Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine-flu update

A recent outpour of criticism of Tom Philpott's post connecting the swine flu outbreak with Granjas Carroll (a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods) has been stirring. Critics point out the news, which was linked to the Mexican newspaper La Marcha is not substantiated by facts and is speculative hearsay from the people of La Gloria. As 'Enviroperk' commented on Grist:
I am still looking for something stronger than "the residents believe" or stitching together a series of Google hits into a conclusion.
I think we all are, but I don't think it refutes the fact that something is not right in La Gloria and whether confirmed or not, the people of La Gloria are using the outbreak as a cry for help.

Enlace Veracruz212, a 'periodic analysis and investigation' blog in Mexico, recently posted a story that paints a grim story of what happens to a community when corporately owned factory moves in: environmental destruction and human rights violations in the name of job creation. The pictures the author included are not for the light of heart. Loosely translated:
The waters of "Carroll" cause pestilence gullies (that) seep into the ground. We do not know if (for) 600 jobs created by the Americans (Smithfield), the government.... is willing to poison 30 thousand of its citizens.

Among the arrest warrants(of dissenters),was Ms. María Verónica Hernández Arguello, identified as the main "harassment of the public" and other brave citizens of various communities of the Valley of Peroteand Journalists who were there to report the pollution caused by "Carroll of Mexico." And the governor promotes advocacy for journalists?
From Stephen Foley at the Independent:

A team of UN veterinarians is arriving in Mexico to examine whether this new deadly strain of swine flu, mixed as it is with genetic material from avian and human strains, could be lurking in pig populations undetected. Smithfield says none of its pigs are sick but the company has sent samples for testing.

"What happened in La Gloria was an unfortunate coincidence with a big and serious problem that is happening now with this new flu virus," he said. La Gloria residents, though, have been protesting against the farm for months.

Starting in February, one in six of the 3,000 residents reported health problems. The government initially dismissed the spike as a late-season rise in ordinary flu, but by April, health officials sealed off the town and sprayed chemicals to kill the flies that residents said were swarming about their homes.

I have read many responses that this is not a food issue. Really? This is absolutely a food issue. The practices implemented to feed the high protein appetites of the West (and growing world) are unsustainable and destructive at the expense of the developing world. Sure pork may be 'safe to eat,' but does that make it 'okay' to eat? Given the known (and now mounting) information of the destructive nature of CAFO's (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) to human health, water, soil, rural communities and the animals themselves, at what point will we draw the line? This is THE food issue.

One of the best responses I have seen is "Why the Smithfield-H1N1 question matters" again from Paula at Peak Oil Entrepreneur.

Chief executive Larry Pope responded to the link between swine flu and the safety consuming pork:
We are very comfortable that our pork is safe. This is not a swine issue. This is a human-to-human issue.
Although speaking specifically on the issue of safety, I think Mr. Pope should revisit his last comment. This is a human to human issue, between Smithfield Foods and the people of La Gloria.

Tom Philpott has since posted a follow up to his original post: Symptom: swine flu. Diagnosis: industrial agriculture?

2 comments:

Phillip Huggan said...

Is the pork industrially globalized? That is, if you slaughter pigs in New Zealand, adjusting for transportation costs would this have the same effect on pork supplies in Thailand as if you slaughtered pigs in Brazil?

Can the pork industry regenerate easily? If you slaughter a given % of piggies, assuming farm supports can farm capacity be restored easily within say, two years by making imports from unslaughtered capacity? I guess I'm asking the adult pig population doubling time assuming unlimited $$.

Parke Wilde said...

Hmm. That's past the limit of my knowledge of animal agricultural economics. I think of grain and oilseed markets as almost entirely globalized, but don't know the answer to your question about slaughtered pigs. I'd be interested to hear where you are going with the question.