Does Removing Habitat Around Farm Fields Really Make Our Food Safer?

Three people died and hundreds were sickened in a 2006 outbreak of E. coli. Wildlife eventually took part of the blame, but does removing habitat near fields to keep wildlife out actually make our food safer? A NatureNet Science Fellow investigates in a new video.

Death, disease and…organic spinach?

They form the mystery NatureNet Science Fellow Danny Karp came to the organic farms of California’s Central Coast to investigate. It all started in 2006, when a notorious E. coli outbreak killed 3 people and sickened hundreds.

Though the source of the outbreak was eventually traced back to organic bagged spinach harvested from a field on the Central Coast, no one could ever say how the spinach had become infected in the first place.

In the end wildlife took part of the blame. The result: in efforts to comply with new rules and industry pressure, farmers began fencing their fields and removing habitat across the Central Coast.

But does removing habitat really make our food safer?

In a new video, NatureNet Fellow Danny Karp looks for answers.

Romain lettuce growing on California's Central Coast © Cara Byington/TNC
Romain lettuce growing on California’s Central Coast © Cara Byington/TNC

About NatureNet
Our world faces unprecedented demands for food, water and energy — and meeting these demands without exacerbating climate change and degrading natural systems is the human challenge of our generation. That’s why the Conservancy has established the NatureNet Science Fellows Program in partnership with six of the world’s leading universities — Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale — to create a reservoir of new interdisciplinary science talent that will carry out the new work of conservation, from rainforests to farm fields and everywhere in between.

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  1. The article, “Does Removing Habitat Around Farm Fields Really Make Our Food Safer?” is really great. The video is excellent but the sound is so load, especially at the beginning, that you can hardly understant what is said. In fact, some parts are just plain missed. Could the sound be turned down?