles are 1000 times thinner than a human hair. The size of the particles means that they interact with our bodies and the environment differently than normal particles.
  1. They pose a threat to human health. These tiny particles can flow freely through our bodies, potentially getting into places that they aren’t mean to, such as the gut wall, bloodstream, organs, and cells. Recent research shows that these tiny particles are a potential toxin and the long-term impacts of ingesting them or putting them on our skin are unknown.
  2. They pose a threat to the environment. Just as the implications for humans aren’t fully known these tiny particles post a great risk to the environment. They have the ability to enter into our waterways and environment, damaging helpful microbes and moving up the food chain from smaller to larger organisms.
  1. They aren’t labeled. Nanoparticles are not required to be labeled, making it difficult for consumers to avoid purchasing products that contain them. There are however ingredients that are more likely to be in nano form and should therefore be avoided. Products such as sunscreen, toothpaste, cosmetics, and infant formula are all likely to contain nanoparticles but they can also be found in toys and clothing.

Want to know more? Here are some resources to learn more about nano and its environmental and health implications.

Take action by signing GMO Inside’s petition to get nano out of infant formula!

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People power defeats fossil fuel interests: methane regulations on public lands preserved

Today, Green America celebrates the US Senate vote against a Congressional Review Act (CRA) measure that would have eliminated Bureau of Land Management’s regulations to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands.

The regulations address a crucial problem – oil and gas operations regularly release wasted methane into the atmosphere, increasing climate change and damaging local ecosystems.  The defeat of the CRA in the Senate represents a huge win for people and the planet.

Today’s victory is also clearly a victory for people power nationwide.  Americans across the country, and in particular in impacted states, rose up to support these necessary regulations, and their voices were heard.

Own Stocks? Use Your Power to Vote for People & Planet

As a shareholder, you have a unique and important role to vote on company resolutions that let management know you want corporate practices that support people and the planet.

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How to Read a Proxy Ballot

Supporting social and environmental shareholder resolutions is as easy as checking a few boxes and tossing the ballot back into its postage-paid envelope. Whatever you do, don't throw your shareholder ballots in the recycling bin! Use your power to raise for your voice on social, environmental, and corporate governance issues.

Using the fictional Fizzy Cola company, Green America walks you through a sample proxy ballot, so you'll be ready to cast your votes in the spring. Click here to read this as a pdf in another tab.

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Graphic created by Tracy Fernandez Rysavy and Dennis Greenia.

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What's Wrong with Modern Wheat

Bob Quinn is the man behind KAMUT® Brand khorasan wheat, a unique ancient grain from Mesopotamia. After receiving a Ph.D in Plant Biochemistry from UC Davis and selling his business interests in Northern California, he moved back to his family farm in Montana. Through the use of a trademark he has dedicated his company to protecting the integrity of khorasan wheat and is able to set high standards for the ways in which it is grown. Kamut khorasan wheat can never be cross-bred with modern wheat and must always be grown organically. 

There are a growing number of wheat growers joining Quinn in a movement to reestablish ancient grains and turn to organic growing methods. This is a forward thinking movement looking at the least chemically intensive, environmentally destructive, while being the most profitable to farmers. At the same time there is a band of biotech companies determined to introduce genetically engineered (GE) wheat.

What’s wrong with modern wheat?

To understand the implications of GE wheat it is important to understand the concerns surrounding modern wheat in general and what differentiates it from ancient grains, such as Kamut khorasan. Ancient grains are those that are derived from ancient civilizations and have been left practically unaltered by human interference since that time. Ancient grains are gaining in popularity, with grains such as spelt, khorasan, einkorn, and emmer (faro) becoming more common to consumers.

The vast majority of the wheat we consume today has been drastically altered from its original form. While wheat has yet to be genetically engineered it has been altered through intensive conventional breeding. According to Bob “what is inherent and drives modern wheat breeding programs are higher yields and more loaves of bread, linked with the national drive to sell cheap food in this country. Cheap food is the main food policy these days. With that being the main goal many things have been changed.  To make higher yields, plants were made shorter and more uniform, they were made more disease resistant, and more resistant to insects.” But all of these changes plus others have had many unintended consequences. “What is probably even more significant is the change in the proteins and starches in the kernel to make more loaves of bread with less wheat.  This is significant because this is the part we actually eat,” says Bob.

The cheap wheat most often consumed today is stripped of much of its nutrients and removes many of the benefits that can be found in ancient grains. All of this is done to lower costs. Research shows that it is how we have altered modern wheat that is resulting in so many health complications linked to wheat. The health implications of modern compared to ancient grains are a major focus area for Kamut International. Bob thinks, “recent changes made to modern wheat is probably at the heart of the troubles that people are having eating wheat, these unintended consequences are what people are struggling with.”

 

Why GE wheat isn’t the answer?

The most common types of GE crops, such as corn, soy, and alfalfa, are developed to be herbicide-resistant, allowing entire fields to be sprayed with herbicides without damaging the crops. This increases the amount of pesticide residue left on food and increasingly studies are finding high levels of pesticide residue in our water and our bodies. Major biotech companies are pursuing GE wheat developed to be resistant to glyphosate, dicamba, 2,4-D, and glufosinate.

For Quinn there are a number of reasons that GE wheat simply isn’t the answer. There is the general concern for the impacts resulting from the type of agriculture promoted by GE crops: costly chemical inputs, monocropping, and the impact on surrounding ecosystems. But his concerns go far beyond these and are focused on the farmers growing wheat and consumers. In Bob’s own words, here are some of the main concerns surrounding GE wheat:

 

The increased cost of production incurred to the farmer:

“In Montana the cost of chemicals is so high compared to what people are getting for their wheat, they can’t afford to grow it anymore. They can’t afford to farm in this way. They can’t pay their chemical bills with the amount they are receiving for the grain they are harvesting. I think that this is a crazy and unsustainable system that is going to lead, many into financial ruin.  Many will be forced to sell their farms and suicide by those who feel trapped has already started to occur. Right now, the price of organic wheat is at 4 or 5 times the price of conventional. With organic you are taking so much more net profit to the bank that it puts you in a very comfortable position rather than being on the edge of break even all the time or even worse, farming at a consistent loss. The current system is an artificial system that is only propped up by large government subsidies, which are starting to disappear. This leaves farmers in a system where they are completely vulnerable and almost unable to make a living.”

 

Health concerns with herbicide use:

“More and more research is starting to point to the chemicals causing some of the trouble that people are having with wheat. Research in Canada has demonstrated that glypohsate residue is mimicking the symptoms that people have from wheat sensitivities and there have been all kinds of health problems that disappear, in children when they go on an organic diet.”

