Small farmers located in the vicinity of the 3M chemical plant are raising the alarm regarding the fallout from pollution at the Antwerp factory.
“In farm shops, sales aren’t dropping, they’re plummeting,” wrote Tijs Boelens from Boerenforum and Katrin Van den Troost from Climaxi in an opinion piece published in De Morgen.
Pollution from the Antwerp factory has been making headlines as the extent of damage is further revealed by research and formal inquiries.
People have been told to be cautious eating produce grown within a certain radius of the factor, likewise with eggs and other animal products obtained from livestock in that zone, due to high levels of the chemical PFOS.
Blood samples taken from residents in the vicinity of the 3M factory also show abnormally high levels of PFOS, according to a local action group.
Now Belgium’s Federal Food Agency (FASFC) has announced that it’s maintaining the safety measures around 3M in Zwijndrecht.
Farmers denounce the doubts they say are being sown about the impact of PFOS on health and ask for urgent support for those farmers affected, according to the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT).
“Residents living within a one-and-a-half kilometre radius of 3M are advised not to eat vegetables and eggs from their own garden,” said Boelens and Van den Troost in their opinion piece.
“As farmers, we are told that we’re on our own when it comes to the health risks of our products.”
Komaan zeg. Laat deze korte keten producenten niet in de steek. Niet te begrijpen dat die steun er nog niet is. Al voor de zomer beloofde @crevits actie. Tijd om die belofte waar te maken. #korteketen #lekkervanbijons https://t.co/m7FJJPANZG via @demorgen— Mieke Schauvliege (@miekeschauv) August 30, 2021
Translation: Come on. Don't let these short-chain producers down. It is hard to understand that this support is not there yet.
They say the impact of the pollution on consumers, and thus sales, has been huge.
“Both in the news and in local notices from the municipalities, people are ‘advised to buy food from the supermarket,’ which is said to be safer,” the pair said.
They collected various testimonials from farmers located near the plant.
“They’re at a loss for what to do,” they say. “Because of the freeze on sales and the damage to their image, it is a financially disastrous year for many organic companies and other short-chain farms.”
“One thing is certain, short-chain farmers are already paying the price for pollution.”
The writers of the opinion piece also criticised the communication of 3M, OVAM (Public Waste Agency of Flanders) and FASFC about the impact of PFOS on health.
“The doubt that is being sown is keeping many customers away from the short chain and putting pressure on an organic label. Trust in an organic label and local food from our land is at stake,” they said.