Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shrimp's Big Problem

Pesticides, viruses, poverty, carbon. 

It's time to think twice about shrimp (unless they're wild caught). 

From Mother Jones...
Marketing campaigns like Red Lobster's periodic "Endless Shrimp"promotions, crystallize shrimp's transformation from special-treat food to everyday cheap fare. What happened? The answer lies in the rise of factory-scale shrimp farms over the last generation. Twenty years ago, 80 percent of shrimp consumed here came from domestic wild fisheries, with imports supplying the rest. Today, we've more than flipped those numbers: the U.S. imports 90 percent of the shrimp consumed here.  
Canadian journalist Taras Grescoe took a hard look at the Asian operations that supply our shrimp. His conclusion: "The simple fact is, if you're eating cheap shrimp today, it almost certainly comes from a turbid, pesticide- and antibiotic-filled, virus-laden pond in the tropical climes of one of the world's poorest nations." 
Lest anyone think otherwise, these factory farms generate poverty in the nations that house them, as Grescoe demonstrates; they privatize and cut down highly productive mangrove forests that once sustained fishing communities, leaving fetid dead zones in their wake. 
A new study finds that the flattening of Southeast Asian mangrove forests is devastating in another way, too. Kaufman estimates that 50 to 60 percent of shrimp farms occupy cleared mangroves, and the shrimp that emerges from them has a carbon footprint 10 times higher than the most notoriously climate-destroying foodstuff I'm aware of: beef from cows raised on cleared Amazon rainforest.  

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