Dangers of Fracking Farmland: Our Food Supply’s at Risk

Extracting natural gas via hydraulic fracturing is a controversial process that leaves behind hundreds of toxic chemicals in the fracking wastewater. One of the many dangers of fracking is that the practice can contaminate food supplies.
By Shelly Stonebrook
February/March 2014
Add to My MSN

Fracking farmland is far from benign. According to farmers, cattle exposed to toxins in some fracked areas are falling ill, and even dying.
Illustration courtesy The Nation


Content Tools

Related Content

Vegetable Art by Lynn Karlin

Calling all gardeners — If you want to view a remarkable series of photographs of vegetables as art,...

We Can Do Better Than This

Change is not only possible, it’s inevitable. Within the next few decades, great change is coming, b...

Springtime in Urbania

Springtime in Urbania can be fraught with temptations at the stores. I have managed to navigate thes...

Little Beaver’s Hydraulic Earth Drill

Little Beaver’s Hydraulic Earth Drill offers an efficient and dependable solution for multiple diggi...

Hydraulic fracturing (usually called “fracking”), a process used to extract natural gas from far below ground, became much more widespread in the United States starting in about 2003 — and discussions about the many dangers of fracking have likewise increased.

To draw out difficult-to-access reserves of gas, crews drill thousands of feet into the earth and pump in highly pressurized, chemical-laden fracking fluids. This allows them to get the gas out — but the process leaves a mess in its wake.

Fracking wastewater contains acetaldehyde, ammonium chloride, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, radium and hundreds of other chemicals. The controversial practice pollutes water supplies and land with these toxins — which are so substantial that, in the most affected areas, household tap water can sometimes be set afire as if the water were gasoline. (Check out the 2010 documentary film Gasland for footage of this.)

In addition to reportedly making people sick from polluted water supplies, fracking may now be tainting our food supply. Because of the presence of chemicals in the water on farms where fracking is common, cattle in fracked areas are falling ill with neurological, reproductive and acute gastrointestinal problems. The polluted water is also threatening the health of the soil and crops near fracking sites. As reported by The Nation, the Marcellus Shale formation in the northeast United States holds vast supplies of natural gas and is currently being fracked — yet it also spans an area that is home to three of the country’s highest concentrations of organic farms, which are in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The fracking boom is radically changing the landscape of some areas in these states. Farmers striving to avoid harmful chemicals are facing constant worry about their water supply containing toxic substances. To learn more about the dangers of fracking and its impact on our food, read Fracking Our Food Supply.


Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and .








Post a comment below.

 

jbl
2/14/2015 1:34:01 PM
The ignorance of people in the U.S. is staggering!! There are no facts to support the idea that fracking has done any damage to any part of the environment.

Patriot1st
2/13/2015 8:25:19 PM
David, what is a level II inspector? You know it really has no meaning unless it has some context. Something you seem to have forgotten to give anyone. I know a couple of level II welding inspectors. Is that it? You claim to have gas wells and water wells, if you do then you know there is thousands of feet different in their depth. Why do you have gas wells, is they are so bad for everyone? Does your water light up too?? You like ecoboy, seems to have a real attitude problem when others present some facts to you. Wonder why that is? Anger issues??? Maybe you just like to quell free speech or just like calling people names because it makes you feel better about yourself? Either way, present some facts, you know numbers from your wells, showing how bad it really is. Instead read Alexander's comment, both you and ecoboy. It might open your eyes as to why people use to read and some still do read Mother Earth News and why many more no longer do read it.

Patriot1st
2/13/2015 8:16:40 PM
Ecowarrior, or ecoliar, seems you could just interchange the two titles. Show some facts instead of your emotional outburst, which you seem to need to repeat over and over to make your point. Kind of sad, don't you think? I have been reading Mother Earth since its inception, decades ago. It is only recently that true wackos like yourself have infiltrated the audience. Granted there have always been fringe group people, like yourself, making annoying demands of those with a balanced attitude and desire for facts and truth, as most readers are. Seems interesting that the EPA has not come down on fracking if is was so dangerous. They have certainly come down on much less dangerous activities by business, with much less information than you "claim to have". Even the wood stoves you are claiming to be so wonderful are outlawed in most major metro areas of the country for much of the year. Seems facts are not your strong point. Do you really think that radioactive waste would be dumped anywhere today, what with the oversight regarding all radioactive materials, along with large numbers of the general population having gieger counters. They can be had cheaply, $175.00 online. You do have one and have been taking samples haven't you? So stop making noises that you cannot backup, and go back under your rock, instead of calling people with facts names!!

dougdavis2000
2/13/2015 6:57:17 PM
I can tell all of you, fracking is bad! Doesn't take a genius to see it, and I am also a Level II inspector,held level 2 certs for 6 years now, former land surveyor and property owner with deep well water wells and gas wells, so all you that deny that this practice can not be good for Mother Earth, you are either stupid as a turd or your just liars for oil and gas industry. Keep it up and we will all be screwed.

