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.’
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.