 

The economic viability of US wheat abroad:

“Montana’s main customers are Japan and South Korea, both countries have made it abundantly clear that they will not purchase GE wheat. The problem with wheat will be that there is no way to distinguish a GMO kernel from a non-GMO kernel. This will be the problem in the marketplace; there is no way to differentiate it. The first time we end up with a boatload of wheat in Tokyo bay where they find traces of GMOs will produce a huge fall out. Who will pay for the GMO contaminated wheat that is rejected in faraway countries. We have already seen some boycotts of US wheat in 2013 when unapproved GE wheat was discovered in fields in Oregon.  More recently there were other cases of unauthorized, unapproved GE wheat found in a Montana experiment station and in a field in Washington.  Although these finds did not trigger the economic fall out that the Oregon find triggered, they raise serious doubts about how GE wheat will be controlled if it is approved and released.  Contamination seems a certainly and huge loss of markets to the detriment of US wheat growers seem a high probability. “

 

Lack of control of the seed system:

“The other problem is stripping farmers’ control over the seed and agricultural system. Surrendering those choices to just a few agrochemical companies who prohibit farmers from keeping seed they grow for planting means that the companies will now provide all the seed and all the chemicals in a very controlled way.  Farmers will have no say over price, they will have no say over what seeds they can use, and what chemicals they can spray with. Farmers will be sold a promise that this will make them more money but once they buy into it they will be worse off than they already are now, because they bought into a closed system which is totally dependent on the chemical company. When the prices of the commodities go down and the prices for the chemicals go up they are stuck in a system they cannot escape.”

 

Beyond the many concerns around the impacts of GE wheat on both the farmer and the environment there is an underlying tension that is being propagated by the chemical companies pitting the conventional and organic farmers against one another. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Bob believes that “farmers don’t need to be at odds. They are being put at odds. The chemical companies are putting out the image of conflict and controversy and battle. Of course they are afraid to lose market share. There main claim is that only they [the chemical companies] can feed the world and now people are starting to see research coming out more and more that debunks that notion.” The chemical companies are misleading consumers and policy makers. At the end of the day farmers simply want to support their families and farms and grow nutritious food for a hungry world, and chemical intensive crops are not the solution.

“The path forward is organic agriculture. The future is organically produced food.  Only this type of agriculture can feed the world.  It is important to understand that with every dollar consumers spend on food; they are voting for chemical or organic agriculture. If people would make the connections between organic food and health and nutrition, then it would be easy to justify choosing organic food. There are other benefits of organic agriculture compared to chemical agriculture such as the reduction of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from the production of chemical fertilizer and the reduction in chemical pesticides contaminating our water and soil. The impacts of chemical agriculture can be significantly reduced if we move towards more acres under organic production.,” says Quinn.

 

This interview has been edited for length. 

 

Let's Talk About Miracle Whipped GMOs (Part 2)

Kraft Miracle Whip is a household staple full of less-than wholesome ingredients produced in ways that put people, animals, pollinators, and the planet at risk. Half of the ingredients are likely produced from GE crops. The eggs are also problematic because Kraft sources them from factory farms where they are fed diets high in GMOs, as well as live in inhumane conditions.

Concerns about Eggs and CAFOs

Corporate and Geographic Consolidation

Gone are the days of pastures, barns, field crops, and farm animals. Eggs are produced in industrial operations with hundreds of thousands of laying hens in each facility, growing by nearly 25 percent from 1997 to 2007. Nearly half of egg production is concentrated in five states: Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, California, and Pennsylvania. Egg operations have grown in size by 50 percent in the same ten-year period, averaging 750,000 hens per factory farm. Though headquartered in Mississippi, Cal-Maine is the largest egg producer in the United States, selling 685 million dozen eggs in 2007 with a flock of 23 million hens.

Animal Welfare

The manner in which laying hens are raised directly affects their wellbeing and health.Egg-laying hens are subjected to mutilation, confinement, and deprivation of the ability to live their lives as the active, social beings they are. More than 90 percent of eggs in the US are produced in confinement conditions. Welfare abuses run rampant in egg CAFOs including: killing male chicks upon hatching because they have no value to the egg industry, debeaking young female chicks causing severe pain, living in battery cages with the equivalent of less than a sheet of paper of floor size, being subjected to a process called “forced molting” where hens are starved and deprived of food for up to two weeks to shock their bodies into the next egg-laying cycle, and slaughtering them after their egg production declines in 1-2 years even though the lifespan of an industry chicken would be 5-8 years.

There is growing concern about the living conditions in which food animals are raised; however, there is little oversight when it comes to product labels, as we have recently seen in the news regarding the label “natural”. The majority of egg labels have no official standards or oversight or enforcement mechanisms, nor much relevance to animal welfare. Labels include: cage-free, free-range, free-roaming, pasture-raised, certified organic, vegetarian-fed, and more. The highest-welfare eggs come pasture-raised with certification from Animal Welfare Approved. Unfortunately, few farms are certified to this standard. Check out the organization’s mobile app to find products near you.

Even certified organic is not without flaws. According to a report by Cornucopia, industrial-scale organic egg producers, with facilities holding as many as 85,000 hens each, provide 80 percent of the organic eggs on the market. This means that less than half of a percent of egg-laying hens in this country are on pasture-based farms. Therefore, it is important to dig deeper and do research into the company. Local producers offer a shorter supply chain and more transparency.

The eggs Kraft Miracle Whip sources come from factory farms and do not have any animal welfare certifications. Hellmann’s at least uses cage-free eggs; while that still results in thousands of hens are kept in an indoor structure with little to no access to outdoor grazing, it does not use battery cages.

Public and Environmental Health

Poor living conditions directly impact public and environmental health. Large-scale factory farm operations produce more than just that little white orb used in baking recipes and for brunch dishes; they are also breeding grounds for disease and pollution.

Large hen facilities house hundreds of thousands of animals in each structure and result in Salmonella poisoning of eggs. Due to a Salmonella outbreak in 2010 where close to 2,000 cases in three months were reported, the US experienced the largest shell egg recall in historyhalf a billion eggsWhile Salmonella rates are higher in battery cage systems, it is still a problem for cage-free facilities due to the sheer number of hens living in such close quarters.

As seen in other factory farm operations for pigs and cows, chicken CAFOs produce higher levels of waste than can be disposed of in a timely and environmentally responsible manner. The imbalance of a large number of animals in an increasingly smaller space causes mountains of fecal matter to pile up. Ammonia levels increase, negatively impacting air quality by creating particles inhaled by animals and people and producing unpleasant odors. Elevated ammonia levels also negatively impact water quality, running off into local streams and rivers. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), ammonia can be carried more than 300 miles through the air before returning to the ground and then into waterways. The nutrients in runoff from animal waste can then cause algal blooms, which use up the water’s oxygen supply killing all aquatic life, leading to “dead zones.” Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico are growing larger every year, in addition to those along the East Coast.

In addition to having a devastating impact on aquatic life, industrial egg production also contributes to climate change. After assessing the lifecycle of eggs from “cradle-to-grave” production, the Environmental Working Group reported that consuming two extra-large eggs isequivalent to driving a car more than one mile.

Kraft, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and GMO Labeling Opposition

Not only is Miracle Whip made of bad ingredients, its parent company, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. (formerly Kraft Foods Inc.), has its own tainted history.

Kraft has a long sordid history of company mergers and name changes. In 1915, J. L. Kraft and his brothers began producing processed cheese in tins. This is the company that created the epitome of processed food in America: Kraft Singles American Cheese. In 1988, Kraft, Inc. becomes a part of Philip Morris Companies, Inc., a company made infamous for cigarettes. In 2011, Kraft Foods announced its intent to split into two independent, publically traded companies, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. and Mondelez International, Inc. The new Kraft Foods Group is focused mainly on grocery products for the North American market, while Mondelēz is an international distributor of Kraft Foods snacks and confectionery brands. In March, 2015, 2015 Kraft Foods Group Inc, announced that it would merge with ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co, owned by 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway Inc., contributing to the problem of corporate consolidation by forming the world’s fifth-largest food and beverage company. The new company is called The Kraft Heinz Company.

