Science: the Smithfield way

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From a Smithfield press release on May 3:

Yesterday we submitted samples from our farm in Veracruz for further testing under the direction of Mexican governmental authorities, including genetic sequence analysis that will determine what, if any, strains of flu are present. The results will enable us to conclude with certainty that the A(H1N1) strain is not present in our hogs. These tests will take approximately twelve days.

Ok, so Smithfield is taking samples (of its choosing), and giving them to a government that for ten years has allowed Smithfield Farms to contaminated dozens of villages and construct 100 feed lots with absolutely no regulation save for a few poor farmers occasionally blocking the highway.  This government will then test for A(H1N1) in order to enable us to conclude with certainty that the A(H1N1) strain is not present in our hogs (Given that that locals have tested positive for the swine flu, might there just be a tiny chance it is present)

Nope, that’s not how we roll here in Mexico.

Smithfield farms may or may not be responsible for this Influenza, which originally came out of hog feedlots in the US in 1998. But given the stakes, to not have an impartial international investigation into their herds would be extreme negligence. Especially considering how this has effected the world.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the rest of my visit to the Smithfield facilities in Veracruz and how the feedlots have effected nearby communities..

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check this out…

Croft at the H5N1 blog continues to bang out compelling and pertinent news and information on the outbreak, and has a great selection of resources as well.

Want a H1N1 Flu sequence? Click here.

Wikipedia is doing a good job reporting on the Swine Flu in a reasonably manner.

The Globe and Mail has an article about how the HINI virus is sweeping through pork population scaring the bejesus out of the Canandian Pork industry which has alread seen bans of it’s exports in China. Supposedly a worker gave it to the pigs.  At first I felt bad for the farmers, but after seeing the reality of factory farms, something has got to give. Feed lots will remain resilant refuges of diesease and mutation far into the future, until we can figure out a better way to do things.

The Smoking Pig!

Just back from a dirty, stinky, dusty trip to the center of factory farm hell in Veracruz to read on Wired.com that the Flu most probably came from Factory farms. On an emotional level, if you had seen and smelled what I did you would hardly doubt this, but it remains to be seen if the Government will actually investigate and find proof.

See the article here.

“We haven’t found evidence of infected pigs,” said Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist and member of the World Health Organization’s surveillance network. “But even if we never find that smoking pig, we can surmise that this is probably where it came from.”

The circumstances “are certainly enough to warrant asking questions,” said Lipkin. “The question, then, is how deeply do you want to look to try to find the evidence?”
This is the question.

faces of the flu

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7 days of fear.

Click  here to see my photostory on 7 days of Influenza.

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Media listen to a government spokesperson announce that Mexico has been hit by an new type of deadly Influneza on Friday, April 24.

cheap pork.

To get to La Gloria from Mexico city, you drive for an hour past concrete houses and dust. Then you pass under a volcano through thick forests of pine. The pine forest leads to forests of Dr. Seuss trees and long dry landscapes. Then you drop into a flat valley.

This flat valley is filled with neat little towns, about 100 of them, except they are not towns, they are feed lots stuffed full of the pigs that make all those tasty Al Pastor tacos in Mexico city.

According to many this is ground zero for the swine flu. For years the communities around here have seen a sharp increase in respiratory illnesses which local activists attribute to the feed lots which moved in 12 years ago.The 106 feed lots in Perote are  owned by Smithfield Farms,  the world´s largest producer of pork, based in Virginia, and Agroindustrias de Mexico a Mexican multinational.
In La Gloria, at least three cases of swine flu have been found, two men died, and one child survived. The child has become a poster boy, but for what, nobody seems to be sure. Because he survived? Because he was the first to get the disease from pigs, from flies? Nobody knows. What the media does know is that La Gloria has the two magic news ingredients. Animals and children.

Few people in La Gloria work in the feed lots, allowing activists to mobilize against the industrial farming since 2006. The towns that work in the feed lots have very little to say against them. The activists, led by a stately vegetable farmer sent letters of protest against the American company that owns the feed lots, and started talking to nearby towns. They got no response from the government. Until a week ago, when the international media arrived. Since then, the local government has started giving everybody in town three free meals today, and the paint is still drying on a new clinic set up next door.
When I arrived a few hundred people eat beans, and ham, and eggs under fluorescent lights. Next to them are stacks of vegetables and beans that should get the town through the next week. But according to the activists, they don’t need food. They need regulation to decrease the amount of contamination in their communities.
In Mexico, local government is known to be astoundingly corrupt. And in a long tradition, they make up for this by taking their constituents out to lunch. This is how they got votes, how they get people to protests, and how they get people to shut up. And it works.

I have to head out to visit some of these farms,  but will update later.

In the meantime you can check out this informative article at Inside Mexico.

Preliminary analysis of the swine flu virus suggests it is a fairly mild strain, scientists say.

BBC reports the virus is mild. This is very good news, but far from the end of the story,