Bricks and Mortars

The most toxic food in the world?

By Lawrence Reichard | Sep 27, 2018

Fredrikstad, Norway —

Kurt Oddekalv is a big, burly man. Oddekalv founded the Green Warriors, a Norwegian environmental group that is the bane of Norway's fish farm industry.

"I've been fighting them for 30 years," Oddekalv said as we drove through a rough, windswept North Atlantic landscape to a sea-based salmon farm in Rong, Norway, about an hour northwest of Bergen, Norway's second-biggest city.

"They fooled me for the first five years, but not since," Oddekalv said with a wry smile. Oddekalv fielded several calls as we rode. It was a busy day. Norway's big and politically powerful fish-farm industry was again using a chemical it had agreed to stop using after a relentless campaign spearheaded by Oddekalv.

In Rong's modest harbor, we boarded a small boat and rode in cold, driving rain past a breakwater to the multi-pen operation. It was hard to believe the pens held 100,000 fish each. In Belfast, Nordic would produce 33 million pounds of salmon a year. At eight pounds per fish — Nordic's figure — that's 4,125,000 fish, more than 41 of the Rong pens.

At the operation's small visitor center there were vials representing what makes up the facility's fishmeal, and it's heavy on soybeans. Seventy percent is the industry average. Oddekalv said the soy is laced with the insecticide Diflubenzuron, a carcinogen that kills crustaceans, and that a German study found the chemical in breast milk four hours after consumption of farm salmon.

According to Oddekalv, the European Union allows 10 times more mercury in salmon than in chicken, because of presumed lower salmon consumption and Norwegian pressure. Oddekalv also cited high levels of cadmium, another known carcinogen, in farm fish.

American scientist Dr. Claudette Bethune was fired from the Norwegian Institute for Nutrition and Seafood Safety (NIFES) in 2003 for her work on levels of dioxins and PCB's in Norwegian farmed salmon that exceed World Health Organization tolerable daily intakes. Bethune also came under fire for revealing a Russian ban on Norwegian farmed salmon based on high cadmium levels.

Back in his Bergen office, Oddekalv said the real problem is ethoxiquin, a Monsanto-invented fire retardant fed to the small forage fish that make up fishmeal to reduce fire risk in transit. As the forage fish climb the food chain their toxins concentrate, and the toxins metabolize slowly in farm salmon, which are even fattier than wild salmon. Oddekalv estimates that 70 percent of farm fish toxins originate in fish feed, "and they're always saying they're going to improve the feed."

"You take all of that together, and you have the most toxic food in the world," Oddekalv said.

Two days later I visited Professor Are Nyland in the cramped University of Bergen office he has occupied for 30 years. Bergen's seemingly endless rain pelted his office window. Nyland said there is always the possibility of bacteria, viruses and parasites in fish farms, even land-based farms. And if there is a power failure in a land-based farm, Nyland said, carbon dioxide levels will increase rapidly and all fish will die "within a few minutes...20 minutes, maybe less." Nyland went on to say insects bearing minute plastic particles can get into land-based fish farms and disrupt fish hormones.

Nyland said any fish farm, sea-based or land-based, should be located away from human populations. "If it is located near a beach or a popular fishing place, I would say no." I told Nyland that in Belfast, Nordic Aquafarms wanted to cut down 40 acres of woods through which runs a hiking trail. He smiled. "Well, then I would say no," he said.

From Bergen I traveled to Fredrikstad, where Nordic is building a land-based salmon operation in an existing industrial park that, according to Norwegian journalist and Nordic plant neighbor Haakon Strang, was decades ago foisted on a working-class neighborhood by a corrupt local government.

Having failed to reach Nordic CEO Erik Heim by phone, I tracked him down at his office across the street from the Nordic construction site. I asked Heim whether he had read my last column on Nordic, in which I presented evidence that a large majority of Belfast and Waldo County residents oppose Nordic's Belfast plans. Heim said he hadn't read the column.

This strains credulity. Heim personally replied in print to my first Nordic column, his wife responded in print to my third Nordic column, and Heim had an Aug. 27 Bangor Daily News op-ed that referred to an Aug. 16 Bangor Daily News op-ed by me.

I asked Heim whether Nordic was still committed to staying out of communities where it was not wanted by the citizenry. "In the end, we're going to have a permitting process, and people will have a chance to speak," Heim said. In other words, no.

Heim said it was "impossible for bacteria to get out" of Nordic's planned system, and then later said such things are always possible. This follows Nordic initially saying its operation wouldn't pollute and then saying it would pollute only a little. And Nordic saying fish couldn't escape from its facility, and then saying it's almost impossible. And Nordic saying its Belfast discharge pipe would be 1.5 miles long, then one mile, then one kilometer (.62 miles).

I asked Heim whether he suggested Deloitte, a global consulting firm, to Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum to write a $14,000 report on Nordic designed to placate opponents of Nordic's Belfast plans.

Heim said there is a "whole range of consultants that do this kind of thing...I gave Joe a list of companies that do this kind of work." That directly contradicts Slocum's repeated assertions that he found Deloitte all by himself, before he ever spoke with Heim about Deloitte, and that there were few companies able to do such a report and thus it was no coincidence that he, Slocum, found one that had worked for Nordic.

The two accounts don't jibe. Something here is seriously amiss.

Lawrence Reichard is a first-place Maine Press Association winner, freelance writer and activist who lives in Belfast.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Oct 09, 2018 15:52

Mr Reichard

Have you done any research on the pockmarks on the bottom of the Penobscot bay?  They release methane and fresh water and are ever changing and I am curious as to where the discharge pipe is going to end up.

 

Another question is the use of ultra violet light to control bacteria.  Young's Lobster pound once had an ultra violet system above their tanks to control bacteria and soak steamers.  Did the State of Maine make these illegal?



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