Fracking sparks food safety concern as expert warns of serious risk to livestock

Professor Robert Oswald says his findings of deaths and deformities in American livestock are so alarming that Britain should halt the practice ‘until its impact is assessed’

Fracking for gas and oil in the British countryside poses such a significant risk to livestock that a moratorium should be imposed on the industry until its impact on food safety can be assessed, a leading researcher has warned.

Professor Robert Oswald, co-author of the first study into links between hydraulic fracturing and sickness in farm animals, said his findings of deaths and deformities in American livestock are so alarming that Britain should halt growth of the practice while further research is conducted.

The stark warning comes as planners prepare to consider applications to expand exploratory drilling operations around Sussex, a prime dairy farming area.

Professor Oswald, an expert on molecular medicine at Cornell University, compiled 24 incidents across six US states where livestock on farms adjacent to drilling sites died or suffered illness including reproductive and neurological problems potentially following exposure to fracking chemicals.

While proponents of fracking have pointed to its possible advantages including making Britain less reliant on gas imports, opponents have highlighted incidents of pollution affecting groundwater in America.

Among the incidents investigated by Professor Oswald and a colleague was a leak in Louisiana of waste water from fracking – the process to force gas from rock by blasting it with a chemical fluid – which allegedly left 17 cows dead from respiratory failure. In Pennsylvania, a herd suffered a 50 per cent stillbirth rate after cows grazed in a field contaminated with chemicals spilling from a waste pit.

Professor Oswald told The Ecologist: “[British] farmers living in intensively drilled areas should be very concerned about potential exposures of their crops and herds to shale-gas contaminants in the water, air and soil.”

The scientist said that all fracking should be halted in Britain until a testing programme is  put in place to assess the impact on farmland, livestock and food supplies of the chemical cocktail used to force gas and oil from shale deposits. Campaigners have said an array of chemicals, including carcinogens, is deployed during fracking. Unlike in the US, British operators must release details of the chemicals they use.

Professor Oswald said: “Farmers have a right to know what their families and their herds are being exposed to. The components of fracturing fluids and drilling muds to be used in a well near a farm should be reported.”

He added: “We are reporting short-term health changes but no one knows what the long-term health changes may be, especially those caused by low doses of chemicals.”

The debate on fracking in Britain has yet to consider any potential impact on food production, with protesters focusing on environmental pollution and possible damage to property.

Farmers in Northern Ireland, where energy firms are also hoping to start drilling, highlighted their opposition with a protest at this summer’s G8 conference. John Sheridan, a farmer and official with the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said: “The food and drink industry is worth close to €30 bn in Ireland and fracking could ruin that industry.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said last night it was not aware of significant animal welfare concerns related to fracking but it kept the issue under review.



Video: fracking in the UK
Fracking 'dangerous'
Fracking to resume in Uk
Friends of the Earth criticise fracking
Tory peer Lord Howell of Guildford on fracking
Fracking protests in Balcombe
Cuadrilla boss on fracking
Vivienne Westwood is against fracking
Fracking protestors superglued to floor
Shale gas a 'huge opportunity'
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy