How is fracking affecting farming and the food supply. Elizabeth Royte’s in-depth article, Fracking Our Food Supply is excerpted here.
“Schilke’s troubles began in the summer of 2010, when a crew working at this site continued to force drilling fluid down a well that had sprung a leak. Soon, Schilke’s cattle were limping, with swollen legs and infections. Cows quit producing milk for their calves; they lost from sixty to eighty pounds in a week; and their tails mysteriously dropped off.”
… “ ‘There are a variety of organic compounds, metals and radioactive material that are of human health concern when livestock meat or milk is ingested,’ says Motoko Mukai, a veterinary toxicologist at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. These ‘compounds accumulate in the fat and are excreted into milk. Some compounds are persistent and do not get metabolized easily.’
Among the case studies uncovered were seventeen cows that died of suspected respiratory failure after exposure to spilled frack fluid in Louisiana, and around seventy cows in Pennsylvania that died after 140 animals were reportedly exposed to frack wastewater – of the surviving cows, less than a dozen produced calves, and only three survived. Another Pennsylvania herd recorded a 50% stillbirth rate after cows had grazed in fields contaminated by fracking chemicals spilling from a waste pit; the following year saw an abnormally skewed sex ratio, with ten female and two male calf births, as opposed to the typical 50:50 ratio.
Oswald told The Ecologist that if fracking goes ahead in the UK, ‘farmers living in intensively drilled areas should be very concerned about potential exposures of their crops and herds to shale gas contaminants in the water, air and soil.’
Much of the land sitting on top of the giant underground Marcellus shale field in New York State that is targeted for gas drilling using hydrofracking is active farmland. Fracking this land has the potential to disrupt farming productivity, endanger livestock health and affect produce and livestock quality. It presents a huge danger to our food supply.
Below are some of the many reasons why fracking and farming are incompatible.
reprinted from Catskill Mountainkeeper
The adverse impacts of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, include increases in noise, dust, light pollution, air pollution, traffic on and damage to country roads, damage to fields, loss of productive acres, interference with wildlife habitat, social impacts due to influx of transitory workers, loss of recreation opportunities, potential water shortages, chemical spills on farmland and into surface waters, and reduction in property values. The danger of irreversible contamination of groundwater and resulting loss of wells used for watering livestock, irrigating crops and domestic consumption is our most serious concern.
In many ways, fracking is not compatible with the safe, healthy production of wholesome food. If fracking is to be done, it must be carried out with extreme care by operators and with effective, impartial oversight strictly enforced by a regulatory body that makes the health of Albertans and our environment the top priority. We submit our comments in this spirit.
Alberta farmers who live near fracking installations lose the peace, quiet and beauty of their countryside. There is more noise, dust, light pollution, air pollution, traffic on and damage to country roads, damage to fields, loss of productive acres, interference with wildlife habitat, loss of recreation opportunities, potential water shortages, chemical spills on farmland and into surface waters, and reduction in property values. It is more time-consuming and costly to work land that is criss-crossed by fracking infrastructure. Emissions from wells and equipment may be hazardous to the health of people and animals. There is ever-present worry about the danger of irreversible contamination of groundwater and the resulting loss of wells for watering livestock, irrigating crops and domestic consumption.
Perhaps even more offensive than the tangible burdens that fracking imposes on farmers, are the attempts to silence and intimidate concerned rural citizens. The ERCB has a history of limiting access to its hearings by defining “affected party” very narrowly, thus denying voice to many who have legitimate concerns.
The NFU submission to the ERCB is framed by our call that its new regulatory approach be guided by the Precautionary Principle, “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation,” as Canada agreed to in the 1992 Rio Declaration.
The proposal would see the Agricultural Land Commission cease to be an independent agency, instead coming under the control of the Agriculture Ministry, while handing “primary authority” to authorize industrial activity on agricultural land to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, reported the Globe and Mail.
Alberta cattle rancher Howard Hawkwood has a beef with the local fracking industry. He’s convinced the controversial technique for gas extraction is responsible for killing off 18 of his cows and large swaths of his property near Airdrie, Alberta.
“These are the dead spots in the field, where my cows have urinated. This all showed up last spring…We’ve actually taken soil samples of the dead spot and a sample from a foot and a half away and we’ve got high levels of radon, barium, uranium, strontium, and magnesium is extremely high.”
A new peer-reviewed study finds that milk production and milk cows decreased in Pennsylvania counties where shale gas drilling is most prevalent.
From the abstract:
Unconventional natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has accelerated over the past five years, and is unlikely to abate soon. Dairy farming is a large component of Pennsylvania’s agricultural economy. This study compares milk production, number of cows, and production per cow in counties with significant unconventional drilling activity to that in neighboring counties with less unconventional drilling activity, from 1996 through 2011. Milk production and milk cows decreased in most counties since 1996, with larger decreases occurring from 2007 through 2011 (when unconventional drilling increased substantially) in five counties with the most wells drilled compared to six adjacent counties with fewer than 100 wells drilled.
This peer-reviewed study by veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Veterinary Medicine Professor of Pharmacology Robert Oswald, both of Cornell University, is the first scientific study to investigate reports of animal health impacts associated with shale gas development. The study is based on interviews with animal owners who live near gas drilling operations. It also documents associations between health symptoms experienced by animals and the health problems suffered by humans. The findings illustrate which aspects of the drilling process may lead to health problems and suggest modifications that would lessen but not eliminate impacts.
Bamberger and Oswald conclude, “Without rigorous scientific studies, the gas drilling boom sweeping the world will remain an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale.”
Their names are Carol, Steve & Jackie, Susan, Marilyn & Robert, and Christine. They share a bond. Two bonds, actually: They all own, or owned, farms. And those farms, along with their own health and the health of their farm animals, have all been ruined by fracking.