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Do consumers have a right to know where their food comes from? What if there is a federal law decreeing that they have that right? Not anymore. None of that matters. International trade treaties — nowadays often negotiated in secret — trump United States law aimed at protecting consumers.
Here are some reports of possible interest to environmental journalists from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Congress does not release them to the public, but the Union of Concerned Scientists' Government Secrecy Project does.Topics on the Beat:
In this issue: Taking readers on a journey; award winner focuses on eco damage being done now; investigative reporting can produce a ‘higher obligation’; effects of climate change on journalism; report probes multiple sources of global mercury pollution; studying smaller newspapers; basing coverage on scientific evidence; farm bill’s future environmental impacts; book reviews; and more.SEJ Publication Types:
Investigative reporting in the environmental area depends on the Freedom of Information Act. The latest exposé on GMO lobbying in the New York Times by double-Pulitzer-winner Eric Lipton is a good example.
The Center for Food Safety has sued the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service under the Freedom of Information Act for withholding information on genetically modified crops (GMOs), after unsuccessfully seeking information over a period of 13 years.
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.
"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.
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The Congressional Research Service, a taxpayer-funded agency, produces a steady stream of fact-filled and objective background reports on many issues of interest to environment and energy reporters but refuses to share them with the public. But there are other ways to access them...