Published May 16, 2009
the swine flu scare was just the latest example of why an economic theory that mixes subsidization, consolidation and deregulation endangers us all....
...the associated press says scientists suspect swine flu began in a mexican town that "has been protesting pollution from a large pig farm" partially owned by the smithfield company. that's the same smithfield that used three decades of lax antitrust enforcement and corporate welfare to become one of the few mega-corporations now controlling global agribusiness.
whether or not swine flu is ultimately attributed to this company is less important than the justifiable reason factory farming is a suspect. as pew charitable trusts documented in 2008, researchers have long warned that industrial agriculture means high concentrations of waste, overuse of antibiotics and "continual cycling of viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds" -- all factors that increase the possibility of diseases like swine flu.
yet, congress has repeatedly rejected bills to mandate vigorous health inspections, stop agribusiness consolidation and halt subsidies underwriting that consolidation, meaning these companies are now so huge and unchecked that they can pose a worldwide threat when livestock-borne disease strikes. it's easy to understand why: a virus that might have been constrained by small herds in our family-farm-dominated past can now exponentially metastasize in our factory-run present. thus, wired magazine's article noting that "scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new h1n1 swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in u.s. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate."...
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