by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Chemicals

Jul 17 2019

Externalized costs of Big Ag: The Wall Street Journal explains

High marks to the The Wall Street Journal for its story about the externalized costs of agricultural runoff into the Mississippi River.

The article is interactive.  Take a look.

It traces how agriculture pollutes 2300 miles of the Mississippi river from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. through a “”journey downriver [that] reveals how the agricultural industry is contributing to one of the nation’s biggest ecological disasters.”

Every summer, nutrients from the Mississippi pour into the Gulf, fueling algae blooms that starve the water of oxygen and kill sea life. Heavy rainfall throughout the Mississippi River watershed this spring led to record-high river flows, boosting nitrate and phosphorus loads. As a result, scientists predict this year’s “dead zone” will total 7,829 square miles, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts, and close to the record set in 2017.

The pollution starts in Minnesota, and you can see where it comes from.

Along the way, nitrates accumulate in the water.  Iowa alone releases hundreds of thousands of tons of nitrates into the Mississippi every year.

The externalized costs?

  • For communities along the way, it’s loss of potable water, construction of plants to remove nitrates from the water, dependence of bottled water, and higher water costs overall.
  • For the Gulf of Mexico, it’s a enormous dead zone that prevents fishing and recreation.

Do the polluters pay?  No.  Taxpayers do.  That’s why the costs are called “externalized.”

No wonder Big Ag opposes environmental regulations.

 

Feb 14 2019

Some hopeful news on the chemicals-in-food front

Three items for a happy Valentine’s day

I.  Food animal producers are using fewer antibiotics

According to a report from the FDA, U.S. sales of antibiotic drugs decreased:

  • By 33% from 2016 through 2017.
  • By 43% from 2015 (the year of peak sales) through 2017.
  • By 28% from 2009 (the first year of reported sales) through 2017.

Of antibiotic drugs sold, these estimated percentages were intended for use in these animals

  • 42% for cattle
  • 36% for pigs
  • 12% for turkeys
  • 5% for chickens
  • 5% for other species or unknown

These percentages of these antibiotic drugs were intended for use in cattle

  • 80% of cephalosporins
  • 72% of sulfas
  • 48% of aminoglycocides
  • 44% of tetracyclines

These were intended for use in swine

  • 84% of lincosamides
  • 40% of macrolides

These were intended for use in turkey

61% of penicillins

II.  The Farm Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts have produced this framework for judicious use of antibiotics.

III.  USDA tests for pesticide residues mostly find low levels

USDA has issued its annual summary report on the results of its pesticide sampling of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.

The good news: Half the samples tested had no detectable residues.

But try and get your head around this:

Three samples of kale (2 from California and 1 imported from Mexico) contained residues of 17 pesticides.

Excuse me, but 17 different pesticides to grow kale?

OK, “none of the residues found on the kale samples exceeded the established tolerances,” but still.

Could be worse, but could be a lot better.

Organics, anyone?

Jan 29 2019

My latest honor: “Crankster!”

I don’t usually pay attention to what the American Council for Science and Health (ACSH) says or does, mainly because it is a long-standing front group for the food and chemical industries, and it predictably supports the interests of those industries over public health (see US Right to Know’s analysis).

But then I read this from the Center on Media and Democracy: Corporate Front Group, American Council on Science and Health, Smears List of Its Enemies as “Deniers for Hire.”

Smeared by the site are scientists Tyrone Hayes, Stephanie Seneff, and Gilles-Éric Séralini; New York Times reporter Danny Hakim and columnist Mark Bittman; well-known food and science writer Michael Pollan; nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle; public interest groups like U.S. Right to Know, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, the Environmental Working Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists; past and present CMD staff, and many other individuals ACSH does not like.

Clearly, I’m in good company.  But what, exactly, have I—a “Crankster,” apparently—done to deserve this honor?  It seems that I:

What can I say?  Read my work and decide for yourself if such concerns are justified.