How does fracking affect food safety? No one knows

We've all heard about efforts to protect New York City's watershed from the risks of hydraulic fracturing. Now there is a new effort to protect NYC's foodshedChefs for the Marcellus is a group of chefs, restaurateurs, and other food professionals dedicated to protecting the foodshed that supplies much of the produce, dairy and meat products, and beer and wine that they purchase for their establishments. Many of the farms in the New York City area are organic but, even if they aren't, they depend on clean air, water and soil to produce their fresh food and beverages.

Yesterday I blogged about how more research is needed on the health impacts of living near, working near, or otherwise being exposed to oil and gas exploration and production operations, including fracking. This should include research on the food products that are produced near these activities. Farmers and ranchers around the country have reported various unusual health symptoms in their livestock that they believe may be linked to nearby oil and gas operations, including birth defects, stillbirths, blindness, hair loss, poisoning leading to death, low or no milk production, low fertility, smaller litters, and additional unexplained illnesses. A Pennsylvania farmer growing heirloom tomatoes and wine grapes has reported that his water tests found extremely high levels of arsenic, benzene, mercury, and other toxic contaminants after fracking occurred on his property. What is the risk if someone eats any of these food products?

NRDC believes the USDA and independent experts should be investigating the potential impacts on food safety for livestock and crops located near oil and gas extraction sites, including implications for organic certification.