Guest Column: Food threatened by CAFOs and pollution

September 15, 2010

By Victoria Grizzoffi

Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer. Most of us celebrate by one last giant family BBQ, picnic or a day on the sofa relaxing. I can’t believe it has gone so fast, and so much has happened. This summer has been a “little” humid, and I just can’t get out of my mind the many people who have been hurt by our flooding.

My summer started off with a new campaign office and a story I read about a dying Ohio lake. Grand Lake, St. Mary’s, is Ohio’s largest inland body of water surrounded by parkland, campgrounds, and brings in about $216 million tourist dollars annually and employs about 2,600.

A growing number of CAFOs [Confined Animal Feeding Operations] and the runoff from mega-tons of manure sprayed on taxpayer-subsidized corn and soybean fields is killing the lake. Fewer people are visiting because this summer, the lake has turned putrid. In spite of warning signs, some people still decided to swim with their young children in the foamy, polluted water that is thick enough to clog boat engines.

In November 2009, we were hit with 545,699 pounds of ground beef recall processed in New York. Two people died, and dozens became sick. Sixteen were hospitalized with kidney failure from E. coli.

This August, more than 380 million eggs were recalled from Iowa that were sold under 13 different brand names. This so-called “farmer” has been convicted on immigration charges when he was operating in Maine. After such a long history of trouble in Maine, he somehow ended up in Iowa. We all know the rest.

Eight medium-sized, 300-999 head CAFO/feed lots in northwest Iowa are under investigation for violating the Clean Water Act. They now must apply for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System.

The latest I’ve heard now is 380,000 pounds of Listeria-laced lunch meat recall. Listeria is extremely threatening to pregnant women, newborns and those with impaired immune systems. It causes spontaneous abortion and has a 25 percent mortality rate. Salmonella has a 1 percent mortality rate.

What confuses me even more is that I was at a local grocery store and noticed in the meat department a steak labeled “Product of Mexico.” Everywhere I drive, I see a field of beef, and yet here, in the middle of the Midwest, I find beef imported from Mexico. I have nothing against Mexico, but this just doesn’t make sense. Why are we not supporting our local growers and our local economy?

So how and why does a “farmer” move from state to state? Could it be that the fines for an ill-structured way of producing cheap protein are catching up? Has the land and water been contaminated to the point that nothing will survive, and he must move on to “greener pastures”? Has the realization that the short-term dollar for a few is not worth the health and livelihoods of those living there, and they are speaking up? Has other state legislation made it not profitable enough so they move to another state where promises are made? More and more truths are coming out, thanks to the press that is not intimidated by the powerful, arrogant and greedy. Freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment. The most common elements of journalistic responsibilities are truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and fairness.

Napoleon Bonaparte said, “I fear the newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets.” Back then, Napoleon didn’t have a telephone to call up and threaten to pull his advertisement.

Victoria Grizzoffi is the Democratic candidate for state representative in the 89th District and a resident of Galena, Ill.

From the Sept. 15-21, 2010 issue

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