I just completed the book Fateful Harvest (2001) by Duff Wilson,
an investigative reporter from the Seattle Times.
I reveals an unbelievable story. According to Wilson, toxic waste
from industrial operations have been "recycled" and added to chemical
fertilizers and plant food for at least 25 years.
He began his investigations when Patty Martin, the former Mayor of Quincy,
Washington contacted him. Patty and a group of farmers teamed up to
fight agri-chemical companies (like Cenex) who were contaminating their
land with heavy metals and radio active materials, killing their crops,
livestock, and the soil. But they soon discovered that this practice was
not only legal but encouraged as a form of "recycling".
Here's a quote from the book which is Wilson's first Seattle Times news
article about the subject:
What's happening in Washington is happening around the United
States. The use of industrial toxic waste as a fertilizer ingredient is a
growing national phenomena...The Times found examples of wastes laden with heavy
metals being recycled into fertilizer to be spread across crop
In Gore, Okla. a uranium processing plant is getting rid of low-level
radioactive waste by licensing it as a liquid fertilizer and spraying it over
9000 aces of grazing land.
In Tifton County, Georgia, more than 1000 acres of peanut crops were
wiped out by a brew of hazardous waste and limstone stone sold to unsuspecting
farmers [meaning that organic farmers are also at risk since they are able
to apply limestone (brand name LimePlus) to the their soil].
And in Camas, Clark Country, highly corrosive lead-laced waste from a
pulp mill is hauled to southwestern Washington farms and spread over crops grown
for livestock consumption.
Any material that has fertilizing qualities can be labeled and used as a
fertilizer, even if it contains dangerous chemicals and heavy metals.
The wastes come from iron, zinc and aluminum smelting, mining, cement
kilns, the burning of medical waste and municipal wastes, wood-product slurries
and a variety of other heavy industries.
Federal and state governments encourage the practice in the name of
recycling and in fact, it has some benefits: Recycling waste as fertilizer
saves comparies money and conserves precious space in hazardous waste
Among the substances found in some recycled fertilizers are cadmium,
lead, arsenic, radionuclides and dioxins, at levels some scientists say may pose
a threat to human health. Although the health effects are widely disputed,
there is undisputed evidence the substances enter plant roots [and can
spread through the entire plant, that is eaten by humans and livestock].
Just as there are no conclusive data to prove a danger, there are none to
prove the safety of the practice.
In other nations, including Canada, that lack of certainty has led to
strict regulation. There, the approach is to limit toxic wastes in
fertilizer until the practice is proven safe. Here, the approach is to
allow it until it's proven unsafe.
Although experts disagree as to whether these fertilizers are a health
threat, most say further study is needed. Yet little is underway.
Personally, I was shocked by what I read in this book...I read it from cover
to cover in a couple of days.
I recommend the book to anyone who eats.
Evergreen State College