Issue 227: January-February 2005


 Never, no never,

look upstream

Just who put all those chickens in one barn, all those cattle in one feedlot, all those fish in one aquaculture net-cage. . . ?

The one place we will not look for the cause of animal and human health problems: the factory! The CFIA, the Minister of Agriculture, Health Canada all tell us, ad nauseam, that we have the safest food system in the world and that Canada's food safety regime is “science-based” – yet actual facts seem to escape notice and consideration. For example, in the recent Avian Flu epidemic in the Fraser Valley of BC, the CFIA insisted on destroying more than 18,000 backyard birds of various species, even though with one exception the disease was confined to the factory farms. That one exception was a backyard flock which tested positive for the flu three days after a commercial farm located 400 metres away was depopulated, according to testimony from local experts to a Parliamentary agriculture committee. The committee was also told that the purpose of the CFIA's actions was political, not scientific: to re-open international trade as soon as possible for the mainstream poultry operations.

Like the Fraser Valley farmers, we suspect that the source and cause of animal (and human?) disease pandemics may well be the existence and continual expansion and intensification of livestock and poultry production and deconstruction systems. It would be nice to have policies based on real science rather than the unshakeable ideological and economic commitment of the Canadian government to the transnational corporations who are responsible for the problems.

“We have the safest food in the world.” But for goodness sake, cook your meat throroughly, and scrub your produce with detergent, and forget steak tartare! Children musntn't lick out the cookie bowl because it probably contains residues of uncooked eggs and therefore salmonella. The advisors remain silent on factory production of eggs and their inevitable salmonella. Rather, this so-called “science-based” food safety regime seems determined to wipe out our immune systems by “protecting” us from all the bacteria that form an integral part of our environment and that nurture our immune systems. We are, apparently, supposed to grow to resemble the hybrid monoculture corn that has no immune system and is therefore totally dependent on “crop protection agents” – i.e., agrotoxins – to protect it from the environment and synthetic fertilizers for food because the ground they are supposed to be growing in has been rendered sterile in the name of productivity. The transnational “food” companies will feed us with sterile food just as they do the hybrid corn . . . and the soybeans, and the canola. . . .

Dare we say that BSE is a natural outcome of an unnatural system and that it will be with us until we change the system? And there will be others.

Deborah Mackenzie, writing in New Scientist , comments:

“For years we have forced countless chickens to live short, miserable lives in huge, crammed hen houses in the name of intensive agriculture. In 2004, they started to wreak their revenge.

“Somewhere in east Asia these birds have been breeding a flu virus that, according to the World Health Organization, could eventually kill millions of people. Called H5N1, it has been causing regular, if unreported, outbreaks in poultry in China for years, as intensive poultry production has skyrocketed. This year the virus spread beyond China's borders, as far afield as Indonesia, forcing China at last to admit to its existence. It will take years to eradicate. And there is now so much of the virus about that the chances are some of it, somewhere, will acquire a taste for humans.

“The WHO says H5N1 could potentially cause a human pandemic that claims 100 million lives, but this is little more than an educated guess. . . To cause a pandemic, H5N1 will have to learn how to spread between people, and we don't know if that will make it more or less deadly. But so far, we know it has killed not 5 per cent but 70 per cent of its victims.

“So experts are feverishly working to create a vaccine and governments are beginning to stockpile antiviral drugs. But we can't start production of a vaccine until we know exactly what any pandemic virus looks like. And there aren't many antiviral drugs to go around. So we wait and hope.” – NS, 25/12/04

Surely a rethinking of the system that foments such diseases would be more effective than “wait and hope”?


#227: January - February 2005 TOC
Never, No, Never Look Upstream: Immune systems, Avian Flu and natural disasters
Capital Rules: The Sask Wheat Pool slips into its grave
Bring Back the Bison: grassland beef as a strategy to reduce obesity
"Cinnamon Toast" - the fine points of "Intellectual Property":Kellogg sues General Mills over language and labels
Forum on Privatization and the Public Domain: update