With scientists tomorrow expected to confirm the largest dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico ever recorded, Environment America renewed its call for Tyson Foods, Inc. and other corporate agribusiness companies to curb the pollution flowing from their fields and factory farms. The demand for Tyson to “clean it up” was today joined by Mighty Earth, which released a new research report on pollution from meat companies like Tyson.
“From the Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, giant meat companies like Tyson are now responsible for huge volumes of pollution pouring into America’s waterways,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director for Environment America.
Last summer, Environment America’s research documented the major impact of corporate agribusinesses on America's waterways. The group calculated that Tyson’s operations generate 55,289,069 tons of manure per year, and that the company directly dumped over 104,000,000 pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways from 2010 to 2014, according to U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. The new report by Mighty Earth expands on this picture of pollution, documenting the massive runoff pollution from grain production in the supply chains of companies like Tyson.
The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates the massive scale of agribusiness pollution. The fertilizer and manure flowing down the Mississippi River account for more than 70 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Gulf, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Once in the Gulf, these excess nutrients feed algae, which then die, acidify the water and absorb all the oxygen, rendering the water uninhabitable for other marine life.
Elsewhere, mega-farm pollution has contributed to the contamination of drinking water – from toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie to nitrate pollution in Iowa’s Raccoon River. Infants are particularly vulnerable to nitrates in drinking water, which can cause “blue baby syndrome” that can cause shortness of breath and even death.
Over the past year, Environment America has supported shareholder resolutions calling on Tyson to reduce its water pollution. The group is also seeking to hold the industry accountable in court, with one federal lawsuit already filed under the Clean Water Act.
“For the sake of clean water, it’s time for Tyson to come clean,” said Rumpler.