Farm Horizons, April 2013

Water quality – a basic human need

By Lori Brinkman
Assistant Carver County Feedlot Administrator

As I write this, at last count, 13,000 dead pigs have been pulled from the Huangpu River in China. That’s a lot of pigs.

After the melamine scandal in 2008, and the more recent incident where chicken with high levels of antibiotic is thought to have made its way onto an American fast food giant’s menu, stories about China’s problems with food safety are beginning to play like a broken record.

Shanghai has blamed farmers in Jiaxing in neighboring Zhejiang. Jiaxing says it is not the sole source of the pigs, but has found one producer that has contributed.

There are a couple of theories circulating to explain the dumping. One theory is that while Shanghai compensates its farmers for properly disposing of dead swine, Zhejiang and Jiangsu do not, so farmers there often dump their pig carcasses directly into local rivers.

The explanation from China’s national agriculture ministry's chief veterinarian, Yu Kangzhen, was that some farming households have a weak recognition of the law, as well as bad habits.

So that tells us why, but really, WHY?

Why do we as a human race need monetary incentive to protect water resources? Why do we need a governing body to help us to understand the need to protect water resources? Water is the most basic human need and yet, it is abused and degraded every day, everywhere on our planet. I won’t liken the incident in China to anything in the US today, but I have personally seen our water bodies used as a dumping station. What are the explanations I have heard? Three reasons I have heard are lack of monetary incentive to do otherwise, poor recognition of the law, and bad habits – that’s the way we’ve always done it.

So that tells me, while natural resources and water quality in the US are in far better condition than they are in parts of China, the possibility of them being contaminated here is ever present.

Water is a basic human need, as is protecting it. Please do your part.

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