Monthly, I get a newsletter from my local Co-op, PCC. Typically, It’s full of great information about in-season produce, recipes and letters – along with some great articles relevant to current issues in organic products. A couple of months ago I was scanning the newsletter, making note of what’s on special and writing down the ingredients for a recipe I wanted to try when I had to halt. Backtrack. And re-read what I just read. The short paragraph had some startling information in it – that last year, California’s drought-stricken farmers were turning to wastewater from oil fracking to use as irrigation water….in organics!
Wait, is that allowed?!?!
A quick google search revealed (much to my horror) that other food watch-dog groups were reporting the same thing. Big Oil, such as the likes of Chevron, were actually making a profit by selling chemical-laden waste-water from fracking to desperate farmers trying to irrigate their crops. The kicker though, is that there are no regulations regarding irrigation water in the USDA’s organic food safety program. None. Nada. Zilch.
To compound this issue, we don’t really know what’s in the wastewater. Oil companies’ lips are shut tight about the secret “ingredients” used in the mixture. And farmers are not required to perform water tests before using the waste-water for irrigation. It’s a scary mystery.
While I think many of us would not be surprised to read this news if it was conventional crops, it shocking to know that the fracking waste-water is being applied to organic crops. The injustice here is that many of us pay a premium for organic produce – sometimes as high as twice as much over conventional produce – for the security of knowing our produce is pesticide, herbicide, insecticide, GMO free (well, at least for the most part anyways – there are some loopholes under USDA I won’t go into now). Using petroleum-laced water contaminated with undisclosed chemicals to water my organic grapes is not something I would ever have even imagined had I not read about it first.
The whole story inspires me to grow twice as much of my own produce this year!