In addition to providing processed foods and continuously changing ownership, Kraft (under various legal names) has been a big player when it comes to funding opposition to state GMO labeling campaigns. Kraft gave $1.95 million to oppose California’s Prop 37.  Though Kraft Foods Group did not contribute directly to oppose Initiative 522 in Washington in 2013, it is still a dues-paying member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). The other Kraft spin off company, Mondelez Global, LLC gave $210,335. Kraft got back into the game in 2014 by spending a total of $1.9 million in Measure 92 in (OR) and Prop 106 (CO).

Additional Resources

GMO Inside released an updated mayonnaise scorecard showing how various major brands measure up in terms of GMO ingredients, prevalence of eggs from CAFOs, and sustainability. Within the scorecard you will find better alternatives and highlight which brands to avoid. We also posted recipes for making homemade mayonnaise to give consumers the ultimate ability to control the quality of ingredients used to make the ever-present spread.

*For our purposes, the term mayonnaise includes mayonnaise and mayonnaise-like products known as salad dressings that contain either whole or powdered eggs.

You May Not Support Big Ag, But Your Tax Dollars Do

What is the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive law that creates many federal policies related to agriculture and food. It is typically renewed every 5 years and covers topics like farm subsidies, conservation, and food assistance.

The Farm Bill was originally created during the Great Depression in 1933. This was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to provide subsidies to struggling farmers. These subsidies incentivized farmers to grow less of key commodity crops so the crops’ value would increase.

Since then there have been many Farm Bills and the legislation has transformed over time. The current Farm Bill was approved in 2014 and is up for renewal in 2018.

How Does the Farm Bill Help Feed People?

Most of the funding provided by the Farm Bill (79%) goes towards nutrition assistance. This pays for programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) which provides food stamps to low-income individuals and their families.

While trade and agriculture organizations agree that nutrition and commodity programs should be combined as one package in the 2018 Farm Bill, some republicans want to remove SNAP from the bill.  These Republicans, like Paul Ryan and Mike Conaway, want to put nutrition assistance funding into block grants, making the states in charge of administering funding.

This would make nutrition assistance less effective. The way SNAP is currently structured, when there is a crisis, like a recession, the federal government can allocate money accordingly. Giving fixed amounts of money to each state would take away this ability to immediately respond to emergencies. It is also likely that the block-granted funds would provide a range of services like housing assistance, but, as a result, would provide less food to families in need of nutrition.

How did the 2014 Farm Bill Fund Big Ag?

Prior to the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2008 Farm Bill included “direct payments” which began in 1996 with the intention of transitioning farmers off subsidies. In the Direct Payment program, farmers are given payments if current farm production does not meet historical production levels, thus making up the gap in income.

This means that large estates that no longer had fields in production were still receiving payments at the cost to you, the taxpayer. Your taxes also went towards unsustainable, industrial farms as these payments disproportionately went to large farms over smaller, family-operated farms.

The 2014 Farm Bill was notable in that it did away with these direct payments. Unfortunately, it also expanded crop insurance programs which go towards farms that grow the “Big Five” commodity crops (corn, wheat, soy, rice, and cotton.) In other words, much of the funding in this bill has gone towards crops grown on large industrial farms that do not use sustainable growing methods.

As far as food assistance goes, the 2014 Farm Bill cut SNAP assistance by eight billion dollars. Funding was cut at the expense of vulnerable families while large, industrial farms continue to receive handouts.

What needs to change in 2018?

So, how can lawmakers improve the Farm Bill in 2018 to reward good actors who farm using sustainable practices? A great place to start would be altering the crop insurance program to incentivize conservation. Making better subsidies available to the many farmers that are good stewards of the land and water would level the playing field for sustainable farmers and set a new tone for the future of agricultural policy.

The 2018 Farm Bill also must continue to keep nutrition assistance bundled with commodity programs. Nutrition programs must not be turned into block grants and handed over to the states, as this would result in less funding and less capability of responding during emergency situations. The Farm Bill addresses all food issues, and these include food insecurity and the ability to produce food in a way that feeds every citizen adequately. SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs assure that millions of American adults and children can nourish themselves. The 2018 Farm Bill should strengthen these programs and take steps towards creating a food system that provides for all Americans.

What can you do about it?

As a citizen, your tax dollars will go towards funding the 2018 Farm Bill. If you want your dollars to fund sustainable farms and providing food access to those in need instead of Big Ag, there are some measures you can take to influence the bill.

Call your members of congress and urge them to increase funding in the Farm Bill for subsidies to farms that prioritize conservation, organic and sustainable growing practices, and regenerative agriculture. You should also insist they push to keep nutrition assistance as part of the 2018 Farm Bill and ensure there are no major cuts to these programs.

Vote in local, state, and national elections and make sure you research candidates’ platforms. You can then cast your vote for those who prioritize sustainable agriculture and will work to improve our food system for everyone.

Show up. Whether it’s at your representative’s office or a town hall meeting, showing up in person and making your concerns clear makes a lasting impact. Explain what you, as their constituent, need from them in a clear and respectful way. It helps to make a connection by telling them about your personal experiences with farm and food issues.

The 2014 Farm Bill funneled your money into Big Agriculture’s pockets. The 2018 Farm Bill doesn’t have to! Stay informed, pick up the phone, get active in your community and shape a future Farm Bill that prioritizes environmental conservation, health, and food access for all. GMO Inside will continue to update you on the status of the 2018 Farm Bill and provide you with opportunities to take action.

FAQs on Responsible Credit Cards

Responsible credit cards from community development banks and credit unions create benefits for people and communities nationwide, while offering you all the conveniences you expect from a credit card. They make a great choice for anyone seeking a credit card.

Since many people are new to community banks and credit unions, they often have questions about how responsible cards work. Here are common questions with answers.

 

  1. How does a community development bank or credit union that issued the credit card, benefit from my credit card transactions? If there is a non-profit group tied to the card, how do they benefit?

 

With each of your transactions, the community development bank or credit union and any partnering non-profit organization featured on the card, benefit financially from your credit card transactions. For cards that benefit nonprofit groups, with each purchase made using the card, a percentage of the interchange income is split between the bank or credit union and the non-profit group, providing both entities with a revenue stream to support their missions.

 

  1. Will my credit card with a community development bank or credit union work overseas?

 

YES. Credit cards issued by community development banks and credit unions use the VISA or MasterCard networks, and the cards will work anywhere that a VISA or MasterCard issued by a mega-bank will work.

 

  1. Can I use my responsible card for online purchases and bill paying?

 

YES. Your responsible credit card operates just like a conventional credit card.

 

  1. Can I earn points redeemable for rewards or cash back with my responsible credit card?

 

Many responsible credit cards offer point programs redeemable for merchandise, cash, or services. Contact the financial institution or non-profit organization that benefits from your specific card for information on their awards program.

 

  1. Can I use my responsible card to withdraw cash from ATMs?

 

YES. You can use your credit card to withdraw cash from ATMs that accept your card, subject to the terms of your card. Check the listing on the ATM to see whether or not a fee will be applied. If the ATM accepts VISA or MasterCard, then you may not be charged.

