A new report shows toxins from Providers to companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing life die or to leave
The international meat industry, already implicated in forcing global warming and deforestation, has now been blamed for fueling what’s expected to be the worst dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.
Toxins from manure and fertiliser pouring into waterways are exacerbating huge, harmful algal blooms that produce oxygen-deprived stretches of the gulf, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, according to a new report by Mighty, an environmental group chaired by former congressman Henry Waxman.
It is anticipated that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) will this week announce the largest ever recorded dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to be larger than the nearly 8,200 square-mile region that was prediction for July that an expanse of water roughly the size of New Jersey.
Nutrients flowing into the sea, rivers and streams from agriculture and wastewater stimulate an overgrowth. This leads to hypoxia, or absence of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die.
Some animals, such as shrimp, suffer stunted growth. Algal blooms themselves may cause problems, as in Florida last summer when many beaches were shut as soon as they became coated in foul-smelling green slime.
Americas vast appetite for meat is driving much of the pollution, based on Mighty, which blamed practices which are contaminating our water and destroying our landscape on a small number of businesses.
This issue is worsening and worsening and regulation isnt reducing the scope of this pollution, said Lucia von Reusner, campaign manager at Mighty. These companies practices will need to be far more sustainable. And a reduction in meat consumption is absolutely essential to decrease the burden.
The Mighty report found that a highly industrialized and centralized factory farm system resulted in vast tracts of native grassland in the midwest being converted into corn and soy to feed livestock and examined supply chains of agribusiness and pollution trends. Lands can wash away bringing fertilisers into waterways.
Arkansas-based Tyson Foods is identified by the report as a dominant influence in the pollution, due to its market strength in beef, poultry and pork. Tyson, which provides the likes of McDonalds and Walmart, slaughters 125,000 head of cattle and hens each week, requiring five million acres of corn a year for feed, according to the report.
This consumption led to Tyson producing 55m tons of manure last year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with 104m tons of pollutants dumped into waterways over the last decade. The Mighty research found that the levels of nitrate contamination correlate with clusters of facilities operated by Tyson and Smithfield, another meat provider.
This pollution has also been associated with drinking water contamination. Last week, a report by Environmental Working Group found that in 2015 water systems serving seven million Americans in 48 states contained high levels of nitrates. Consuming nitrates has been linked to an increased risk of contracting certain cancers.
Substantial parts of America are being plowed up for corn and soy to raise meat, said von Reusner. There is very little regulation so we cant wait for that.
The agriculture sector has shown so we expect that expectations will be met by the meat companies on this it is responsive to consumer concerns about meat production.
The report urges Tyson and firms to use their clout to make certain that grain producers like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland employ practices that reduce pollution flowing into regions. These practices include being more efficient with fertilizers so plants aren’t doused in too many chemicals and not leaving dirt.
The US is an enormous consumer of meat, with the average American chewing through 211lbs in 2015. A study published earlier this year found that US beef consumption fell by nearly one fifth from 2005 to 2014, possibly due to concerns over health or the environment. A increase is currently expected.
According into the US Department of Agriculture, beef and pork production is forecast to grow significantly during the next decade, driven by lower feed costs and healthy demand. By 2025, the average American is expected to eat 219lbs of meat. Only 3% of Americans follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
This appetite for meat has driven the reduction of indigenous forests and grasslands in the US and overseas, releasing heat-trapping gases through practices. Agriculture produced 9% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to the EPA.
A spokesman for Cargill said the company was an industry leader for sustainable practices, pointing to address water air and soil quality in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.
Protein consumption is growing globally and we are currently working to meet consumer demand with sustainably and produced foods and supply chains, said the spokesman. We are dedicated to protecting animal welfare, reducing environmental impact, increasing and keeping workers and consumers safe.
We also continue to improve livestock feed efficiency. We have seen an overall trend in reducing the volume of feed for every pound of beef produced.
A Tyson spokeswoman said we dont agree with the groups characterization of our company but discuss its interest.
Its true the poultry and livestock sector is a major buyer of grain for feed, however, the report fails to note that a sizable proportion of corn raised in the US is used for biofuel and that a substantial part is used for human consumption, she added.
Tyson Foods is focused on continuous improvement. We are constantly seeking to improve and direct the industry, so that we can deliver food that is sustainable at a scale that matters to the world to people every day.
Archer Daniels Midland were contacted for comment before publication.
- This article was amended on 1 August 2017 to clarify a previous version of this standfirst that incorrectly identified the source of the toxins.
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