Contact Info Resources Home FAQ Calendar Tools of the Trade Strategy and Planning Just Starting Home
SEARCH

WRITING FOR THE MEDIA
Sample Editorial Board Letters

Check out some sample letters on:

  • Organic foods
  • Forests
  • World trade
  • Climate change

  • Mining
    Sample Editorial Board Letter #1

    April 17, 1998

    Dear Journalist:

    As you are undoubtedly aware, the very definition of "organic" food is at risk of being rendered meaningless by the first-ever set of national organic certification standards proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The public comment period on the proposed rule was extended as a result of strong public criticism after the draft standards were released last December. The comment period closes at the end of this month.

    The idea behind the standardization of organic labels is a good one. It was long sought by the very producers the standards would affect. (How many industries ask the government to provide regulations for their business?) But the government has completely missed the mark.

    Today, more and more of us are concerned about what is in the food we eat, how it was grown, and what it means for our health and the health of the environment. Organic foods have become a $4 billion industry, and an ever increasing number of consumers are choosing to buy organic at the grocery store. Agricultural practices and livestock production are changing radically. We have more choices than ever before about what we eat, where food comes from, and how it is made.

    Here's the bad news: The Clinton Administration's federal agencies produced a draft set of proposed "organic" standards that completely undermine our ability to differentiate between a genetically altered tomato grown on toxic sewage sludge and one grown naturally, without pesticides. The rules also threaten the rapidly growing and robust $4 billion a year organic industry itself.

    Ignoring the recommendations made by the National Organic Standards Board (created by USDA seven years ago to help draft the new standards) the proposed rule would allow some very 'unnatural,' decidedly non-organic practices to be included under the term "certified organic."

    The USDA proposal would stamp "organic" on food that has been:

    • Fertilized with municipal sludge (reprocessed human and animal waste which can contain toxic wastes and heavy metals);
    • Irradiated (using radioactive waste to kill off bacteria);
    • Genetically engineered (foods that are genetically altered to produce pesticides internally, cross-bred species such as pigs with human genes, tomatoes with flounder genes, and fruits and vegetables with virus or bacteria genes);
    • Fed synthetic antibiotics, and raised in confined indoor corporate farming operations with thousands of animals.
    Those agricultural practices may be fine for many producers and consumers, but they are hardly what the average consumer would consider "organic."

    As if the problems just cited aren't enough to make you skip lunch, the USDA proposal also threw open the question of whether or not "genuine" organic farmers would be able to label their produce to reflect its more authentically "organic" content.

    In other words, genuine organic farmers might not be allowed to specify that their steak was not irradiated, apples were not grown on toxic sludge, potatoes were not genetically altered, or that when you eat their chicken you are not also getting a dose of antibiotics. If the label simply says that it's "USDA Certified Organic," you will not really know what you are buying.

    Your readers have a right to know whether they are buying green beans grown on untreated human waste, corn whose genes have been altered to include a bacterial toxin that kills pests, or meat that's been exposed to high levels of radiation when they shop "organic."

    This may be the last chance for consumers, public health advocates, organic farmers and retailers to tell the Clinton White House, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and Congress to revise these proposed standards.

    Consumers expect and deserve honesty in labeling, and a right to informed choice in the food we eat.

    Enclosed are some materials that explain in greater detail the key problems with the USDA's proposed standards. Please feel free to call me or Jennifer Kelly at 202/463-6670 with any questions. We can also assist in locating leaders in the organic farming or retail community, or experts from the scientific or food safety field.

    Sincerely,

    Name
    Title/Affiliation


    Sample Editorial Board Letter #2

    December 17, 1998

    Dear Editorial Writer:

    Every time a tree in our national forests is logged the people of the United States lose money. In 1996 alone the Congressional Research Service reported that U.S. taxpayers lost an estimated $800 million in direct costs from the U.S. Forest Service's logging program. But, unlike other heavily subsidized programs, these losses violate numerous laws which require that the logging program make economic sense.