Alexander
2/13/2015 4:48:36 PM
It is unsubstantiated articles like this that are trying to push an agenda that made me cancel my subscription to this magazine. I still come to the site occasionally to find articles on homesteading and consider coming back, but then I find another propaganda piece and I am reminded why I left.

RA
2/13/2015 2:00:08 PM
To the author of the article above and Editor of Mother Earth News: I am very glad that the word "may" was used in the following excerpt: (fracking MAY now be tainting our food supply). That is the only saving grace of this article. If you would like to learn more about the truth of the real life outcomes of Hydraulic Fracturing ("Fracking") areas surrounding fractured wells, please type the title "Truthland" into your search engine and watch the 34 minute documentary video made by a real person talking with real professionals about the subject. Also, having been on fracturing crews back in the 1970's, I never heard of any negative circumstances concerning the aftermath of any of the hundreds of wells we "Fracked". I would again suggest that you check out the video titled "Truthland" to educate yourself more thoroughly on the subject matter.

EcoWarrior
2/13/2015 12:30:28 PM
If you are pro fracking, then why are you on Mother Earth News? What the heck do you expect? This is a pro-natural website that supports farmers, hunters and homesteading. You ignorant fracking supporters are just trolling. Then again, that's what you fracking supporters do best, because you're too busy criticizing those of us who are educated about the matter. We actually did the research, did the interviewing and did the scientific data results - unlike you. If you are for fracking, it's because you either have a relative working for a hydraulic fracturing company or are an opinionated, callous, selfish or an ignorant fool.

EcoWarrior
2/13/2015 12:29:38 PM
If you are pro fracking, then why are you on Mother Earth News? What the heck do you expect? This is a pro-natural website that supports farmers, hunters and homesteading. You ignorant fracking supporters are just trolling. Then again, that's what you fracking supporters do best, because you're too busy criticizing those of us who are educated about the matter. We actually did the research, did the interviewing and did the scientific data results - unlike you. If you are for fracking, it's because you either have a relative working for a hydraulic fracturing company or are an opinionated, callous, selfish or an ignorant fool.

EcoWarrior
2/13/2015 12:28:44 PM
If you are pro fracking, then why are you on Mother Earth News? What the heck do you expect? This is a pro-natural website that supports farmers, hunters and homesteading. You ignorant fracking supporters are just trolling. Then again, that's what you fracking supporters do best, because you're too busy criticizing those of us who are educated about the matter. We actually did the research, did the interviewing and did the scientific data results - unlike you. If you are for fracking, it's because you either have a relative working for a hydraulic fracturing company or are an opinionated, callous, selfish or an ignorant fool.

EcoWarrior
2/13/2015 12:27:29 PM
If you are pro fracking, then why are you on Mother Earth News? What the heck do you expect? This is a pro-natural website that supports farmers, hunters and homesteading. You ignorant fracking supporters are just trolling. Then again, that's what you fracking supporters do best, because you're too busy criticizing those of us who are educated about the matter. We actually did the research, did the interviewing and did the scientific data results - unlike you. If you are for fracking, it's because you either have a relative working for a hydraulic fracturing company or are an opinionated, callous, selfish or an ignorant fool.

EcoWarrior
2/13/2015 12:03:13 PM
Anyone with any common sense would do their own research about fracking. Then you come back with more knowledge other than a worthless empty-headed opinion, you'll realize that it's the people with actual brain in their head that knows why fracking is bad. This article is but a mere sample. Simply do a websearch on "Hydraulic Fracturing", read as many articles as possible - preferably unbiased ones that only describe hard-core solid facts. There's plenty of resources out there if you ignorant fracking supporters could even be bothered to try. I'll try educating you ignoramuses. It's all about money, period. The only people who benefit from making the money is the company themselves. Not the people. The process pumps high-pressured water, sand, and a mix of *chemicals. All fracking companies don't reveal what the chemicals are. Yes, the chemicals do get watered down in the sand+water mixture, however, it's the brine, trace amounts of that chemical mixture and the released natural chemicals than come from deep underground the earths surface which is what does the polluting. That will, inevitable, reach aquifers and into streams and even through wells into your drinking glass. There's been debate on how they dispose of the brine. Some spray it on roads as a falsified "de-icer". Others dump at a local stream or pond. There's been talk of dumping it on Long Island. Have fun drinking radioactive water, but I doubt you'll get superpowers. Some people, especially those living in a city, have trouble understanding because many are completely unaware of what is really going on in the country for those people who are against fracking. God forbid you fools try using a wood stove, an electric water heater or solar panels!!! You don't NEED natural gas! There are plenty of other options already available, many of which are even more affordable than paying a natural gas company. Stop being so damned selfish and think about those of us living in an area that don't want fracking! I live upstate New York in the countryside and own acres and I don't want my well water polluted, my plants to be absorbing those chemicals, the increased traffic, industrialization nor my animals getting sick.

