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E-M:/ manure magnified

This article addresses "scale" -- an aspect of farming methods often missing from the discussion.  The impacts of generally accepted management and agricultural practices are highly scale-dependent. 
Ted Schettler 
In vast farm belt, spectre of superbugs

Picture a hog, one hog.

Now imagine all the manure it produces in one year, about two tonnes.

Multiply that one hog and its manure by 1.8 million -- the number of all the hogs in Southwestern Ontario.

Then add in all the cattle, chickens, turkeys and sheep that live in the area's farm belt -- 20 million or so more creatures, with varying levels of waste left behind each year.

The best estimate, maybe 15 million tonnes of manure a year.

One more exercise -- also not pleasant, but your health may depend on it. Think of what all that manure -- much of it spread as fertilizer on farm fields, where it can wash into waterways -- contains or can form in the environment:

- Nitrates, which can contaminate drinking water and restrict the oxygen in the bloodstream in infants.

In infants under six months, it can cause methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome.

Nitrate is a problem in our area. Due in part to manure spills and farm runoff of fertilizer, nitrate concentrations in the Ausable River frequently rise above acceptable levels for wildlife. According to a 2004 report, those levels appear to be rising across the river basin.

- Airborne chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.

- Parasites such as BC parvum and giardia, that can enter the drinking water supply and can't be destroyed by chlorine.

Such parasites cause severe diarrhea, nausea, fever, vomiting and fatigue in humans, and serious long-term risks to the elderly, the very young and those with damaged immune systems.

If manure really does flow downhill, humans are the sitting ducks at the bottom.

And the scariest thing flowing our way may be the so-called superbugs, antibiotic- resistant bacteria that can give disease the upper hand on humans and spark devastating epidemics.


Complete article at http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/Local/2007/05/29/pf-4216404.html