    Today an historic law suit was filed in Federal District Court Burlington, Vermont, challenging logging in National Forests on economic grounds. This is the first lawsuit of its kind, offering a clear contrast with previous suits which have challenged the U.S. Forest Service's logging program by highlighting wildlife, clean water and other ecological concerns. Plaintiffs have asked the court to find the logging program illegal nationwide which may lead to the suspension of the program. A motion for summary judgement will be filed on January 15 and a ruling may come as early as February 5, 1999.

    We would like to invite you to participate in a telephone briefing today, December 17, 1998 with plaintiffs' lead counsel, a plaintiff and a leading natural resources economist. We are holding two briefings -- at 1:00 PM Eastern Standard Time and 4:00 Eastern Standard Time to accommodate interested parties from all time zones. If you would like to participate, please call Charles Longer at Fenton Communications, (202) 822-5200 x223.

    Under current law, the Forest Service is required to show that the socioeconomic values associated with logging exceed the socioeconomic values associated with leaving the trees standing. This includes direct costs to the taxpayers as well as indirect costs to the Federal Treasury, businesses, communities and individuals. The law also requires the Forest Service to disclose all costs and benefits of the logging program in its annual budget submission to congress. This suit contends that the Forest Service routinely fails to fulfill any of these legal requirements.

    We urge you to consider writing an editorial that points out the economic folly of the Forest Service's logging program, and the negative financial impacts it has had on communities and the nation as a whole. If you would like any further information or would like to speak with someone involved in the lawsuit please call me at 202/822-5200 x 220.

    Sincerely,

    Name
    Title/Affiliation


    Sample Editorial Board Letter #3

    April 10, 1998

    Dear Editorial Editor:

    A ruling by the World Trade Organization this week against a U.S. environmental law raises important questions about future public support for President Clinton's international trade policies.

    Polls show that nearly 90 percent of Americans want environmental concerns balanced in any free trade agreement. When the U.S. signed onto the WTO four years ago, the Clinton Administration promised such balance, but it hasn't happened. Now many environmental groups that have been supportive of free trade are very frustrated with the Clinton Administration's trade policies.

    Given that the President lost a major battle on trade when 'fast track' authority was not reauthorized by Congress, the implications of eroding American support for trade for future free trade agreements - like the renegotiation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that will begin soon - are important.

    The bellwether WTO ruling came in response to a complaint by four Asian nations against a U.S. law which requires that shrimp be caught in nets which provide an escape hatch for endangered sea turtles.

    The ruling ignored science. Sea turtles are severely threatened, and drowning in shrimp nets is a major cause of death. Turtle escape hatches are very effective at preventing drownings.

    The ruling ignored economics. Turtle excluder devices cost as little as $75, they can last forever and they help reduce fuel costs for boats. The U.S. has been actively sharing the devices with many nations and often gives them away - hardly the act of a nation trying to prevent open trade.

    Of greatest concern, the WTO ruling ignored it's own charter. A provision in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade specifically allows nations to act to protect endangered natural resources as long as the law applies inside its borders as well as outside. Such has been the case here since 1989.

    The formal ruling was handed down to the U.S. this past Monday, April 6. Despite the clear injustice of the ruling, however, the U.S. has yet - as of four days later - to decide if it even wants to APPEAL the ruling. This is an important moment for the future of U.S. trade policy. Responsibility lies squarely with the Clinton Administration to push for changes in the WTO or face the consequences at home.

    The enclosed statement and news articles provide background on the ruling. Regardless of your newspapers position on free trade agreements, I hope you'll find that this is an important moment to revisit the issue. Please call if I can supply more information or connect you with experts on this case.

    Sincerely,

    Name
    Title/Affiliation


    Sample Editorial Board Letter #4

    December 3, 1997

    Name
    Editorial Page Editor
    Star Tribune
    425 Portland Ave., South
    Minneapolis, MN 55488-0001

    Dear Name,

    As I'm sure you're aware, representatives from 160 nations have gathered in Kyoto, Japan for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. And what should have been a cooperative negotiation about the affects and potential solutions to global warming, has become a debate about the economic dangers of energy-efficiency measures. Critics claim that even minor reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions could cost the American economy $250 billion per year. Such questionable declarations have shifted the debate away from careful considerations of possible solutions to a discussion about whose economic assumptions and forecasts are right.

    That's a shame, because a recent study by the Transportation Organization and the Environmental Organization found that increasing fuel efficiency standards to 45 miles per gallon for cars (mpg) and 34 mpg for light trucks by 2008 would save the United States more than $200 billion in petroleum costs over the next ten years---a move which would significantly slash CO2 emissions at the same time. The average American family would save $2,160 on gas over that first ten years---the equivalent of nearly one car payment every year. After 20 years, at full phase-in, American families will save on average about $590 annually or $60 billion a year. The money we save can be reinvested elsewhere in the economy rather than spent on largely imported oil.

    Blind Spot: The Big Three's Attack on the Global Warming Treaty, clearly shows that American fuel economy standards--which haven't changed since Gerald Ford was president--could be increased from 27.5 to 45 miles per gallon for cars, and 34 mpg for light trucks with existing available (and affordable) technologies, contrary to what Ford, GM and Chrysler would have us believe. Indeed, the technology would raise the cost of a car by only about $770 at most, an expense fuel savings would pay for in a little over a year.

    Americans are willing to make accommodations for our global environment. A recent Newsweek poll found that 63%of Americans say the greenhouse effect can be reduced in ways that will not hurt the economy; 82% would pay more for an energy-efficient appliance; 74% would buy a car with better fuel economy; and 51% would pay 12 cents more for gasoline.

    In Kyoto, the U.S. has recommended reducing greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2012. Increasing fuel efficiency alone could decrease vehicle emissions by 36 million tons per year, nearly half the amount needed to reach 1990 levels. Transportation is responsible for 30 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions which are growing at a rate of about 3 percent a year, mainly because Americans are driving bigger vehicles further. Clean technology, is adaptable to any vehicle, so larger vehicles---like sport utility vehicles and trucks which car companies insist Americans prefer---can be made environmentally friendly, more economical to drive and remain affordable.

    In fact, Toyota's hybrid gasoline-electric car---the Prius---which will be sold in Japan this fall, gets 70-miles-per-gallon and will produce only half the emissions of a (currently) standard car (see enclosed clip). In addition, engineering students at the University of California-Davis have built a Ford Taurus---hardly a matchbox-sized car and already a best-seller in America---which gets 50 mpg.

    It is time we at least put the proposition of higher fuel efficiency standards on the table. But, American car companies have successfully blocked an increase in corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) since 1975. And as in 1975, the auto industry claims that increasing CAFE now would bankrupt the industry, cost thousands of jobs, make the cars drivers prefer prohibitively expensive and give unfair advantages to the competition.

    These same arguments have also been used against now-standard features such as seat belts, turn signals and air bags, (the report contains an interesting historical recounting of what car companies have said over the years about what they couldn't do), demonstrating Detroit's traditional resistance to modernization or change in the name of safety or energy efficiency. In the debate over the 1990 Clean Air Act for example, auto industry officials claimed further decreasing emissions would "be financially ruinous" for the business. Well, carmakers are complying with the Amendments and over the last three years, the Big Three have posted record profits of almost $40 billion. If we are worried about American jobs, perhaps we should be worried about the jobs we'll lose as other companies take the lead in the "clean" car revolution.

    For more information, please fell free to contact co-sponsors of the report, Name, executive director of the Transportation Organization at (phone); or Name, president of the Environmental Organization at (phone). If you need other information feel free to call me at phone.

    Sincerely,

    Name
    Title/Affiliation

    Back to Editorial Boards.


  • Environmental Media Services
    1320 18th Street, NW, Suite 500
    Washington, DC 20036
    (202) 463-6670
    ems@ems.org

    ©1999 Environmental Media Services