NEW ORLEANS, La. – Weeks after scientists projected a 2016 Gulf Dead Zone the size of Connecticut plus Rhode Island (6,824 square miles), a new report highlights corporate agribusiness as a significant source of Dead Zone causing pollution.
Released today by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, Corporate Agribusiness and the Fouling of America’s Waterways, points to the hundreds of billions of pounds of nitrate pollution and animal waste that is produced every year by five of the largest agribusiness companies in the United States.
“All of the sources of pollution that feed the Dead Zone simply must be cleaned up,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director for Gulf Restoration Network. “These companies are allowed to pollute waters that flow into the Mississippi River, even though we know this pollution contributes to the Gulf’s massive Dead Zone.”
“These corporate agribusinesses have the knowhow and the resources to implement better, more sustainable ways of producing America’s food,” said John Rumpler, Senior Attorney for Environment America and author of the report. “It’s time to hold them accountable for their pollution of our environment – just as Americans a generation ago did with industrial polluters.”
The Dead Zone forms in the Gulf of Mexico every summer and is caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that flows down the Mississippi River. According to the USGS, 80% of the nitrogen pollution and 71% of the phosphorus delivered to the Gulf comes from agricultural sources.
“The fertilizer we put on our crops, whether it is synthetic or animal waste, should stay on the fields, not flow into our rivers,” said Rota. “Implementing the recommendations in this report, such as instituting best practices on the field, retailers insisting on zero-water pollution from their suppliers, banning harmful on-the-field practices, and reducing pollution from industrial-scale plants and operations would help the health of local streams, as well as the Mississippi and Gulf.”