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One of the Aardvark Forums regular contributors (MikeNZ) highlighted something very interesting yesterday.
He pointed out this page which clearly indicates how soil cadmium levels are rising to worryingly high levels in some areas of the country.
Ongoing abuse of the soil through repeated applications of fertilizer has hiked those cadmium levels to almost 1mg per Kg - the maximum allowable level for land when used for farming or domestic purposes. The biggest offender appears to be the dairy sector, with the Waikato region (the dairy hub of NZ) badly affected.
Given the reliance this country has developed on dairy exports and the reliance of that industry on high levels of fertilizer application - are we poisoning the goose that lays the golden egg?
This is a cumulative problem and there is no magic wand which can be waved to make cadmium disappear from our soils once it's there.
It would appear that this issue might be the elephant in the room that nobody really wants to mention -- but within a decade or two it might be so serious as to knobble one of this nation's core export-earning industries and leave vast tracts of land unsuitable for agriculture or horticulture.
So does this mean that our plans to continue growing our food export industries are flawed?
Already some of the offal from animals grown on pasture high in cadmium is being rejected as unfit for human consumption -- how long before the meat and milk products from these same areas reaches that threshold -- and what do we do then?
Even our wheat and potato crops are at risk from this insideous build-up with estimates suggesting it could be just 13 years before crops grown in the Waikato region are no longer safe to eat.
I find it interesting that environmentalists are concerned about the risks posed to the environment by hi-tech industries and the waste products some produce -- when the simple act of growing crops or grass is producing a lethal legacy.
Once our soils do reach critical level, who will want our unsafe primary produce?
And more importantly... how will we safely feed ourselves?
Might this be even more reason for NZ to start focusing on hi-tech industries which offer to create a far lower environmental impact and provide far more sureity of long-term revenues?
It would appear that the only way to avoid becoming casualties of cadmium is to reduce our food production rates, thus requiring far less cadmium-laden fertilizer. Unfortunately that will mean a loss of export earnings -- so hi-tech will have to pick up that slack.
Instead of pitching ourselves as a food source for the rest of the world (and destroying our soils in the process), maybe we ought to focus more on delivering *safe* food for our own population and shifting our emphasis to creating a raft of hi-tech knowledge-based industries with minimal environmental impact.
Otherwise, our "clean green" image sinks out of sight, wrapped in a blanket of cadmium and an increasing amount of our dwindling national wealth will be sidetracked into treating people for the effects this toxit metal has on a population slowly being poisoned by its food.
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