Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine-flu, round two

The Mexican newspaper La Marcha declared that Granjas Carroll (a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods) was the likely cause of the swine flu epidemic in La Gloria.

Residents of the community of La Gloria, in the municipality of Perote, asked the state government of Veracruz to intercede with federal authorities to inspect the installations of Granjas Carroll, whom they believe is responsible for the infection that has stricken 30% of its population.

According to one of the members of the community, Eli Ferrer Cortés, the organic and fecal waste that Granjas Carroll produces are not treated properly causing a contamination of the community's water and air.

Mr. Ferrer Cortés testified that in the community there are fetid odors in the air and a disagreeable smell in the water in addition to a large population of flies that resides on the refuse of the pig farm operation.

As result, the residents of the community ask the Government of Veracruz petition on their behalf the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) and to the Attorney General for Environmental Protection (Profepa) so that the company face sanctions.

Much of the criticism of Tom Philpott's story is that the connection between swine flu and Granjas Carroll is not substantiated by any facts. That it is speculative hearsay from the people of La Gloria and 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, noted as a 'periodic analysis and investigation' blog in Mexican, posted a story yesterday that paints the story of what happens when corporately owned factories move in to rural areas: environmental destruction and human rights violations in the name of job creation. The pictures are not for the light of heart. Loosely translated:
The waters of "Carroll" will cause pestilence gullies (that) seeps into the ground. We do not know if (for) 600 jobs created by the Americans (Smithfield), the government of Fidel Herrera Beltrán is willing to poison a 30 thousand of its citizens.

No longer content with having destroyed the chest of Perote, but until now the "dissidents" imprisoned in the Porfiriato.

Among the arrest warrants, which is identified as the main "harassment of the public" a Ms. María Verónica Hernández Arguello and other brave citizens of various communities of the Valley of Perote, also involving journalists who were to testify to their means of pollution on what causes "Carroll of Mexico." For this reason the governor promotes advocacy for journalists?

Will there be a divine right to ride roughshod over Americans on our soil with the help of Miramon?

En la laguna, un cerdo muerto en descomposición
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.

Victor Ochoa, the Xaltepec manager, ensured employees washed down cars coming into the plant yesterday and made journalists from the Associated Press shower and don protective clothing before entering. In common with his bosses back in the US, Mr Ochoa insisted that all 15,000 animals had been properly vaccinated, that the plant met all the required health standards, and that the vast swimming pool of faeces – industrial pig farming's toxic by-product – was covered with a lid to limit the exposure to the outside air. "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 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 the water, soil, rural communities, and 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.

I'll end with the quote of the day from Smithfield president and chief executive Larry Pope.
"We are very comfortable that our pork is safe. This is not a swine issue. This is a human-to-human issue."

Well said Larry.

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