 

  1. How secure is my responsible credit card?

 

Your responsible card has all the security of any credit card. You have all the same legal protections against theft or loss that you have with any other credit card.

 

  1. Are responsible business cards available?

 

Right now, cards are available from several community banks and credit unions nationwide. As demand grows, along with the capacity of community development banks and credit unions, more responsible cards will be offered. In addition, a growing number of nonprofit groups are partnering with One PacficCoast Bank to issue responsible cards that benefit their organizations.

 

  1. Can I get a paperless statement with my responsible credit card?

 

Electronic statements are often available – check with the bank or credit union issuing the card.

 

  1. Can I manage my credit card account online?

 

Online accounting is frequently available – check with the bank or credit union issuing the card.

 

  1. Whom do I contact for customer service for my responsible credit card?

 

The customer service number for your responsible credit card is located on the back of your card.

 

Are you ready to switch? Try one of these better cards now.

 

And remember, please use your credit card responsibly: Only charge the amount of purchases you know you can re-pay.

 

Godiva: End Child Labor

As one of the world's leading brands of luxury chocolates, Godiva needs to take action to get child labor out of cocoa.

Green America joins community, health, religious, climate, environmental, student, peace and water protection groups in calling upon Senate to reject Trump’s FERC nominees

 

WASHINGTON, DC – May 9 2017A coalition of around 160 local, state, regional and national organizations is calling upon the Senate to reject both nominations announced yesterday by President Donald Trump to be Commissioners of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The coalition of organizations, including Green America, is opposing the nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson because both nominees would increase FERC’s bias towards the fossil fuel industry and further marginalize communities that oppose pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure that damage people’s homes, livelihoods and communities. The coalition is calling for Senate hearings on FERC’s abuses before any new commissioners are appointed.

“FERC already serves as a rubber stamp for the fossil fuel industry, approving all but one pipeline over the past thirty years,” says Green America Executive Co-Director for Consumer and Corporate Engagement Todd Larsen. “The Trump Administration is already demonstrating that it is willing to put the interests of the fossil fuel industry above the health and welfare of communities nationwide, and is willing to push science aside to promote fossil fuels at any costs.  By nominating Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to FERC, the administration is doubling down on a future of fossil fuels for the United States.  Both nominations should be blocked.”

“What the United States needs are regulators that work to promote a clean energy future for the country, which will create jobs, increase US competitiveness, and provide all communities with clean air and water,” says Green America Executive Co-Director for Business, Investing and Policy Fran Teplitz. “We need hearings on FERC to expose the agency’s repeated siding with the fossil fuel industry and its refusal to properly weigh the science documenting the harms of fossil fuel infrastructure to communities nationwide. Those hearings should take place before any more commissioners are appointed.”

 

The FERC Vacancies Coalition has already organized two call-ins generating thousands of calls to Senate offices on this issue, as well as orchestrating Senate offices visits in which nearly a dozen groups met with Senate staff in district offices. A national lobby day in Washington, D.C. is planned for May 22-23, and other actions are in the works to protest the nominations.

 

 

ABOUT GREEN AMERICA

Green America is the nation's leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. www.GreenAmerica.org

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255, or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

 

Throwing a Fair Trade Party

Educate others about fair trade and help them go sweatshop-free. 

When Carmel Jud decided to help Afghan women suffering from impacts of the Taliban regime, she started holding house parties. Not your everyday gathering, Jud’s house parties focused on selling fairly traded goods that Afghan women had made in their homes and sold for fair prices.

“The response was amazing,” Jud recalls. “We would show a video about how the Taliban was forcing women out of schools and professions. Then, we would display the crafts we had for sale and explain how the Afghan women making them were now able to earn money to support their families and maintain their dignity. The guests would be so moved that not only would they buy many of the items we had for sale, but most of them would sign up on the spot to host their own parties.”

With the holiday season approaching, now’s the perfect time to think about hosting a fair trade house party. “The party can be your holiday gift to your friends,” suggests Nancy Potter, director of sales and marketing for A Greater Gift (a program of SERRV International). “You can show them that their choices do make a difference and that their purchasing dollars can provide hope and justice to fair trade artisans.”

Here are details on how you can host a successful party—one that pleases your guests and encourages their support of a fair economic system.

Why Fair Trade House Parties?

In conventional trade, much of the purchase price of a product usually goes to middlemen, and the workers who produce the products often earn poverty-level wages insufficient for supporting their families. Fair trade ensures that producers receive prices that cover their costs of production and allow them to invest in the well-being of their families, their communities, and the Earth.

Fair trade crafts—including jewelry, clothing, and household items—can be obtained from businesses belonging to the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), which screens its members based on fair trade criteria. Fair Trade Certified™ commodities such as coffee, chocolate, and bananas sold in the US bear the seal of TransFair USA, the organization that certifies that the producers have received a fair price for their products.

House parties are an excellent way to support artisans around the world by selling their fair trade products. A host will gather a group of friends, neighbors, or coworkers to explain what fair trade is and to encourage them to purchase fair trade crafts such as embroidered bags, colorful shawls, and handcrafted jewelry, or gift baskets featuring Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate, coffee, and tea. Perhaps most importantly, house parties educate guests about fair trade and spur them to spread the word about it.

“Most of the people attending fair trade house parties don’t tend to know much, if anything, about fair trade,” says Dana Geffner, who often sells fair trade items at house parties through the fair trade organization Pachamama, which she founded in 2002. “Then they get so inspired that they start going to their local supermarkets and asking for Fair Trade Certified™ coffee, or pledging that all of the gifts they buy will be fair trade.

The Gathering

Most fair trade parties are informal gatherings, and Jud suggests aiming for 10–15 guests to keep the group intimate. To encourage attendance, she advises sending invitations that emphasize the social aspect of the evening and the opportunity to purchase beautiful crafts. If you’re holding your party in holiday-shopping season, you can also tell your friends that it’ll be a chance for them to fill all their gift-buying needs in a single evening.

At the party, beverages and finger food—perhaps featuring Fair Trade Certified™ coffee, tea, or chocolate—can help encourage socializing as the guests arrive and everyone gets settled. Then it’s on to the two main activities of the evening: learning and shopping.

Educating Your Guests

To get your guests excited about fair trade, you’ll want to point out the injustice that exists under today’s economic system and explain the solution that fair trade presents. Geffner has brought guest speakers, including members of fair trade cooperatives and human rights groups, to parties, but she says that the host can also fulfill the role of fair trade educator. You can also show videos about fair trade, if you wish.

To brush up on your fair trade knowledge beforehand, consult an organization such as the Fair Trade Resource Network. Vendors from whom you request merchandise or catalogs may also supply educational materials, such as brochures or videos.

In Jud’s experience, a speaker who can talk firsthand about conditions in developing countries can help guests further understand “how their choices affect individuals around the world.” If you wish to go this route, you can appeal to friends, family, or coworkers to connect you to potential speakers; contact a community center of an immigrant group in your area; or appeal to a radio station that broadcasts in a non-English language.

