The effects of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) on food supply and the environment are slowly emerging. The fracking process runs contrary to safe sustainable food production. In the agriculturally and energy-rich region called the Marcellus Shale, a tug-of-war between food producers and energy companies has begun.
Chemicals used in the fracking process contaminate surrounding land, water, and air. Ranchers in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Louisiana, and New Mexico have been reporting health problems and incidents of dead and tainted livestock, due to elevated levels of contaminants from nearby wells.
While no long-term research on the effects of fracking on humans, livestock, or plants exists, a peer-reviewed report by Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald has linked fracking to illness in animals. They believe chemicals leaking from fracking sites could start appearing in human food supplies, because of a lack of regulation and testing.
There is an absence of both adequate disclosures by energy companies and timely regulation by government to protect the environment and landowners. Secrecy shrouding the fracking process and Bush-era loopholes obscure consumer knowledge of food safety.
A lack of whistleblowers has been attributed to fear of retaliation, nondisclosure agreements, or involvement in active litigation. While some fear that the early warnings will be ignored, two major agricultural insurance companies now refuse to cover damages from fracking.
Fracking Our Food Supply
Elizabeth Royte, “Fracking Our Food Supply,” Nation, December 17, 2012, http://www.thenation.com/article/171504/fracking-our-food-supply.
Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald, “Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health,” New Solutions 22, no. 1 (January 2012): 51–77, http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/Impacts_of_Gas_Drilling_on_Human_and_Animal_Health.
Student Researchers: Rayne Madison and Nayeli Castaneda (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluators: Susan Rahman and Andy Lee Roth (College of Marin)