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Friday, November 17, 2006

Environment - "Factory farms are harmful to the public and the environment, researchers report"

A story today by Marla Cone of the LA Times reports:

Growing so large that they are now called factory farms, livestock feedlots are poorly regulated, pose health and ecological dangers and are responsible for deteriorating quality of life in America's and Europe's farm regions, according to a series of scientific studies published this week.

Feedlots are contaminating water supplies with pathogens and chemicals, and polluting the air with foul-smelling compounds that can cause respiratory problems, but the health of their neighbors goes largely unmonitored, the reports concluded.

The international teams of environmental scientists also warned that the livestock operations were contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant germs, and that the proximity of poultry to hogs could hasten the spread of avian flu to humans.

Feedlots are operations in which hundreds — often thousands — of cattle, hogs or poultry are confined, often in very close quarters. About 15,500 medium to large livestock feedlots operate in the United States in what is an approximately $80-billion-a-year industry.

Although the reports focused largely on Iowa and North Carolina hog and poultry operations, California has more than 2,000 facilities with at least 300 livestock animals each, half of them with more than 1,000, according to a 2002 estimate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dairies, most of them in the San Joaquin Valley, dominate the industry in California.

Led by Peter Thorne, director of the University of Iowa's Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, the researchers outlined the need for more stringent regulations and surveillance of water and air near feedlots.

"There was general agreement among all [the scientists] that the industrialization of livestock production over the past three decades has not been accompanied by commensurate modernization of regulations to protect the health of the public or natural, public-trust resources, particularly in the U.S.," wrote Thorne, a professor of toxicology and environmental engineering.

That caught my eye. There is more to the article. Here is another striking quote:
"More than an unpleasant odor, the smell can have dramatic consequences for rural communities whose lives are rooted in enjoying the outdoors," says the report, compiled by researchers in Iowa, Illinois and North Carolina. "The highly cherished values of freedom and independence associated with life oriented toward the outdoors gives way to feelings of violation and infringement…. Homes become a barrier against the outdoors that must be escaped."
The LA Times article references six reports:
The findings were from a consensus of experts from the United States, Canada and northern Europe who convened in Iowa two years ago for a workshop funded by the federal government to address environmental and health issues related to large livestock operations. Six reports, written by three dozen scientists mostly from the American Midwest and Scandinavia, were published this week in the online version of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
They are available here, at the Environmental Health Perspectives website, currently linked via the lefthand column, labeled "Recent In-Press".

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 17, 2006 03:53 PM
Posted to Environment | Indiana economic development