“One of my most powerful speakers came to me through a Spanish-language radio station,” Jud says. “I wanted someone from Mexico who could talk about conditions in Juarez, because so many of the sweatshops that produce clothes for US consumers are located there.” Within ten minutes of the station broadcasting Jud’s request for a speaker, a woman who’d worked in a Juarez sweatshop volunteered to tell her story.

“The guests found her story shocking,” Jud recalls. “She talked about how the buses from the factories to the residential area didn’t have enough space for all of the workers, and how the women would fight to get on because they knew that if they had to walk home, they would risk being attacked and killed, the way several young women there have been.”

Once the host or speaker has highlighted the problem, it’s time to talk about the solutions that fair trade offers. You can provide an overview of how the system works and then use specific 
products and producer groups as success stories.

Unveiling the Products

If you can manage it, a few representative craft items can be useful props when telling stories about individual artisans or cooperatives—and they can help show your guests how beautiful 
and unique their products are. Jud recommends concealing the items before the initial presentation so that people won’t decide what they do or don’t want to buy until they’ve heard the whole fair trade story. She prefers to uncover items one at a time, introducing each one with the name of the person who made it and describing the impact that fair trade has had on that person’s life.

Some organizations have kits available for people holding fair trade sale events, and these kits will often include educational materials as well as sample products or products that you can sell on the spot. If you want to order products or kits, find out how soon before your party they can ship the items and how soon after the party you need to return them.

Ten Thousand Villages has a program designed for larger events, such as community days or church fairs; this is worth considering if you belong to a group that might like to host one of these “Ten Thousand Villages Festivals.” Pre-formed modules contain $4,000 worth of goods, plus promotional and educational materials; hosts are expected to sell approximately $2,000.

The Do-It-Yourself Model is flexible: You obtain a few catalogs (Visit the FTF Web site or peruse the Green Pages™ Online—our directory of green businesses that includes FTF members—and request catalogs from businesses whose products you find appealing), then have your guests fill out order forms at the party and take care of placing the orders on their own. If you own a few fair trade items already, you can show them off as samples. Or, you can buy your holiday gifts early and display them before passing them along to their intended recipients.

Jud’s nonprofit, Rising International, has been holding California fair trade house parties for the past two years. Recently, the organization decided to put the parties on hold while considering the best direction in which to expand. Jud says she’s still happy to serve as a resource for anyone with questions about holding fair trade house parties.

So, if you’ve got space for a small party and a dozen friends or coworkers who could use some help with their holiday shopping, think about hosting a fair trade house party. An evening of learning, shopping, and socializing can direct fair trade dollars to artisans around the world, and it can turn your guests into advocates for an economic system that treats workers fairly.

Green American Magazine Archives
Green America at the Climate March
Sunset
Economic Action Against Hate

A burst of over 1,000 hate crimes and incidents have occurred since Election Day, and the President's words and actions are only making perpetrators bolder.

With white supremacists in the cabinet and anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric coming out of the White House, we need green, people-centered solutions that bring people together—and don't depend on Washington.

Environmental and Community Groups Urge Delay on FERC Commissioner Hearings

Organizations nationwide are urging Senator Murkowski, chair of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee to delay hearings on Trump’s nominees for the Federal Energy and Natural Resources Commission.

The following letter was sent to Senator Murkowski, ranking member Senator Cantwell and members of the ENR committee.

Berks Gas Truth

Beyond Extreme Energy

Delaware Riverkeeper Network

FERC Vacancies Campaign

Green America

May 15, 2017

Chairman Lisa Murkowski

Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources

Dear Chairman Murkowski,

On behalf of communities and organizations working in states across the nation who are experiencing direct and repeated abuse from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) misuse of its power to consider natural gas pipelines and infrastructure projects, we urge you to postpone any hearings on President Trump’s nominations for FERC Commissioner.

President Trump’s unknown personal and professional ties with foreign leaders and foreign corporations raise serious and legitimate concerns for those he would seek to install in these highly consequential positions. FERC’s role in protecting the U.S. energy grid is essential to our national security. Recent events regarding President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey, including his apparent demand for loyalty in how the Director carried out his decision making and activities as head of the FBI, heightens our alarm and concern.

As it currently stands, communities already experience tremendous abuses of power and law at the hands of FERC. As documented in the dossier that can be found at http://bit.ly/DossierofFERCAbuse, FERC has misused its power to, among other things:

  • Support the premature and increasingly expansive use of the power of eminent domain to take private and public property rights in order to advance private corporate gain;
  • Strip people of their ability to access the courts in order to defend their property, community and environmental rights;
  • Undermine state’s rights;
  • Overlook damaging violations of environmental and community protection laws;
  • Ignore the clear mandates of federal laws governing their review and approval process and their obligation to respect the legal authority of other federal agencies and States;

It is imperative that the Senate oppose advancing, and certainly take no steps to expedite, confirmation of the President’s nominees to FERC.

Instead, the Senate should prioritize holding Congressional hearings into the abuses of power and law already experienced at the hands of FERC, in order to identify and secure needed reforms. Such reforms should prevent the ongoing abuses experienced today, ensure that when conflicted Commissioners are inappropriately placed into this high office they are no longer able to misuse their authority for their own personal gain, and guarantee that there is a genuine and reasonable mechanism for having them removed for cause when the facts deem it necessary.

Respectfully Requested,

Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Lee Stewart, Organizer, Beyond Extreme Energy

Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth

Todd Larsen, Green America

Ted Glick, FERC Vacancies Campaign

Cc:

Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources & All members of the Committee

Take 5 minutes to stop another FERC’ing disaster

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the agency that is primarily responsible for approving pipelines in the US.  It has a terrible track record.  Its latest approved project, the Rover pipeline that is being built in the Midwest, already caused over 2 million gallons of drilling waste to spill into wetlands in Ohio – an environmental disaster.

This is just the latest community to be devastated by a FERC-approved project.  Over the past 30 years, FERC has approved all but one pipeline project that came before it.  FERC repeatedly ignores the concerns of communities, disregards scientific evidence highlighting the risks of pipelines, and supports expansive and industry-friendly eminent domain over the rights of property owners nationwide.  FERC’s rubber stamping of pipelines negatively impacts the health and safety, property values, and livelihoods of people nationwide.

Currently, FERC only has two out of five commissioners in place, and lacks a quorum to vote on pipelines.  This has prevented FERC from greenlighting $20 billion in destructive pipeline projects since February.  But, that’s about to change.  President Trump has nominated two candidates to be FERC commissioners – Neil Chatterjee and Rob Powelson – both friends of fossil fuels.  And, with President Trump’s ties to foreign powers and business deals increasingly under scrutiny, it is deeply concerning that his nominees will be running an agency that is deeply tied to our nation’s energy and national security.  If Both Chatterjee and Powelson are confirmed, FERC will once again have a quorum, and can start approving pipelines.

That’s why over 160 groups nationwide are demanding that Congress hold hearings on FERC’s abuses and investigate Trump’s actions prior to considering any nominees his administration puts forward.

