Jody Weible keeps a jar on her front porch that she refuses to open, because the smell would make her eyes water and her throat close up. Inside is a goopy mixture of fermented corn seeds that she collected nearly four years ago from a field near her home in Mead, Nebraska, a town of about 600 people. The seeds had been applied to the soil as an “amendment” to boost fertility, but they were actually waste from a nearby ethanol plant, AltEn — waste that contained staggeringly high levels of toxic pesticides.
For nearly a decade, AltEn collected leftover seeds from around the country to use as the base for its ethanol, a corn-based fuel that’s mixed into gasoline. A byproduct was the fermented seed mixture, stored in a pastel-green pile that at one point took up 30 acres of the property. The smell it gave off was “acidic, rotten, dead,” Weible told Grist from her home less than a mile away from the plant. Residents kept their windows closed because of the stench; birds stopped coming to feeders. One woman said her dogs started having neurological problems after eating some of the waste.
The seeds AltEn used were coated with a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” an insecticide that’s been linked to a nationwide pollinator decline and is
— source grist.org | Diana Kruzman | Apr 21, 2022