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Modern Farming
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The Growing Dead Zone In The Gulf

By James Donahue

When first noticed about a decade ago, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was alarming enough. It was a few miles wide, and found to be a place at the foot of the Mississippi River where chemicals and farm run-off was collecting, killing all sea life caught within it.

Since then, the dead zone has grown larger and larger, and now covers somewhere between 7,286 and 8,561 square miles stretching along the coast from the Florida Panhandle to the Mexican border at the Texas state line. And it is growing larger with each passing year.

It does not take a genius to figure out what is happening in the gulf. All of those chemicals . . . mostly nitrogen and phosphorus pollution washing away from the nation’s farmlands, is starving the water of oxygen and consequently killing every living creature caught in its deadly fulcrum.

Thus all of the farmland waste . . . not only the chemical runoff but all other farmland waste . . . is flowing through the local streams and drains out into the Illinois, Wabash, Tennessee, Platte, Red, Canadian, Arkansas and Yellowstone Rivers into the Missouri, Ohio and eventually the mighty Mississippi River. From there it flows out into the Mississippi Delta and collects in the Gulf of Mexico.

The dead zone is getting larger and larger. Not only that, but similar dead zones are appearing at the mouth of many other rivers, not only in the United States but all over the world. And they are all getting larger and more destructive with each passing year.

Why is this happening?

Blame the big corporate involvement in contemporary farming practices. The massive factory farms, the vast size of grain, cotton, tobbacco, sugar beet and other crop farms, and the introduction of GMO crops by companies like Monsanto, laced with weed killers, insecticides and other chemicals now added to the farm runoff each time it rains or there is a major snow melt.

The big factory farms, now housing thousands of heads of livestock, are not only producing massive amounts of livestock feed, but they are disposing of high volumes of livestock waste. That waste, much of it seeping into the drains and streams, is laced with antibiotics and other chemical additives dumped into the animal feed and designed to make these animals grow faster, larger, and produce more product and less time. It means big profits for the farmers. It means more pollutants in our lakes and streams.

Isn't it time for the insanity to stop? If we don't do something about this problem, our world will soon be an uninhabitable place for us to live. And the last time I checked, we don't have any other place to go.