Patriot1st
2/13/2015 10:08:11 AM
Sharon1026, the same thing can be said about windmills off the the Atlantic coast, the Martha's Vinyard area to be exact. People do not want it in my back yard! Ever hear of that before? Wealthy people want things their way, poor people want things their way! Just a simple fact, the more money you have the more influence you have!!! Has nothing to do with safe, not safe, good or bad. It has to do with people wanting what they want. The idiot movie being promoted in this article is the same thing. Some grifter, Josh Fox, saw a way to get some notoriety and money, by making a movie with made up facts! Same thing, Josh wanted some fame, others want to not listen to an oil/gas well being drilled. What is hard to figure out about that???

DonnaWarfieldSmith
2/13/2015 9:41:17 AM
This article is misleading and the writer is very misinformed. The big companies who have created genetically modified foods, plants and insects have created more havoc and death than fracking could ever do. If you knew how fracking was done then you would have a different point of view. I challenge you to find out exactly how it is done, how the drill stem pipes are fitted, how many are used, one inside the other, and exactly what kind of chemicals are used. Please know that these liquids do not escape the layers of drill stem pipes. I am Native American and believe me that if fracking were a serious threat to water and/or land I would be at the front door of the white house letting it be known. Take time to watch this video: Please. http://www.westernenergyalliance.org/why-western-oil-natural-gas/what-fracking/hydraulic-fracturing-videos AND, go to a fracking site and ask questions.

Linda
2/13/2015 9:21:51 AM
This article was poorly written. Basically it is a movie review. Right now antifracking is the "in" thing. The movement is based entirely on the movie. There is also another movie FrackNation that has an opposing view. I would hope that Mother Earth would fact check before quoting the movie as fact. What happened to not believing everything you see or read? Is fracking more dangerous than other ways to supply our nation and farmers with the fuel that is needed to farm? I don't know. If you truly believe that fracking is bad, do your research and homework.

Patriot1st
2/13/2015 9:18:04 AM
The same old tired and fabricated story. What has Mother Earth News, become? They keep using a movie which was a total fabrication and pushing a series of lies! There are several factual movies and reports about fracking available, but Shelley just continues to promote hysterical nonsense and Mother Earth continues to support her stupidity. Watch Truthland or other documentaries if you want some real facts, instead of the manure being posted in this article. Part of "taking care of her environment", is being truthful and looking for sources that are not just lies, fabricated together to make some dishonest money off of concerned people, being mislead!

Nick
3/13/2014 9:01:35 AM
As someone who isn't sure whether to be for or against fracking I read this article for some details. This article presents a 'straw man' argument with supporting opinions and details but lacks any supporting evidence. Sadly, this is too common in journalism today. I'm not asking for a intense study within the article, but please offer something more substantive connecting or disconnecting the problems to the cause.

Sharon1026
3/4/2014 12:43:21 PM
Richard H and Alford Green, if fracking is so safe then why did the Exon CEO join a group who is suing to keep it away from their property? You would think he'd want to prove it was safe by allowing it to be done near his land, but this doesn't seem to be the case now does it? Then again, when he has two brainwashed idiots such as yourselves spreading his lies, why should he bother to poison his family when you're both so willing to poison yours and deny it's being done?

RICHARDH
3/1/2014 11:52:32 AM
Ignorant people believe about everything they hear,read,or see... How many oil wells do you know of that are less than 6000 feet deep ? How many water wells do you know of that are over 1000 feet deep ? That is at least a 5000 foot separation... The only people I see yelping about contaminated drinking water are the Hollywood and other Liberal idiots who are doing their utmost to destroy our country as fast as as they possibly can...

Alfred Green
2/28/2014 8:17:35 AM
***It's too bad you folks don't follow the federal Environmental Protection Agency's pronouncements on fracking: There's absolutely NO danger to farmland and crops, nor to the ground water supplies. Your brief article contains assertions, but no documentation...probably because there isn't any. I live smack dab in the center of fracked northeast Pennsylvania. We have had NO problems. (Fracking water, BTW, is mostly fresh water and fine sand. The chemicals used for lubrication are found in everyday household product use and in food products on the grocery shelves, and all fracking water is safely removed and sent for processing and recycling.)

Joe Wiseman
2/24/2014 8:26:26 PM
These companies will poison the water table without remorse - Please share the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v283MunuZaE&feature=share&list=UUK637I8lHwNuxUk39J6sgIA














Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.