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.

  • 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

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 .

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.

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.

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!!

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