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Toxic Crops

Fertilizers laced with hazardous waste

By Bob Harris

FINALLY, someone's come up with a clever way to dispose of industrial wastes like cadmium and lead and low-level radioactive garbage. Too bad it's absolute cow fertilizer.

Toxic waste is pretty skanky stuff. You don't want to bury it or drop it into the ocean, because it can leak into the food chain and start killing things. You could launch it into space maybe, but an in-flight explosion would be even worse.

So what do you do? Simple. Cut to the chase, and spray it directly on crops and grazing land.

You read right. Arsenic, lead, dioxin, and other industrial wastes are now being "recycled" into "fertilizer" and sprayed directly onto farmland.

Thanks to some remarkably dopey laws, waste from uranium processors, steel mills, and other industries is being loaded into silos, at which point it's legally hazardous waste, and then literally emptied back out and sprayed into the food chain--at which point it's legally fertilizer.

This is really happening. It's widespread. And it's legal, even though nobody knows yet how much toxic waste is therefore reaching America's breakfast tables or what it does to us once it gets there. The state of Washington is running tests to find out right now.

Why is this legal? It saves money. The polluters don't have to clean up their own mess, and state governments don't have to make them. It's a win-win deal, if you don't include us actual citizens in the bargain. Y'know, kids who eat lead are subject to inhibited mental development. People who are willing to feed kids lead are inhibited in more serious ways than that.

USUALLY these little commentaries aren't exactly rocket science. This one is, sort of. As you know, a black hole is a really really small thing that once was really really big: a giant star that eventually collapsed, creating a gravitational field that sucks everything --including light-- into one singular dark mass.

That's what's happening with rocket-science Pentagon contractors these days, too. And nothing--smaller companies, tax dollars, useful products, etc.--can escape. Boeing and McDonnell Douglas are merging, and Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman are about to slam together as well.

Lockheed Martin was once three separate companies, but then Lockheed bought Loral and Martin Marietta; Northrup Grumman was three companies, too, until Northrup merged with Grumman and took over Westinghouse's defense division.

But Lockheed Martin also bought the aerospace divisions of General Dynamics and General Electric. Then Raytheon bought Hughes' and Texas Instruments' defense divisions, Boeing bought Rockwell's, and now they're merging with McDonnell Douglas.

Still with me? Well, neither am I. But you can see how everything's collapsing toward one big oligarchy.

Long ago, there was actual competition when defense contractors bid on new planes. Now the total of major companies is down to three and falling. So our national defense will be pretty much whatever the surviving Big Three come up with.

That's not reassuring. Remember how well engineered American cars were in the 1970s? Same thing. In 10 years, our Top Gun fighter pilots might be in dogfights against exported Hornets and Tomcats and Falcons with brand-new B-5 Stealth Gremlins and F-26 Garden Weasels.

I feel safer already.

The only good news, if you can call it that, is that most of this crap is unnecessary anyway. The current U.S. military budget already exceeds that of the top 10 potential adversaries combined, so even if Cuba, North Korea, and Libya form some absurd alliance, we'll do OK. Besides, we export three times as much weaponry as the entire rest of the world, so we can turn down the danger spigot if need be. The only people whose lives would be threatened are stockholders with dirty money.

What will the new defense giants be called? Well, when companies merge, sometimes they combine names. So if the two new giants ever join up, I'd like to suggest the new name for Lockheed Martin/Northrup Grumman /Boeing/ McDonnell Douglas.

Rearranging individual sounds, we get: "Greed men are all throwing down demands. Humbug. Lock 'em up." Sounds like truth in advertising to me.

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From the July 17-23, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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