Activists across the country will be talking to their Senators in DC on May 22nd and 23rd about FERC’s abuses.  Please take five minutes to support their work by calling your Senators.  And then call 1-3 members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Simply Say:

  1. I am calling to urge the Senator to oppose hearings on the President’s nominations for the vacant FERC Commissioner Seats.
  2. Instead I want the Senator to make it his/her/their top priority to hold hearings into the abuses of power and law being experienced by communities across this nation at the hands of FERC and to identify needed reforms.
  3. Without hearings and reforms FERC will continue to abuse its power and the health, safety and welfare of all decent people here in America.
  4. Installing Commissioners advanced by a President with business interests around the world that conflict with good decision making and energy policy here in the U.S., particularly one that demands inappropriate loyalty to himself from his agency heads, is a serious national security risk.

Don’t know your Senators’ phone number? Find it here: http://go.pardot.com/e/176172/tact-senators-cfm-cfm-State-MA/36nq2/57314903

 

The Members of the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources are:

 

Democrats:

Senator Maria Cantwell, Minority Ranking Member: 202 224 3441

Senator Bernie Sanders: 202 224 5141

Senator Al Franken: 202 224 5641

Senator Ron Wyden: 202 224 5244

Senator Debbie Stabenow: 202 224 4822

Senator Angus King: 202 224 5344

Senator Mazie Hirono: 202 224 6361

Senator Tammy Duckworth: 202 224 2854

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto:202 224 3542

Senator Joe Manchin: 202 224 3954

Senator Martin Heinrich: 202 224 5521

 

Republicans:

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chair: 202 224 6665

Senator Rob Portman: 202 224 3353

Senator John Barrasso: 202 224 6441

Senator James Risch: 202 224 2752

Senator Mike Lee: 202 224 5444

Senator Jeff Flake: 202 224 4521

Senator Steve Daines: 202 224 2651

Senator Cory Gardner: 202 224 5941

Senator Lamar Alexander: 202 224 4944

Senator John Hoeven: 202 224 2551

Senator Bill Cassidy: 202 224 5824

Senator Luther Strange: 202 224 4124

Green America at Climate March 2017
Green Businesses Nationwide Urge Trump to Stay in Paris Climate Agreement

Green America’s Green Business Network, representing 3,000 small and mid-sized companies nationwide, support the agreement’s creation of jobs, business opportunities, and lessening the economic impacts of Climate Change.

Washington DC — May 4, 2017 — Green America’s Green Business Network is urging the Trump Administration to keep the United States in the Paris Climate Agreement. This historic agreement includes commitments from countries worldwide that are responsible for 97 percent of emissions, and would result in an estimated reduction of temperature increases from seven to five degrees Fahrenheit worldwide. These temperature reductions will help avert some of the worst impacts of climate change, and reduce impacts on the American economy and its people.

The Paris Climate Agreement is also producing strong benefits for the US economy and businesses right now. An analysis by Environmental Entrepreneurs found that there currently are more than 2.5 million Americans working in clean energy and energy efficiency jobs in all 50 states, including over 400,000 people in the clean energy sector alone. Meeting the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement will expand the number of high-paying clean energy and energy efficiency jobs nationwide, many of which are with small businesses. It will support local economies in all states. In addition, it will reduce climate impacts that are particularly costly to a wide range of small businesses that are least able to afford disruptions in their supply chains or in the communities they serve.

“Staying in the Paris Agreement should be common sense from any perspective,” says Green America Executive CoDirector for Business, Investing and Policy Fran Teplitz. “The Agreement is already spurring the development of clean energy and energy efficiency jobs across the U.S., and will position the United States, and small businesses nationwide, to be leaders in the rapidly growing clean energy economy.”

“The Paris Climate Agreement is essential to protecting America’s economy,” says Green America Executive CoDirector for Consumer and Corporate Engagement Todd Larsen. “If we don’t take concrete steps towards reducing our emissions, as outlined in the Agreement, small businesses – from farmers, to tourism, to importers – are going to experience sizable hits to their bottom line. Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and we can’t afford to put them at risk, especially when we have the solutions to climate change available to us, and those clean energy solutions actually cost less and produce more jobs than dirty energy.”

 

ABOUT GREEN AMERICA
Green America is the nation's leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. www.GreenAmerica.org

MEDIA CONTACTMax Karlin, for Green America, (703) 276-3255 or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

Yosemite

This is a picture I took while in Yosemite

Clean Energy Victory Bonds H.R. Bill of 2015
Copyright Statement
In PET PRODUCT NEWS: Pet Businesses Win Green America’s People & Planet Award

Three small green businesses offering green pet and animal products in New York, California and North Carolina are winners of Green America’s People & Planet Award. The winners of $5,000 prizes are: The Honest Kitchen and Front Yard Coop. The grand-prize winner, Full Circle Seed, will receive $10,000 in recognition of having received the highest number of votes.

The People & Planet Award recognizes innovative U.S. small businesses that integrate environmental and social considerations into their strategies and operations. The winners were selected by the public during a month-long online voting period.

“When we talk about benefiting people and the planet, it’s important not to forget how animals play a role,” said Fran Teplitz, Green America’s executive co-director. “Some business practices, including ones commonly used by the agriculture industry, put profits over corporate responsibility. Pet and animal products that are environmentally friendly and produced ethically are just as important today as ever.”

The winning companies are:

  • Syracuse, N.Y.-based Full Circle Feed’s treats are made with vegetables, meats, fruits and breads from restaurant buffets that were prepared but not served. The result is a healthy, delicious, environmentally sustainable dog treat, according to the company. For too long, our society has disposed of billions of tons of extra food, which Full Circle Feed now upcycles into high-quality food, the company stated.
  • According to San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen, the company offers 100 percent free-range, antibiotic-free and sustainably raised chicken and turkey; only wild-caught, MSC-certified fish and non-GMO produce and organic seeds and grains are used; and all of its manufacturing takes place in North America to reduce transportation and carbon emissions.
  • The Front Yard Coop in Asheville, N.C., is the world’s first solar-powered, self-propelled chicken coop, according to the company. While chicken coops are a booming business and a growing segment of the DIY community, the Front Yard Coop is unique, offering technological innovations, solar power and contemporary design, the company states.

    “Full Circle Feed will use the funds to set up a more environmentally friendly production process and drying method,” said Michael Amadori, founder of Full Circle Feed. “In particular, instead of using electricity or natural gas we plan to use waste heat or biogas generated from anaerobic digestion to bake our dog biscuits. This will greatly reduce our ecological footprint and give us the most sustainable dog treats on the market. We are very grateful to Green America for the recognition and being selected in the People & Planet award.”

    Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen, said: “It’s a huge honor to have our commitments to sustainable and humane ingredient sourcing and other environmental efforts recognized in this way. We’re working toward furthering our goals in these areas, including the integration of free-range eggs into our supply chain and increasing our usage of grass-fed beef, as well as other initiatives for packaging reduction and recycling. We’ll be using our prize to make a direct impact at our home office, by building a vegetable garden in our outdoor space and adding office kitchen composting facilities to help further reduce our environmental paw print.”

    Peter Zander, founder of Front Yard Coop said: “Winning this award will especially help with new product initiatives as we continue to grow in our new home of North Carolina. The small homestead movement is particularly vigorous in the Asheville region, and we hope that the Front Yard Coop will be a helpful product for the new age homesteader.”

    Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today’s social and environmental problems. 

Mark Image for Website
Bryce at the Cafe
Sunny day at the lake
Hopeful Updates from Bangladesh

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh launched a global outcry about the horrific conditions of the factories that make clothes for some of the world’s largest clothing companies. Yet four years after Rana Plaza, strikingly little has changed for Bangladeshi workers. Wages have remained stagnant since 2013, while the cost of living has increased over 6% a year.

