State of the Environment report buries deadly damage caused by nitrates in dairy – Greenpeace
Greenpeace says the latest State of the Environment report acknowledges that industrial dairy products cause environmental degradation, but appears to have reduced mention of cancer and premature birth risks. drinking water contaminated with nitrates.
Greenpeace campaign manager Steve Abel says: ‘State of the Environment Report recognizes overuse of fertilisers, dairy intensification and industrial irrigation are killing rivers, intensifying disasters climatic conditions and have an impact on people’s health, but do not detail the risk of cancer and premature birth due to nitrate contamination. .”
“The dairy industry told us it was cleaning up, but environmental data shows that the greatest damage to rivers, climate, soil, marine coastal areas and drinking water is caused by dairy products. industrial and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers,” says Abel.
Report acknowledges human health effects of dairy-polluted rivers on drinking water and highlights worsening access to safe drinking water and worsening nitrate contamination risking Baby Syndrome blue. Yet studies also linking nitrate in drinking water to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and premature birth appear only as unrelated “ghost” endnotes that imply a deficiency in the body of the report.
“We have to wonder if the risks of cancer and fetal harm from nitrate-contaminated drinking water have been removed from an earlier version of the report that was more direct about the dangers,” says Abel.
“If so, it remains frustrating that New Zealand’s key environmental report continues to tiptoe around the deadly impact of industrial dairy and fertilizers and let down the 800,000 New Zealanders – mainly rural people – whose health is threatened by nitrate contamination.”
One of the Endnoted studies (Richards J, Chambers et al) warns that 100 cases of colorectal cancer and 40 deaths per year in New Zealand may be attributable to nitrate in drinking water.
“Another glaring omission is the fact that most nitrate leachate comes from the urine of cattle – about 80% of it – but the word urine does not appear once, and the infographics erroneously imply that crops are the main source of nutrient leachate.”
The word urine – in reference to cattle dung – appeared 8 times in the Environment 2019 report which more clearly states its contribution to leached nutrient pollution.
Greenpeace supports the inclusion of te Ao Māori’s perspectives on te Taiao, which include the reflections of Dr Jessica Hutchings (Ngāi Tahu, Gujarati) who says we need to understand the soil “as a living entity and enhance its mauri by protecting and developing its microbial diversity”. and structure. Hutchings says personhood should be given to soil “to change the way we think about soils and to restore their immeasurable value.”
The report discusses soil degradation and compaction, due to “high livestock numbers per hectare”, as a threat to healthy food production and the environment.
The report also highlights the “major problem” of plastic pollution accumulating in the environment and the “bodies of many animals”, as well as the enormous destructive impact of bottom trawling: “Seabed trawling is a fishing practice that damages the seabed and its habitats. . Even after trawling stops, ecosystems may remain damaged and show little sign of recovery for long periods.
Although understated, the factual content of the report is strong evidence in support of calls by Greenpeace and the environmental movement for the government to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, reduce dairy herds and ban plastic bottles and bottom trawling.
“The statistics are there – it is high time the government took decisive action to ensure the viability of life for all species, including our own,” says Abel.