In the midst of the domestic energy boom, livestock on farms near oil-and-gas drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying, according to the latest report by Food & Environment Reporting Network. Elizabeth Royte wrote the cover story, “What the Frack Is in our Food,” for the December 17, 2012, issue of The Nation magazine.
“In Pennsylvania, the oil and gas industry is already on a tear—drilling thousands of feet into ancient seabeds, then repeatedly fracturing (or ‘fracking’) these wells with millions of gallons of highly pressurized, chemically laced water, which shatters the surrounding shale and releases fossil fuels,” Royte writes. “New York, meanwhile, is on its own natural-resource tear, with hundreds of newly opened breweries, wineries, organic dairies and pastured livestock operations—all of them capitalizing on the metropolitan area’s hunger to localize its diet. But there’s growing evidence that these two impulses, toward energy and food independence, may be at odds with each other.”
The story, the first in-depth look at the potential impact of fracking on food, cites the first and only peer-reviewed report, published earlier this year, suggesting a possible link between fracking and illness in food animals. It includes 24 case studies of farmers in shale-gas states whose livestock have experienced neurological, reproductive, and acute gastrointestinal problems after being exposed—either accidentally or incidentally—to fracking chemicals in the water or air. Read more
The latest report by the Food & Environment Reporting Network takes a look at how the American Farm Bureau Federation leads the charge against efforts to limit industrial-scale food production and has become the single most powerful farm lobby in the nation, accounting for 45 percent of all agriculture-related lobbying dollars over the last decade. Read more
When it comes to the chemicals used in food packaging, there is much we still don’t know. After a recent U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) decision last month to not put further restrictions on bisphenol-A (BPA), a new report today in the Washington Post takes a closer look at studies that reveal that such endocrine-distrupting chemicals are not only ubiquitous, they might also be harmful at much lower doses than previously thought. Read more
For years, agriculture and the food system have been critically under-reported subjects in the media. Take for example earlier this year, when Gannett (the parent company of USA Today) laid off Phillip Brasher, one of the last reporters covering agriculture issues in Washington, D.C. Thanks to a public outcry (and in part to reporting here on Civil Eats and elsewhere) he was rehired. However, this made clear that the desire for food reporting is not being sufficiently met by the current media structure.
The Food & Environment Reporting Network, a journalism non-profit for investigative reporting in the area of food, agriculture, and environmental health, which launches operations today, is seeking to reverse this trend. Read more