With little other recourse, workers at dozens of factories staged peaceful protests and walk-outs In December 2016. The factories created clothing for Gap Inc (owner of Banana Republic and Old Navy), H&M, Inditex (owner of Zara), and VF (owner of 30 brands including The North Face, Jansport, and Vans).

Rather than engage with the workers, the factory owners instead pressed charges against garment workers and activists. Between December 2016 and February 2017, at least 34 workers and activists were jailed without evidence of wrongdoing. An additional 1,500 workers were reportedly dismissed from their jobs, and potentially blacklisted from seeking future employment in the garment industry.

Due to a joint effort between labor unions, human and labor rights organizations, and mounting consumer pressure, all workers and activists were released on bail by February 28. Additionally, many major retailers, including H&M, Gap, Inditex, and VF, rescinded their decision to attend the Dhaka Apparel Summit, Bangladesh’s annual event showcasing the garment industry. They cited their concerns with the crackdowns this past winter as a major reason for their withdrawal from the event.

While we celebrate the release of the jailed workers and activists, the fight is not over yet. All 34 workers and activists still face the falsified charges levied against them. These charges could linger for years, requiring monthly court appearances, and if they are found guilty, a long imprisonment. Unions are currently negotiating with the factory owners and brands to drop, or at the very lease lessen, the charges. We will continue to share updates regarding the situation as we hear of them.

 

MLK Monument
The Continued Plight of Samsung Workers

Samsung has had, to put it lightly, an exciting year. From exploding phone batteries to a corruption scandal linked to the recently impeached president of South Korea, Samsung’s story rivals that of the most dramatic of soap operas. Given the public debacles of the past year, Samsung is under enormous pressure to pull off the smooth launch of their new flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S8. Things seem to be going well for the company – although Samsung officials recently announced that Bixby, Samsung’s new signature voice assistant, would be not be functional with the release of the new phone in April, they also shared that pre-orders are higher than any other previous Samsung phone.

Yet despite Samsung’s consistent presence in the media, there is one story that hasn’t been avidly discussed: The occupational health hazards Samsung factory workers continue to face.

SHARPS, a health advocacy group for Samsung workers in South Korea, has been documenting Samsung factory workers’ illnesses and deaths since 2007. In January 2017, they reported the 79th death of a factory worker. He was 31 years old, and died four years after being diagnosed with leukemia. He spent the last years of his life waging a two-pronged battle – one with his disease, and one with Samsung to receive worker compensation. He was ultimately unsuccessful with both battles.

His tragic story is unfortunately just one of many. The Associated Press published an investigative report in August 2016 in which they discovered that the South Korean government was, at the request of Samsung, deliberately withholding information from workers about the chemicals they are exposed to. Worker compensation related to occupational diseases is difficult to obtain with this information; without this information, it is practically impossible. AP also shared comments from factory workers and their families, highlighting some of the difficulties they encounter when trying to seek justice or, at the very least, compensation. The publication of the report coincided with the news about the exploding Note 7 batteries, and their stories were lost in the subsequent media frenzy.

As Samsung gets ready to release their new phone, it is important to continue sharing the stories of the workers who help bring these phones to consumers, and the risks they encounter by going to work every day.

Despite making a commitment to pay victims compensation in 2015, more factory workers have fallen ill in the years after, with little recourse for medical compensation from Samsung or the government. Furthermore, Samsung continues to refuse to invest in developing a system that not only monitors and removes hazardous chemicals from their factories, but would also ensure a fair distribution of medical compensation for workers. This is an important step for Samsung to take to ensure that their workers no longer fall ill – or die – simply by doing their job.

Join Green America in telling Samsung that as a consumer, you stand with their factory workers and want an end to their smartphone sweatshops. Take action today, and tell Samsung that you value people who make their phones – and they should too.

True Value and Walmart to phase out bee-killing pesticides

Green Americans, GMO Insiders, and many of our allies took action against True Value and Walmart to get bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides out of stores.

The Government is Going to Counter ‘Misinformation’ about GMO foods (Washington Post)

Originally published by Washington Post
May 3rd, 2017
By Caitlin Dewey

The Food and Drug Administration will fund a campaign to promote genetically modified organisms in food under a bipartisan agreement to keep the government funded through the end of September.

The deal to avert a government shutdown allocates $3 million to “consumer outreach and education regarding agricultural biotechnology,” which includes genetic engineering of food and commodity crops. The money is to be used to tout “the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts” of biotech crops and their derivative food products.

The Food and Drug Administration will fund a campaign to promote genetically modified organisms in food under a bipartisan agreement to keep the government funded through the end of September.

The deal to avert a government shutdown allocates $3 million to “consumer outreach and education regarding agricultural biotechnology,” which includes genetic engineering of food and commodity crops. The money is to be used to tout “the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts” of biotech crops and their derivative food products.

More than 50 agriculture and food industry groups had signed on to an April 18 letter urging the funding to counter “a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain.” But some environmental groups and House Democrats have derided the provision as a government-sponsored public relations tour for the GMO industry.

“It is not the responsibility of the FDA to mount a government-controlled propaganda campaign to convince the American public that genetically modified foods are safe,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who attempted to get the measure struck from the bill last month. “The FDA has to regulate the safety of our food supply and medical devices. They are not, nor should they be, in the pro-industry advertising business,” Lowey said during a congressional hearing

It’s unclear what the FDA campaign will look like, or when it will launch. The $3 million allocated is little more than a speck in the FDA’s total allocated budget of $2.8 billion.

The budget specifies only that the initiative be developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, and include the “publication and distribution of science-based educational information.” An attempt by Democrats to redirect the project’s funding to pediatric medical projects within FDA was unanimously voted down by Republicans.

A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center found that 39 percent of American adults believe that genetically modified foods are worse for health than their conventional equivalents — an assessment with which the vast majority of scientists disagree. Nearly 90 percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science believe GMOs are safe to eat, according to another Pew study.

“Clearly, communication of the benefits of biotechnology from the scientific community has not gone well, and this presents an opportunity to engage with the public in a more meaningful dialogue,” said Mark Rieger, the dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who signed the industry letter. “We see it as a communication issue, not a political one.”

But critics argue the issue is inherently political, given the financial ties between lawmakers and the ag biotech industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, agribusiness interests donated more than $26.3 million to political campaigns, including those of several congressmen who sit on the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee.

Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.), the chair of that subcommittee and a defender of the GMO education funding, received $10,000 from Monsanto in 2016.

“This is a really clear example of big ag influencing policy,” said Dana Perls, the senior food and technology campaigner for the environmental group Friends of the Earth. “The Trump administration is putting big ag before consumer desire and public health … Consumers do not want this.”

Critics have also questioned whether it’s the government’s job to communicate this particular information — and whether that information, as written in the budget, oversteps what scientists really know. While there’s a widespread consensus that GM crops are safe, there are valid and lingering questions about the environmental and social impacts of GMOs.

Last year, an academic analysis of 14 years of farm data found that an uptick in GM seed plantings goes hand-in-hand with increased herbicide use, for instance. Some herbicides have been found to contribute to health problems in animals and humans.

