INVESTIGATION: Electromagnetic fields and waves: the new environmental scandal?
Farmers accuse electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage lines, wind turbines and relay antennas of killing their animals. What is it really about?
by Anne-Sophie Blot, actu.fr, 4 November 2019 - translation
|Farmers accuse, among other things, high and very high |
voltage power lines of being at the root of their problems.
(© Adobestock illustration)
For more than twenty years, livestock farmers throughout France have been facing massive losses and abnormal behavior in their herds. They are now convinced that their problems are linked to the radiation of electromagnetic fields and waves.
The culprits, according to them: (very) high-voltage power lines, power transformers, relay antennas, wind turbines and photovoltaic panels located on or near their operations.
Grouped together in an association, a dozen of these farmers announced on Monday, November 4, 2019 that they would take legal action with the help of their lawyer, François Lafforgue.
Are electrical installations and new technologies decimating the countryside?
For several weeks, actu.fr has been working on this complex issue, trying to analyse its ins and outs and give a voice to the many stakeholders involved. Here is a summary and links to the Website.
At least 30 cases identified
We went to meet livestock farmers in great difficulty: in Loire-Atlantique, at Murielle and Didier Potiron, who have lost more than 320 cattle since the establishment of a wind farm on their land; in Sarthe, at Didier Brault, diagnosed as electrosensitive since the arrival of a relay antenna near his farm, at Patrick Pilon, whose rabbit breeding has been completely decimated, the fault according to him being a relay antenna; and in the Côtes d'Armor, at Stéphane Le Béchec and Patrick Le Néchet, two farmes disoriented by a multitude of electromagnetic nuisances.
Because unity is strength, some farmers have joined forces under the banner of the "Animaux sous tension" association, created in the 1990's and relaunched in April 2019. Today, it has about thirty members.
What is the nature of the phenomenon?
This investigation raised a number of questions. First of all: what are electromagnetic fields and waves? Low-frequency electromagnetic fields are produced by any device using electrical current, as well as by structures carrying it (low to very high voltage power lines) or producing it (wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, electrical transformers, etc.).
As for radiofrequency waves, they are propagated by any modern means of communication (television, radio, mobile telephony, wifi, bluetooth) and therefore by the antennas that relay them.
Experts agree that animals, and in particular cattle, are much more sensitive to electrical phenomena than humans. How do these disruptive forces affect animal health?
An expert body created by the State
While farmers are now crying out for reactions from the State, the State is far from ignoring the situation. The influence of electromagnetic fields on livestock farming was the subject of a first report by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1998.
The following year, the Permanent Group for Electrical Safety in Agricultural Environments (GPSE) was created, composed of public authorities, farmers and energy stakeholders (RTE, Enedis, France wind energy, etc.). But the system is now controversial because the energy players, in other words the "troublemakers", are the only ones to finance it, the State having disengaged.
Many more questions to ask
GPSE has been involved in about twenty farms since 2015. The expertise of its stakeholders (veterinarians, electricians, etc.), supported by the initiatives of certain chambers of agriculture, has sometimes provided solutions. But in other cases, they all say they are powerless.
Faced with the persistence of problems and the many questions that remain, victims are calling for more prevention, including better knowledge of the soil. "Things are happening in the ground and basements, more or less conductive, that we can't control," says Serge Provost, president of the "Animaux sous tension" association.
What impact on human health?
Sometimes animals, which cannot be accused of inventing diseases, can be alerting agents. What about the impact of electromagnetic radiation on human health?
Joint pains, sleep disorders, tinnitus... some farmers complain of very disabling ailments. But they are not the only ones: in France, the number of people declaring themselves electrohypersensitive is constantly increasing.
Research is progressing on these emerging environmental problems, which could also cause childhood leukaemias or brain tumours according to ANSES. But a large part of uncertainty still surrounds the health effects of electromagnetic fields and waves.
This uncertainty fuels the concerns and questions of those who claim to be victims, but also more generally of a growing proportion of the population. All are now waiting for answers, as Serge Provost summarizes it:
"We are not against progress, but it must not be at the expense of the living!"
To find the entire investigation, it is here: Electromagnetic fields and waves: the new environmental scandal? (in French)
Original article in French: