(Posted by Kathy Phillips.)
Arsenic is a poison. It’s a metalloid or “heavy metal.” It is a carcinogen. Its use in pesticides has been banned in the U.S. since 1988. But when it comes to food production, it is quite allowed.
Arsenic, combined with other chemicals in the form of the compound Roxarsone, is routinely added to the chicken feed of the factory farm-grown chickens we all eat. It’s intended to control intestinal disease, promote more rapid growth, and turn chicken a nice pink color, although there is little evidence that it is needed for these things.
And it is accumulating at alarming rates in the soils of Maryland, where the poultry industry creates over one billion pounds of chicken manure per year, much of which is spread on agricultural fields as fertilizer, and where it ends up leeching into the Chesapeake Bay. According to Food & Water Watch, tests of some wells near Chesapeake Bay farmland displayed levels of arsenic 13 times higher than the EPA’s limits.
Before I get too far into this, the argument is not whether arsenic in poultry feed is dangerous or not—that’s a no-brainer. The issue is actually whether or not your legislators have the will to ban a compound which is known to be dangerous to the health of their constituents. The 2011 Maryland legislative session showed that they do not have that will.
The fact is that every day we get exposed to a different type of toxin, one that leaves us weak, dispirited, depressed and angry. That toxin is the constant barrage of news regarding corruption (corporate and governmental), disasters (natural and man-made) and economic (mostly man-made). We are left with a sense that the world is out of control, or at least well beyond our control or the control of the average person. If we don’t have the cash of the Koch bothers or the legislative punch of Bear-Stearns the tendency is to simply shrug, “What can I do to fight against this massive conspiracy of the rich, powerful and corrupt?”
The answer is that there really isn’t a conspiracy. These people, companies, and government officials are simply acting in their own self interest. While that may be a type of conspiracy, it isn’t the one we imagine when we hear stories of corruption and collusion. Fighting this type of conspiracy is actually quite straightforward: Quite simply, we must make it in their self-interest to do the right thing.
So how do we fight an issue like this?
First, make it a legislative priority. If the “Tea Party” has taught us anything, it is to remember that power still resides with the voter.
Text, e-mail or call your state representative and insist that this become a priority or you will withhold that precious vote.
Text, e-mail or call the grocer where you buy your chicken and tell them you will no longer buy commercially produced poultry that does not say “arsenic-free.”
Text, e-mail, call or talk to your neighbors and friends and tell them you will no longer buy poultry products that do not say, “arsenic-free.”
And finally, text, e-mail, or phone the poultry companies and repeat the message.
Want to tell them more? Tell them you don’t care if the chicken on the store shelf looks pink or not, as long as you can trust that it is arsenic-free and wholesome for your family. Tell them you don’t want billion of pounds of arsenic laced chicken manure fertilizer spread on farmland in Maryland each year to be swept into the air you breath or leach into your groundwater, drinking wells and streams.
Tell them it is not about putting Maryland poultry growers at an economic disadvantage to out of state growers because Perdue already claims they don’t use arsenic in their feed yet their growers get chickens to market at the same weight and numbers as the other companies.
Yes, I know this isn’t the kind of instantaneous response that the news media reports on, it isn’t a tsunami, an earthquake, a wildfire or a dog adopting an orphaned monkey, but it is actually the way things happen in the real world. Get involved today and make this issue go away.
“Playing Chicken: Avoiding Arsenic in Your Meat,” Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, April 2006.
Who to contact:
Your Maryland Legislators
Legislative Environment Committee Chairs
Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chairwoman House Environmental Matters Committee:
House Office Building, Room 251
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3990, (301) 858-3990
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3990 (toll free)
fax: (410) 841-3509, (301) 858-3509
Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chairwoman Senate Education, Health, Environmental Affairs Committee
Miller Senate Office Building, 2 West Wing
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3145, (301) 858-3145
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3145 (toll free)
fax: (410) 841-3957, (301) 858-3957
The Poultry Producers
Allen Family Foods
126 N. Shipley Street, Seaford, DE 19973
Phone: (302) 629-9163
P.O. Box 1320, Millsboro, DE 19966
Perdue Family Farms
P.O. Box 1656, Horsham, PA 19044-6656
Phone: 1-800-4-PERDUE (1-800-473-7383)
Tyson Foods, Inc.
P.O. Box 2020, Springdale, AR 72764-6999
Jim Zelinski, Zelinksi Public Relations (For Safeway)
925-242-0918 or 415-420-6050
Lauren La Bruno
Senior Director, Public Relations for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. (Operates A&P, Waldbaum’s, Super Fresh, The Food Emporium, Food Basics USA, and Pathmark)
Costco Wholesale Corporation
Media Relations Contact
Greg Rossiter, 800-331-0085
Investor Relations Contact
Matthew Lunde, 479-277-8695