There has been much speculation that Swine Flu, renamed Influenza A (H1N1), is linked to a Smithfield Foods CAFO operating in Perote, Mexico. The illness, a mix of swine, avian, and human flu, first manifested in Perote in late March, affecting 28% of the population.
Perote villagers had complained for months about the enormous amounts of manure and the putrid smell coming from the Smithfield plant.
Smithfield protested the flu originated in its Mexican facility, which raises 950,000 hogs each year. The company saysthat tests conducted at the Perote operation found no evidence of hog infection, but it’s not clear what tests were used. According to a Grist.org article, the livestock giant controlled which hogsit tested.
There has been much debate about the origin of H1N1. A form of the H1N1 virus was recently linked to the 1918 pandemic in which 50 million people died worldwide. This month the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published new findings that say hogs played a central role in the 1918 pandemic.
The deadly staff infection MRSA has also been linked to factory farms according to a University of Iowa study. MRSAnow kills more people each year than HIV/AIDS. A Louisiana State University study recently found this antibiotic-resistant infection can be transmitted just by handling raw contaminated pork. Five out of 90 pork samples in Louisiana tested positive for MRSA.
Concern about the role of factory hog farms in spreading MRSA has prompted the US House Rules Committee this month to hold a hearing on the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would phase out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, testified that antibiotics should not be used in healthy animals to promote growth nor be used without veterinary supervision. The bill is backed by the American Medical Association but not the powerful agriculture industry including the National Pork Producers Council.
With the indisputable evidence that CAFOs breed more than pigs, it’s JFAN’s position that we need our lawmakers to pass effective legislation that protects the health of their constituents and not the pocketbooks of the hog industry. Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey this month asked the federal government for an additional $50 billion to bail out the pork industry after the H1N1 virus cut into meat sales. JFAN advocates spending those funds on supporting independent pork producers using sustainable methods rather than an industry that breeds disease, damages the environment, and weakens rural economies.
Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors (JFAN) is a tax-exempt educational organization. www.jfaniowa.org