Sunday, May 24, 2009

Swine flur or hog-wash?

Indian environmentalist and editor of the magazine, Down To Earth, has penned an effectively argued editorial on the pandemic-in-the-making swine flu, which is currently spreading very fast in Japan, as well as in many other places. Sunita asks, "But what are the origins of this virus, winging across our air-travel interdependent world? Why is this question never asked?"

True. The corporate media will not discuss it in great detail. There are reasons behind it. But to be fair, I saw an article in Today (Singapore), just a few days after the flu's outbreak, how it all started from a village in Mexico. But the story, as far as I remember, did not discuss the pig farm next to the village in Mexico. What was the secret? What was the connection? Sunita takes the lid off:

The influenza A(H1N1) virus is not transmitted to humans by eating pork, that much is now known and said. But what are the origins of this virus, winging across our air-travel interdependent world? Why is this question never asked? Why are the big doctors of our world looking for a vaccine for all kinds of influenza without checking on what makes us so susceptible to pandemics, year after year? Is there something more to the current contagion?

Yes. The current pandemic is linked to the way we produce food—in factory farms, via vertically integrated business. Experts say the global food industry, like the global banking industry, is too big and out of control. It needs to be fixed.

Take swine flu—now renamed. We know it started in La Gloria, a little town in Mexico. We know a young boy suffering from fever in March became the first confirmed victim of the current outbreak, which, even as I write, has claimed some 42 people and affected 2,371 in 24 countries. What is not said is this ill-fated town is right next to one of Mexico’s biggest hog factories, owned by the world’s largest pig processor, Smithfield Foods. What is also not said is people in this town have repeatedly protested about water pollution, terrible stench and waste against the food giant.

Nothing happened then. Nothing is happening now. Smithfield has done what all biggies do when nearly caught: deny any wrong-doing and claim ‘their science’ and ‘their tests’ show their herds, always kept in pristine conditions, are just fine. Interestingly, when The Guardian’s special correspondent, Felicity Lawrence, wrote to Smithfield asking for test results, she got no data, only the usual corporate response: “These are unfounded opinions and unrestrained internet rumours”. Simultaneously, all the food giants have ganged up to ensure the World Health Organization changes the name of the contagion and exhorts people to eat more pork, manufactured in their mega-swine factories. Business as usual.

(Letters in bold done by me)

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Maya said...
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