For the residents of Mead, Nebraska, the first sign of something amiss was the stench, the smell of something rotting. People reported eye and throat irritation and nosebleeds. Then colonies of bees started dying, birds and butterflies appeared disoriented and pet dogs grew ill, staggering about with dilated pupils.
There is no mystery as to the cause of the concerns in Mead, a farming community so small that its 500 residents refer to it as a village and not a town.
After multiple complaints to state and federal officials and an inquiry by a researcher from the University of Nebraska, all evidence points to what should be an unlikely culprit – an ethanol plant that, like many others around the United States, turns corn into biofuel.
The company, called AltEn, is supposed to be helpful to the environment, using high-starch grains such as corn to annually churn out about 25m gallons of ethanol, a practice regulators generally hail as an environmentally friendly source for auto fuel. Ethanol plants typically also produce a byproduct called distillers grains to sell as nutritious livestock feed.
But unlike most of the other 203 US ethanol plants, AltEn has been using seed coated with fungicides and insecticides, including those known as neonicotinoids, or “neonics”, in its production process.
Company officials have advertised AltEn as a “recycling” location where agricultural companies can rid themselves of excess supplies of pesticide-treated seeds, a strategy that gave AltEn free supplies for its ethanol, but also left it with a waste product too pesticide-laden to feed to animals…
(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)