Haraldur Benediktsson, chairman of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association, has demanded explanations from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) as to why information on fertilizers containing a high level of cadmium was reported to farmers many months after they were obtained.
Haymaking. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.
RÚV reported yesterday that too high levels of cadmium were found in 11 brands of fertilizers carried by Skeljungur (Shell Iceland) last year. Heavy metals such as cadmium are carried through the food chain and linked to cancer.
MAST has now banned sale and distribution of the fertilizers in question. Samples were taken in spring 2011 while a report on the conclusions wasn’t presented until December, after farmers used the fertilizers on their pastures and have now begun feeding their livestock the hay produced from these pastures.
Among buyers was the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland who scattered 850 tons of the fertilizer Sprettur 23-12, which contained three times the permitted level of cadmium; the maximum permitted level stands at 50 milligrams per kilo of phosphorus but some brands of the fertilizers carried by Skeljungur contained as much as 159 milligrams per kilo, ruv.is reports.
Guðmundur Stefánsson, manager of the Soil Conservation Service’s land protection division, said this matter is considered to be very serious.
Haraldur said both sellers and buyers place their trust on MAST’s surveillance and these work methods undermines the authority’s credibility. “It is unacceptable to hear about it many months later that something was wrong with the product,” he told ruv.is.
However, Haraldur said it is safe to state that the damage wasn’t significant and the consequences not serious for agriculture but people must learn from these mistakes and review work methods.
“We have very strict demands, much stricter than elsewhere,” Haraldur said of the level of cadmium permitted in fertilizers used on pastures in Iceland.
In an interview with Bændablaðið, the farmers’ newspaper, Valgeir Bjarnason, specialist in fertilizer and feed surveillance at MAST, explained that the information on the level of cadmium in the fertilizers wasn’t disclosed sooner because it had come as a surprise that Skeljungur carried polluted fertilizers and it was already in distribution.
A statement released by Skeljungur yesterday reads that the company has been assured by its supplier in the UK that this mistake will not be repeated, Morgunblaðið reports.
“There are no limitations in the European Union on the level of cadmium in fertilizers,” the statement continues, adding that Iceland is one of a few states that go further than the EU and place limitations on cadmium concentrations in fertilizers.