Danger: Chemical Agriculture!

Allison Hall

A problem facing modern society remains the use of chemicals in agriculture. While they provide some benefits, the negative aspects far outweigh the positive. Chemically modified agriculture poses a threat to humanity by contaminating livestock, poisoning plant life and contributing to the international phenomenon of global warming.

Modernly, farmers and livestock owners use growth hormones and other chemicals to rapidly grow animals to disperse the meat in bulk and quickly. These methods are used not only to help the animal to grow but also to bump up the speed to which they grow to profit both farmers and corporations. These chemicals pose not only a threat to the animals but also possibly to the people ingesting it. If the thought of humans ingesting excess growth hormone does not terrify you, then the idea that factories use substances such as ammonia to sterilize meats should. The real points are the idea that these animals do not get the proper treatment and care that they deserve and the ingestion of this meat could result in dangers. Most chickens raised for their meat lack the ability to walk or see by the time they are slaughtered for profit. These steroids have the capabilities of working on humans the way that it works on any other mammal. It is impossible to tell whether the hormones in the meats eaten are natural or not. According to Renu Ghandi and Suzanne M. Snedeker, authors of “Consumer Concerns about Hormones in Food”, “… it is not possible to differentiate between the hormones produced naturally by the animal and those used to treat the animal. This makes it “difficult to determine exactly how much of the hormone used for treatment remains in the meat or the milk.” This obviously raises questions, such as whether these added hormones are contributing to ailments such as cancers or obesity.

In relation to the contamination to meats, plants are suffering as well. Genetic engineering, pesticides and weed killers are being used to kill insects and weeds and enhance plant growth; however, it is being done in excess and at times not even hitting the intended target. Instead, it partakes in run-off which adds to the contamination of both water outlets and, yet again, animals. These chemicals travel from the plants to other location via rain and normal hydration methods. Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring says, “… chemicals sprayed on crop lands or forests or gardens lie long in soil, entering into living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death.” Not only does this harm animals, but it harms animals that, once again, humans consume. This is not the only draw back to chemicals in farming. As far as chemically modifying plants, it would have the same effect as modifying animals. These growth hormones and chemicals are present in food consumed by man. The effects may not be drastic immediately, but a slow build up is sure to be a problem.

It is no secret that the earth’s atmosphere has been altered in ways that could be both artificial as well as naturally produced. In fact, Carson wrote “The most alarming of all man’s assaults upon the environment is the contamination of air, earth, rivers, and sea with dangerous lethal materials.”  These chemical contaminating, pesticides in particular, contribute to global warming. They increase the carbon levels in the atmosphere which plays a hand in the rising heat levels. Carbon creates this sort of blanket that traps in heat. With no escape the rays from the sun bounce around in the earth’s atmosphere and cause rising heat levels. Yes, other things have become a problem in this regard, but in trying to fix the issue, chemical agriculture should be looked at.

In conclusion, using chemicals in our agriculture lessens the health accountability for both our animals and plants while also playing part in the demotion of atmospheric stability. It may, at this point, not be a possibility to completely outlaw the use of chemicals, but alternatives could be found and in the mean time the use of these chemicals can be lessened.

The Crisis in Flint…Coincidence or Environmental Racism?

Anthony Hamilton

By now we are all aware of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. There are an unacceptable amount of people in the city who are living below the poverty level and also over 60% of them happen to be African Americans. Whole families have been poisoned by drinking water that was never fit to drink, yet they’ve been fed this water for a period of time, and now there are many health problems beginning to show up because of this.

This story is actually not as new as one might think. It was first broken in 2014 that there was potential contamination in Flint’s water system. Al Jazeera America was first to break the story. The story was then largely ignored until recently when Flint became news again with residents showing the news samples of the brown water they are expected to drink, cook and bathe with, and it doesn’t appear to be fit for any type of human consumption.

The homes of Flint residents have been tested and their homes show there are 10 times the amount of lead that is considered the norm. As a result of this, members of the community who would wish to leave will not be able to sell their homes in any move, because it’s illegal to sell a home that has lead issues.

In all of this, it’s amazing that the Governor of Michigan isn’t indeed facing criminal charges over this situation. According to an article in archive.freep.com, Michigan has a 500 plus million dollar surplus, as well as a rainy day fund, yet the governor has said that removing the lead containing pipes is not even a priority to him. There is also strong evidence that he knew about the contamination as early as 2014 when he began shipping cases of bottled water to state employees but not everyday citizens.

When the first attempts to gather clean water for the residents of Flint, an amazing thing happened. Cher revealed, during an interview on CNN that she attempted to gather water for the citizens of Flint, and no American bottled water company was willing to donate any water to the poverty stricken, predominantly black community of Flint. Cher had to go outside of the United States to get water for them.

