WatchDog TipSheet

Food Industry Heavyweights Spend Big To Lobby Against Transparency

The battleground over transparency on food origins and ingredients is much wider than labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, as journalist Elizabeth Grossman points out in a recent piece in Civil Eats. It includes labelling food products for country-of-origin or the use of pesticides.

Food Safety Group Sues Ag Department for FOIA'd Records on GMO Crops

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has sued the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for withholding information on genetically modified crops (GMOs), after unsuccessfully seeking information over a period of 13 years.

CAMEO Still Making Appearance as First Responders Face Hazmats

CAMEO is a free and publicly available suite of applications useful to reporters. Developed by the U.S. EPA and NOAA, it includes information about the hazards of various chemicals, as well as map overlays that may show how close a spill site is to the nearest facility of interest, such as a nursery school or retirement home.

State Judge Orders Disclosure of Maryland Oil Train Data

A Maryland state judge this month ordered a state agency to give news media routing information about oil trains within Maryland — adding momentum to efforts to warn firefighters and communities about dangers they face. Photo: 2013 Lac Megantic, Quebec, disaster, by Elias Schewel/Flickr.

Lustgarten Says Data on Who Gets Ag Subsidies Is Rare as Hens' Teeth

Abrahm Lustgarten (left) wrote a nine-part series delving into farm subsidies and water policy. But his efforts to get the actual names of farm subsidy recipients or individual water users were largely thwarted. Read how info flows less quickly to the public than money and water flow to farmers in SPJ's FOI blog. Photo credit: Lars Klove.

Still Interested? Some Feds Hope You Will Give Up on FOIA Requests

Federal agencies sometimes wait years to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, then ask if they are still interested in receiving the requested information. Now the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy has issued an official "guidance" that frowns slightly on overuse of the "still interested?" practice.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho "Ag-Gag" Law as Unconstitutional

"The facts show the state's purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics," district Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote. Sometimes investigative journalists need to go undercover. And sometimes muckraking journalists need undercover whistleblowers to tip them to abuses.

53 Journalism Groups Ask Obama To End Press Office Blockades

SEJ, which has complained about press-office restrictions for years, joined over 50 other journalism groups in signing an Aug 10, 2015 letter requesting government transparency — again. The groups had sent a letter to the White House in July 2014, a followup in Aug 2014, resulting in a non-response response from the WH later that month.

Are Health Warnings on Soda Unconstitutional? Industry Says Yes

The American Beverage Association, California State Outdoor Advertising Association and California Retailers Association sued San Francisco for requiring health warnings on advertisements for certain sugary beverages when posted on city property, saying it violates their First Amendment rights.

Filming in Parks and Forests: The Alaskan Angle

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (pictured) has proposed a bill that would (among other things) set a flat $200 annual fee to permit unlimited shooting by small film crews. Now E&E Daily reports Murkowski's filmmaker nephew faced the fees-and-permits barrier when he wanted to shoot near her father's home, surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.

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