Foods our corporations have made unsafe
Tuna, for example. Corporations are free to spew pollutants that destroy a food supply, and the US government subsidizes them. Very strange and not what one would expect. Mark Bittman writes in the NY Times:
If you’re like most people (including me, up until a month or two ago), you know that tuna and other top-of-the-food-chain fish contain unsafe levels of mercury and that childbirth-age women and nursing mothers, especially, are warned off these fish. What you don’t know, probably (I didn’t), is the mercury’s source, or how it gets in these fish.
Turns out that about three-quarters of it comes from coal-burning power plants; it dissolves in water, where micro-organisms convert it to methylmercury, a bio-available and highly toxic form that builds up in fish. The longer a fish lives, the more mercury builds in its flesh.
You could, of course, eat less big fish, but there are other sources of mercury: increasingly, it’s being found in vegetables and especially grains like rice that are grown near older, and even no longer functioning, coal-burning plants.
It’s another of those situations where individual solutions don’t really cut it, because mercury is only one of about 80 (!) pollutants spewing from old-fashioned, unfiltered coal-burning plants. And some of the toxins, which are deadly, are just plain unavoidable. Because, unlike mercury, they’re not in tuna and rice. They’re in the air.
It was for these reasons that the journalist (and mother) Dominique Browning started Moms Clean Air Force. “When I was a young mother,” she says, “and was told not to eat tuna, I didn’t make the air-to-food connection; but it’s outrageous that these issues are still being fought 21 years later. I was neither an environmentalist nor an activist, but I could no longer ignore important issues.”
Bravo. So important are these issues that, some time ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) developed regulations to ameliorate them. Almost needless to say, the industry — most of it, anyway — and its representatives are fighting these regulations and trying to stall their implementation with all their power.
This history , like many sagas involving the E.P.A. and industry, is dirty and depressing. In 1990, Congress asked the E.P.A. to determine whether hazardous emissions from power plants should be regulated. Ten years later, the agency said that it was “appropriate and necessary” to do so. (The Clinton administration did some stalling of its own.) The industry promptly challenged that finding; a panel of judges almost as promptly dismissed the challenge.
Regardless, in 2004 and 2005, the E.P.A. backed off its own determination and not only delayed and egregiously weakened the regulation of mercury emissions, but it completely exempted allother toxic emissions from power plants. The “why” of this has to do in large part with the cynicism and generally anti-environment stance of the Bush administration and its eagerness to make industry-friendly deals. This threw matters back into the states’ hands, and many quickly devised stronger-than-E.P.A. schemes to regulate pollutants from power plants.
To cut to the chase, . . .