Many of the touted benefits of GMOs haven’t materialized, either, argues Andy Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a D.C. nonprofit that has filed numerous legal challenges against the makers of GM crops.

An October analysis by the New York Times found that the technology does not significantly increase yields. And few GM products with tangible consumer benefits — such as better taste or nutrition — have yet made it onto the U.S. market.

“So yes, that gives them a marketing problem,” Kimbrell said. “But Monsanto has plenty of money to advocate for GMOs ... Why do we need to use taxpayer dollars?”

One possible answer, from industry’s perspective, is that taxpayer dollars are already funding a Department of Agriculture initiative to label GM foods. Last year, Congress passed a bill mandating that food companies disclose the GM ingredients in their products, and USDA has said it is actively working on the standards for those labels.

Patrick Delaney, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association, said it will be important for consumers to understand those labels once they roll out, likely after September 2018.

“We recognize that there is a need for better and more accessible information on what this technology is and what it provides to consumers, he said by email. “We supported (and still support) that $3 million in funding for biotech education ... to better inform the public about the use of biotechnology in food and agricultural production.”

Correction: This story originally said that the Food and Drug Administration was working on an initiative to label GMO foods. The effort to develop those labels is based at the Department of Agriculture. The Post regrets the error.

Stop GE Wheat: FAQs

Currently, GE wheat is not commercially grown in the U.S. The biotech industry wants to change that, and is trying to convince wheat growers to shift to GMOs at a time when consumers are moving away from them. Find out why GE wheat is a terrible idea for wheat growers, the environment, and consumers, and what you can do to prevent this technology from impacting our most valuable grain.


In the last 20 years, industrial agriculture has been moving towards crop systems based on biotechnology. Herbicide-resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops, commonly referred to as GMOs (genetically modified organisms), have become the majority of the market share for corn, soybeans, and sugar beets. GMOs are touted as the “golden goose” that will increase yields, decrease pesticide use, and be more cost efficient than conventional crops. Instead, they have increased the overall use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These products have wreaked havoc on the environment, impacting pollinators (insects like bees that are critical to producing roughly 1/3 of our food supply), leaching into waterways, deteriorating soil viability, and causing harm to human health.

In fact, any yield increases that have resulted from the use of GE crops are actually a result of conventional breeding technologies and not a result of genetic engineering. Crops have yet to be successfully genetically engineered to address issues of yield, water-use efficiency, or energy-use efficiency and have solely been engineered for herbicide-tolerance and herbicide production (Bt crops).
 
Currently, wheat is the only major field crop in the US that has not been genetically engineered. The introduction of GE wheat would further exacerbate the impacts of industrial agriculture on the environment and people (See “What is the problem with GMOs?” above.). At a time when it is essential to focus on mitigating climate change and making the most sustainable decisions possible to protect the environment, GE wheat is the opposite of what is needed. Beyond the environmental concerns, the introduction of GE wheat will impact the viability of the US wheat market abroad, as the top importers of US wheat oppose GE wheat and will not purchase it.
 
No. The need to feed a growing population is the most common justification for GE crops. Yet, the majority of GE corn and soy go towards animal feed, ethanol, and unnecessary additives, none of which help the hungriest of people. Hunger is a result of poverty; to fight poverty, the world must address equitable access to land, capital, and education. Supporting regenerative small-scale agriculture at a local level is a much more appropriate solution to hunger.

The world currently produces enough food to feed everyone. People are hungry because there is an unequal distribution of food, which is an institutionalized and systematic problem. One of the major issues inhibiting access to food is the ability to get food to market (transportation) and the ability to store food (refrigeration). Like poverty, these larger issues will not be fixed by simply producing more food.
 
Unlike corn and canola, wheat is a self-pollinating crop that does not require pollination from insects, such as bees, decreasing the risk of contamination through pollination. However, wheat has other traits that make contamination likely. Wheat also has the ability to lie dormant for a number of years. This allows pollinated wheat seed to be transported, by various natural and mechanical means, and to grow in new areas with little to no monitoring.

Contamination presents a major legal concern for farmers, as it is the farmers who are most often held legally and financially responsible for contamination. If GE seeds are found in a field of a farmer who has not purchased the seeds, the farmer can be charged with patent infringement. Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers in this type of situation, despite the fact that such contamination is most often a completely uncontrollable event.

From a marketplace standpoint, the risk of contamination was made abundantly clear in 2013 when unapproved varieties of GE wheat were found in a field in Oregon. The backlash resulted in Japan ceasing its purchase of US wheat and the EU testing all US wheat imports, causing major economic repercussions for US wheat farmers. Monsanto ultimately settled a lawsuit with various wheat growing associations giving wheat growers just over $3 million to make up for lost revenue.
 
The introduction of GE wheat will result in the degradation of the integrity of US wheat both in domestic and international markets. Wheat is a major export crop for the United States, with over 25 million metric tons exported this past year. Since many countries will not import GE wheat, its introduction would significantly threaten this export market.

The introduction of GE wheat will likely contaminate the domestic supply of wheat, as the US supply chain is not prepared to handle the segregation of non-GE and GE wheat. An economic analysis shows that the cost to establish multiple supply chains would greatly increase the price of wheat, threatening US wheat’s market viability at home and abroad. Yet, segregation would be the only way to prevent contamination of our wheat supply.

Current consumer preferences are increasingly shifting towards non-GMO and organic. Rather than buy GE wheat or contaminated conventional wheat, purchasers and consumers will be likely to look to foreign imports, other grain varieties, and/or organic wheat as an alternative. Such a shift would drastically threaten the economic viability of the American breadbasket.

Sugar beet farmers are already experiencing a loss of market share as more and more companies are responding to consumer demand and transitioning to non-GMO and organic. If US farmers transition en masse to GE wheat, any hypothetical financial benefits would very likely be short-lived as the domestic markets continue to shift away from GMOs.
 
Take collective action to “protect the final frontier” and stop the introduction and commercialization of genetically engineered wheat, including varieties developed from gene-editing (link to blog explaining gene editing). Growers must move away from the use of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemical inputs. Consumers need to encourage the growth of organic wheat production in the US and promote a shift towards sustainable, regenerative agricultural methods that prioritize soil health, carbon sequestration, and environmental stewardship.
  1. Stop the Development of GE Wheat
  2. Decrease the Use of Chemical Inputs
  3. Promote a Shift to Organic and Regenerative Agriculture

 
GE wheat has not been approved for cultivation, consumption, or sale. Green America is monitoring the approval of GE wheat and will keep this page updated with its current status. Should GE wheat move forward in the approval process, Green America will take action to oppose its approval.
 
GE wheat has not been approved for cultivation, consumption, or sale; therefore, there are not any food products on the market that contain GE wheat, though many packaged foods contain other GE ingredients, such as corn and soy. Since US citizens have yet to be granted the right-to-know what is in their food, the only way to avoid purchasing any GE ingredients is to look for organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, or the NSF International Non-GMO True North certification.
 
The “Stop GE Wheat” campaign is led by Green America, a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America represents consumers, businesses, and farmers, and works with allies across the globe.
 
If you would like to support the campaign or get more involved in our work to build a more sustainable food system, please contact Jes Walton, Food Campaigns Director, at jwalton@greenamerica.org. We would love to hear from you!