TAINTED FOOD: HOW THE FOOD WE EAT IS CONTAMINATED BY OUR WASTE

by Gunnar Eigener

“But if you’re gonna dine with them cannibals, sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten….”
Nick Cave

GMO agriculture regularly grab the headlines, whether it’s talk of ‘frankenfoods’ or the ability to generate larger crop yields. This has taken the focus away from an issue that is becoming increasingly detrimental to global health: the entry of industrial waste into the food cycle and human consumption.

GMOs, while unpopular, have been genetically altered so as to maximise the success rate of production of crops. This will save lives, enabling crops to grow in conditions that would normally tend to push harvests towards failure. The changing of weather patterns have created new wet and dry points, affecting crop cycles and affecting the amount of food available for communities already living close to the edge. But water is becoming an issue. Only about 3% of the world’s water is freshwater and with companies like Nestle being allowed to extract vast quantities from aquifiers for minimal cost, alternatives are being sought be provide enough water for crop irrigation.

California has, in recent years, suffered from drought and so allowed the treatment of industrial wastewater so that it could be recycled. While there are a number of alarmist stories and while much testing has not provided any substantial evidence of contamination, it serves to look at past events. Chevron said that testing showed no heavy metals or chemical toxins in the water it sells to Kern county for example. However, this is the same Chevron-Texaco that, between 1964 and 1992, dumped 18.5 billion gallons of toxic water into the Amazon rainforest.

(California's drought, via huffingtonpost)

(California’s drought, via huffingtonpost)

In Pakistan, according to the Society or Environmental Geochemistry and Health (SEGH), ‘almost 80% of water used in towns and cities ultimately adopts the form of Sewage Water’. Globally, the estimated median of wastewater treated by effective water treatment plants varies depending on the area. For North America it is 90% while in Europe it is 66% but for Asia, it is only 35%, according to a joint WHO/UNICEF report.

There is also a risk to livestock. A study complied by Robert Oswald & Michelle Bamberger, from Cornell University, found that there were incidents of illnesses, reproductive and neurological problems that could possibly have been a result of fracking chemicals. Risks involved wastewater from the fracking process leaking into grazing fields. Even animals that do survive risk carrying the chemicals in their meat, later consumed by humans. In addition, water from livestock farms that seeps into the ground and risks entering aquifers, also contains antibiotics.

Even animals that do survive risk carrying the chemicals in their meat, later consumed by humans.

Industrial companies are not held accountable by politicians, many of whom receive a lot of money from these very companies as in the form of donations, such as California representative Kevin McCarthy who received over $300,000.  Legislation is put in place by organisations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which help foster strong connections between industry representatives and politicians, enabling the creation of favourable legislation in commercial terms.

(via Yahoo)

(via Yahoo)

Globalisation and trade deals will enable the spread of contaminated goods. Isolated cases certainly gather some media attention and governments present a carefully gift-wrapped scapegoat along with assurances that this will never happen again. History suggests that this will not remain the case. According to SEGH, at least one-tenth of the world’s population is consuming food that has been potentially contaminated by toxic industrial wastewater.

Governments need to do more and the only way for this to happen is for pressure to be put on them. Pressure can come in a number of ways. Local politicians need to hear from concerned constituents. Local and national watchdog groups need to be aware of products being sold that can be potentially bad for a person’s health. People should take care of where their products come from and be more aware of what they are consuming.

Governments need to do more and the only way for this to happen is for pressure to be put on them.

The effects of tainted foods are long-coming but long-lasting. While the public does have a responsibility to itself, we also have to make sure that companies don’t get away with murder. Fighting when something has already happened does not save those already affected. Preventable measures making governments take action to enforce strict regulations will go a long way towards removing yet another threat we face as a result of corporate greed.

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