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Articles by Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer is the Western Region Director at Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group, for which she authored the report "Bridging the GAPS: Strategies to Improve Produce Safety, Preserve Farm Diversity and Strengthen Local Food Systems." She is also a regular contributor to the Ethicurean.

Featured Article

For sale? An old water tower in Hachita, New Mexico.Photo: Ryan Thomas

The history of the West is peppered with water cowboys. Just recall William Mulholland, whose role in Los Angeles’ secret grab of water from Owens Valley, Calif., was made famous in the movie Chinatown, or Colorado’s contemporary water baron, Aaron Million, who’s pushing a $3 billion, privately funded scheme to funnel water to Colorado’s Front Range. Experience has shown that with water comes power.

The unique properties of water — the fact that it is a limited resource required for survival and that it has no substitute — have made it a bitterly fought-over asset in the arid West. Westerners who want to protect their limited water supply realize how important it is to keep this public resource out of the hands of the water cowboys.

But a threat different from diversion has come to town. As communities struggle to balance their ever-shrinking budgets, investment firms and large, predominantly foreign companies are seizing the moment. Across the country, communities are being aggressively courted to sell or lease their drinking water and w... Read more

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  • Can Congress make a food-safety omelet without breaking the wrong eggs?

    Congress first started debating a new food-safety law two years and several massive food recalls ago. Meanwhile, rumors are flying about how S. 510 will outlaw organic practices or backyard gardening. Here's what the current bill could actually do -- for the FDA, eaters, farmers, and industry.

  • Time to save our nation’s dairy farmers

    This post orginally appeared on The Ethicurean. ——————— Did you see that movie Flash of Genius? It follows the unlucky Robert Kearns, played by Greg Kinnear, as he spends his life (and his savings) perfecting the intermittent windshield wiper, only to have his idea snared and used without credit by the Ford Motor Company. He […]

  • Why a Bush veto of the farm bill is bad for the food movement (and the world)

    My former boss in D.C. once said that if she ever found herself on the same side of an issue as the Bush administration, it was time to go back and look more closely: There must be a hidden agenda. That was the thought that struck me as I contemplated the administration's farm bill veto threat on Friday.

    I understand the calls from some in the sustainable-ag community to veto the farm bill (and thank Tom Philpott and the comment crew for outlining them). The argument appears to be that, while there were important wins, this farm bill does not include most of the bigger reforms we want, and the community would do better to support a veto and try again anew. I don't happen to agree; some of the reasons why are also outlined in Tom's post and the comments. But I respect the sustainable ag organizations that take this position.

    It all gets more complicated, though, when these groups find themselves on the same side of the veto issue as the Bush administration, which is not known for caring much about sustainability in any sense of the word. It gets extra-complicated when the phrase "subsidy reform" passes the lips of spokespeople from both the farmers-market complex and the agribusiness-industrial complex. This strange coalition of convenience was highlighted recently in a San Francisco Chronicle article by Carolyn Lochhead: "It is the rarest of moments: President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on a collision course over a giant farm bill, but it is Bush who is broadly aligned with liberal Bay Area activists pushing for reform, while the San Francisco Democrat is protecting billions of dollars in subsidies ..."