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  • NAFTA, Greedy Corporations Responsible for So-Called 'Swine Flu'

       Breaking out first in Mexico in mid March '09, the virus, H1N1, spread to hundreds of cases within days, but was not discovered until early April. By late April, 152 deaths had been connected to the disease. The World Health Organization has declared that as many as 23,000 people may have been infected in Mexico, and H1N1 has spread to the U.S. and beyond, to at least 35 other countries. The far-and-wide transmission of the disease has alarmed the world, with the U.S. even declaring a state of emergency concerning the outbreak. In the panic, countries have mandated the slaughter of thousands of pigs, blamed for the incubation of the disease. Indeed, the new, lethal strain of so-called 'Swine Flu' apparently developed in hog farms, where unsanitary conditions and copious anti-bodies breed tough, resistant, highly infectious diseases.

       Also known as 'NAFTA flu', the 'Swine Flu' can be traced to a Smithfield factory farm located in Mexico. Smithfield employs 'factory farm' methods of pig breeding, where the sows are contained in 'gestation crates' barely as big as their bodies while they wait in their own urine and feces to have piglets. Hogs spend their whole lives side-by-side in similar, individual cages too small to turn around in, and are rarely tended to or cleaned. Smithfield has a particularly bad reputation for irresponsible behavior and deplorable conditions in their factory farms, and were sued millions of dollars for dumping tons of pig feces into the Chesapeake Bay. To avoid the sting of further environmental penalties, they moved their operations to Mexico, where the just-created North America Fair Trade Coalition (NAFTA) ensured the protection of corporate rights over the environment.

       It was probably under these conditions, where disease spreads down the isles of festering pigs, growing resistant to antibiotics along the way, and eventually mutating into so-called 'super-bugs' like H1N1. NAFTA style Free Trade Agreements lower sanitary and phytosanitary standards, calling food and health safety regulations 'barriers to trade.' According to Free Trade, it is wrong to protect people from outbreaks if it cuts into the profits of big corporations. Meanwhile, intellectual property rights written into the agreements make healthcare more expensive by strengthening patents on medicines, making the chance of untreated outbreaks even higher.

       NAFTA style Free Trade Agreements are being pushed in front of Congress this year. The Panama Free Trade Agreement, which will deny Panama the right to protect its poultry industry from avian flu, is going before the Senate Finance Committee perhaps as early as late May. If the Panama FTA passes, the Colombia Free Trade Agreement will likely appear before Congress later this year. Both of these agreements will have the same repercussions of NAFTA, making the global health situation much worse for everyone.

    Global Justice for Animals and the Environment is a project of:
    Wetlands Activism Collective
    Phone: (718) 218-4523
    Fax: (501) 633-34761
    activism @ wetlands-preserve.org