Thursday, 9 July 2009

Worldwatch Institute Launches Initiative to Assess Agricultural Methods’ Impacts on Sustainability, Productivity

July 8, 2009

Washington, D.C.-The Worldwatch Institute is launching a two-year project to point the world toward innovations in agriculture that can nourish people as well as the planet, supported by a $1.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Click headline for more.

Factory Farms & the Flu. Who Says They're Not Related!

By Larry Powell

Sadly, politicians are again placing the interests of a failing industry ahead of science, the public interest and possibly even human health.

Manitoba and Ottawa are doling out another 37 million dollars -good money after bad - to factory hog producers in this province.

Both the Manitoba government and the "Feds" have swallowed, hook, line and sinker the siren song of the industry; that it is being unjustly connected to the current outbreak of swine flu and is suffering financial hardship as a result.

In announcing this latest welfare payment, the Minister of Agriculture, Rosann Wowchuk, cites what she calls "the false connection to H1N1 flu" as one of the factors hurting the industry today.

This rush to judgement and readiness to be a cheerleader rather than an even-handed lawmaker, does a disservice to Manitobans.

In contrast, the Green Party of Manitoba has taken a position based on reality and science, as opposed to political expediency.

In light of the current outbreak of H1N1 influenza, or Swine 'Flu, the Party is therefore calling for an immediate halt to the development of any new confined animal feeding operations, or "CAFOs," in the province.

Large numbers of hogs and chickens are fed in these facilities, also referred to as "factory farms." Many such operations were approved under the watch of our present government, especially in the southeast and central areas.

While it has placed a freeze on any new developments in these regions, vast areas of the province are still eligible for new ones. It is part of a larger style of industrialized agriculture which has for years, drawn growing concern from around the world.
Not only does it hold implications for the environment, communities, human health and animal welfare, it is highly dependent on exports, which are simply unsustainable over the long term.

As the party leader, James Beddome has stated, "The preponderance of scientific evidence implicating such operations in the spread of serious infectious diseases, is just too convincing to allow them to multiply.
"Operations housing both hogs and chickens in close proximity, already up and running in parts of Manitoba, (notably the RM of Hanover) pose an especially dangerous combination. These must be phased out as soon as possible."

Several huge hog and chicken CAFOs also operate near the small Mexican town where the Swine 'Flu outbreak apparently began. Some local people there believe a virus from those barns infected the little boy who became the first known victim.

The Government of Manitoba either does not know or care about the growing body of medical research and scientific evidence on this issue.

For example,

• The World Health Organization, the Canadian and American Public Health Associations, and the Canadian and American Medical Associations have, for years, all raised alarms about the public health risks of CAFOs.

• In 2006, research teams from the universities of Iowa and Wisconsin, with help from the Centers for Disease Control, warned that hogs play an important role in the transmission of the flu virus back and forth from animals to humans.
Their study found that farmers, veterinarians and meat processors exposed to hogs in their jobs, ran a greatly increased risk of coming down with H1N1, the flu strain involved in the current outbreak.

• In 2007, another research team with the (U.S.) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (a branch of the Surgeon-General's office) concluded, "Because CAFOs tend to concentrate large numbers of animals close together, they facilitate rapid transmission and mixing of viruses. There is a concern that increasing the numbers of swine facilities adjacent to avian facilities could further promote the evolution of the next pandemic."

The current outbreak is still cropping up disturbingly in unexpected places in Manitoba and elsewhere. So steps such as these are essential as a precaution against a full-blown pandemic which some medical authorities say is not only possible, but probable in the future.

But more steps should also be taken. These could include improved bio-security measures at CAFOs and the monitoring of people involved in their operation.

The government cannot be unmindful of any economic hardships these policy changes might have on the industry. Any adverse effects it encounters as a direct result of these policy changes ought to be compensated, appropriately.

But, to what degree can this situation continue and for how long?

It is now clear that our dominant system of animal agriculture, the CAFO, or factory farm, has failed on so many levels and needs to change.

So the government should stop propping up these factory farms and instead, begin to provide far more assistance to small, sustainable, straw-based, organic, family livestock farms.


Larry Powell

Green Party of Manitoba