The Michigan National Guard was called in to distribute the water, but they declined taking it to the so-called worst areas of Flint, saying it would be too dangerous. This from people we would count on to help protect the U.S. during times of war.

The Flint police have also been using this situation to their advantage. According to articles on Bing.com/news and Trofire.com, under the guise of delivering water filters to the residents, they are in fact taking advantage of the opportunity to arrest those residents who have warrants. As an ex-law enforcement person, I do not agree with their actions at all.

According to westsidegazette.com as well as newpittsburgcourier.com, this disaster has indeed been labeled as a man-made disaster caused by the emergency manager that the state installed, in a cost-cutting measure that went horrible wrong, which again leads me to wonder why they are focused strictly on the emergency manager when he is simply a scapegoat meant to do the governor’s bidding.

When the change was made from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in 2014, the residents immediately began to complain about the smell and taste of their tap water, but they were largely ignored according to nytimes.com. Now they can no longer be ignored because they’re too black or too poor to have a voice. The entire world is now aware of what has been done.

Judge Greg Mathis, in an interview with journalist Roland Martin on Newsone Now likened this ordeal to a terrorist attack. “Every day, our homeland security’s biggest fear is terrorists poisoning the water,” Mathis said. “The Secretary of Defense talks nervously about it.” Mathis continues, “In this case, the government has poisoned the water, causing permanent loss of health.”

Mathis also speaks on the possibility of criminal charges in what he calls the poisoning of an American city.

Now there are children experiencing symptoms of lead poisoning, including headaches, anemia, dental problems and their internal organs not functioning properly. Adults are experiencing hair loss, skin disorders, and seizures as well as weakening of teeth and bones along with many potentially fatal cases of Legionnaires’ disease.

This whole situation is remarkably similar to the response to hurricane Katrina where the upscale areas of New Orleans immediately received aid, but those who, like the majority of Flint residents were poor, and less fortunate were left to fend for themselves and die. The same can be said for the residents of Flint.

I read an article on www.mlive.com about the General Motors plant in Flint having ceased using it for fear that it will corrode the metal, yet residents are expected to drink, cook and bathe in that water, and continue to receive water bills for water they can’t use.

I wonder how long this would have been allowed to go on and how quick it would be fixed were Flint an upscale community. Here’s to the hope that they receive justice, and those who perpetrated this tragedy upon the get what they deserve.

Pesticides in the Hive

Stephen Jones

Chemicals have been used for decades in order to ensure the growth and survival of crops essential to everyday life, but many of these chemicals are possibly affecting organisms outside of their intended targets, including the bee; an insect essential to the reproduction of various flowering plants. The chemicals scientists believe to be harmful to bees are known as neonicotinoids. These chemicals are synthetic derivatives of the widely used, naturally-occurring pesticide, nicotine.

bees

Bee populations are dramatically on the decline, and scientists are looking for what factors could be responsible for said decline. Dr. Chris Connolly and his colleagues conducted a study at Dundee’s School of Medicine consisting of a sample population of bees, and the conclusion suggests the decline in the bee population is partially due to neonicotinoids. In the study, Dr. Connolly found exposure to low levels of neonicotinoids caused a 55 percent reduction of the live bee population. Dr. Connolly states, “Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees.” Even though the pesticides did not kill the bees, the effects of the neurotoxins could still be seen through the examination of the bees’ brains and cells. As mentioned before, the bee population was exposed to low levels of neonicotinoids, resulting in the shutdown of mitochondria, the failure to recognize the scent of a flower, and the inability to remember their way back to the nest.

What is important to remember about the study is the scientists are not suggesting that insect neurotoxins are wholly at fault; but when looking at the results of this study, it is hard not to believe the aforementioned pesticides are not partially to blame. Dr. Connolly’s analysis is only one of many experiments looking into the side-effects of pesticides, and with the number of studies steadily growing; various national governments have started to take action concerning the use of pesticides within the environment. This past September, a US court reversed the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, due to data the court called “flawed and limited.” Although the court denied the use of sulfoxaflor, most neonicotinoids are still approved for use within the US; the situation is the polar opposite in the EU. The EU currently prohibits the use of most neonicotinoids and, as of July, allows the use of sulfoxaflor, even though the European Food Standards Authority believed the lack of information on sulfoxaflor does not exclude the possibility of a negative impact on the already deteriorating bee populations.

The unwanted influence of insect neurotoxins on bees is one of many factors we must look at when examining humans’ usage of chemicals in agriculture, but finding out whether or not these pesticides are significantly hurting bee populations is essential in ensuring the survival of many plant species we rely on every day.

Sources:

http://www.phys.org/news/2015-02-neonicotinoid-insecticides-impair-bee-brains.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28167-bees-win-as-us-court-rules-against-neonicotinoid-pesticide/