Once again, toxic algae blooms are causing havoc of Canadian waterways. A new Greenpeace report finds that agriculture is largely to blame. Pollution from livestock farms and excess use of fertilizers are the big contributers. Read the report: Dead Zones: How Agricultural Fertilizers are Killing our Rivers, Lakes and Oceans.

Dead Zones: How Agricultural Fertilizers are Killing our Rivers, Lakes and Oceans

Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, Canada — Greenpeace today releases an international report that shows how agricultural fertilizers can generate harmful algae blooms, often resulting in dead zones that kill rivers, lakes and oceans. Last summer, waters across Canada, notably in Quebec and on Lake Winnipeg, experienced record algae blooms largely caused by fertilizer run-off. The Greenpeace report Dead Zones: How Agricultural Fertilizers Kill our Rivers, Lakes and Oceans documents the extent of the global problem and makes 11 specific recommendations to reverse the global growth of algae blooms.

The launch of the report comes as Canadian agriculture ministers gather for their annual meeting in Quebec City, from July 8-11. The ministers will review a federal plan called Growing Forward that still promotes oil-based industrial agriculture and largely ignores the environmental problems caused by agriculture. Greenpeace calls on the federal and provincial governments to take concrete measures to limit fertilizer run-off and reverse the growth of dead zones in Canadian waters.

Fertilizer usage from industrial agriculture feeds excess nutrients to algae, leading to explosive growth of algae blooms. Algae blooms deprive oxygen from other life forms, and create conditions for bacteria which can make waters unsafe for humans and other organisms. Algae blooms have harmful impact on fisheries, cause loses to biodiversity and could turn summer beaches into toxic no-go zones.

The Greenpeace report echoes concerns raised by the recent United Nations and World Bank led assessment of global agriculture released last April. The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was a five year study involving over 400 leading experts and scientists from all around the world with the objective to provide a baseline assessment for a sustainable future for agriculture. While 57 countries immediately signed on the UN and World Bank agricultural report, the Harper government refused to adopt it.

”Let us remember that in Canada the agricultural sector is still responsible for about 82 per cent of the phosphorus and 80 of direct and indirect nitrogen pollution, mostly through runoff from fertilized soils and livestock farming,” said Éric Darier, Greenpeace Agriculture Campaigner. “We also know that the most rapidly increasing source of nitrogen in Canada is from agriculture. Since records began in 1950, nitrogen fertilizer production in Canada has increased about 75-fold.

Recommendations of the report include eliminating fertilizer runoff by reducing fertilizer usage to a minimum and making use of year round cover crops; restoring natural vegetation along waterways to enhance nutrient retention; and better financing of research to understand the impacts of nutrients on the proliferation of dead zones.

‘We have failed to learn from past pollution problems. Lake Winnipeg now looks like Lake Erie did in the 1970s in terms of nitrogen pollution and algae problems. The federal Growing Backward plan is a recipe for disaster. Reducing fertilizer overuse is a triple win: the farmers pay less for less fertilizer, our lakes and drinking water will be less contaminated, and fewer greenhouse gases will spoil our climate,” says Josh Brandon, Greenpeace Agriculture Campaigner. “Ministers have to get serious about fertilizer and algae, but the federal plan will make matters worse by failing to address the environmental impacts of agriculture on the environment.”

For more information, please contact: Jessica Wilson, Media and Public Relations Officer - Cell.: 778 228-5404 Josh Brandon, Agriculture Campaigner - Cell.: 604-721-7493 Éric Darier, Agriculture Campaigner - Cell.: 514-605-6794