By Carmelo Ruiz Marrero
1- Mexico: Swine fever and the meat industry. 4- GM soy can never be "responsible". 5- BRAZIL: Transgenic sugar cane
1- Mexico: Swine fever and the meat industry
Since the last week of April, the news media have been inundated with news, comments and advice about the deadly outbreak of swine fever that began in Mexico and which in a few days has become a cause for global alarm. According to various observers and NGOs, including GRAIN, this virus originates from the industrial meat production system, in which thousands of animals are confined in unsanitary conditions and crammed under one roof, for the sake of efficiency and economy. They argue that these industrial-scale pens, known as "feedlots," are the perfect breeding ground for viral infections that can turn into global pandemics.
GRAIN had already warned in January 2008 of the dangers to human health caused by massive industrial chicken and pig pens. In 2006 the United States National Institutes of Health announced that "Because feeding systems tend to concentrate large numbers of animals in very little space, they facilitate rapid transmission and mixing of viruses." And in 2003, the journal Science warned that the increase in the size of factory farms was accelerating the evolution of the swine fever virus.
In the community of La Gloria, in the Mexican state of Veracruz, where the first case of this disease was registered on April 2, residents had been battling for authorities to respond to a strange respiratory disease that they attributed to a gigantic nearby pig farm, operated by a subsidiary of the US company Smithfield, the world's largest pork processor. In the vicinity of La Gloria there are also numerous industrial chicken farms, and in fact the region had an outbreak of bird flu last September.
"Could there be a more ideal situation for the emergence of an influenza pandemic than a poor rural area, full of industrial farms owned by transnational companies who do not give a damn about the welfare of the local population?" Asks GRAIN in reference to to the situation in La Gloria.
The investigative magazine Multinational Monitor included Smithfield in its annual list of the ten worst companies of the year three times, for his environmental violations, monopoly practices and anti-worker actions.
GRAIN, "Viral Times — The Politics of Emerging Global Animal Diseases," Seedling Magazine, January 2008
GRAIN, "Swine flu, a food system that kills", April 2009
Hernández Navarro, Luis, "Smithfield, a very piggy business", La Jornada, May 5, 2009
Ribeiro, Siliva, "Profit Epidemi," La Jornada, April 28, 2009
Carlsen, Laura, "Mexican swine flu and the globalization of the disease," Americas Program Special Report May 4, 2009
Ribeiro, Silvia, "Rewarding the transnationals of the epidemic," La Jornada, May 9, 2009
Carlsen, Laura, "Swine Flu Reveals Flaws in Global Public Health System," Americas Program Commentary, May 11, 2009
2- New report on agrofuels
The American organization Food First has just published a report in English on the impact of agrofuel crops in the American hemisphere. Titled ¨Agrofuels in the Americas¨, it delves into what the agroenergy boom implies for food security, labor rights and environmental problems. Contributors who contributed to this document examine the issue from various angles: the strategies of biotech corporations, "free" trade agreements, the role of institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, and the terrible human cost. of the expansion of agrofuels.
"The agrofuel boom cannot be explained in view of its dubious social, thermodynamic or environmental merits, but it can be explained as the product of an economic system that continually generates false 'solutions' that require lucrative capital injections", says Richard Jonasse, editor of the report, in the introduction. "The documented limitations of agrofuels - in terms of energy balance, food security, dubious climate change mitigation, hunger and human rights - are overlooked due to their tremendous utility as engines of economic growth: for biotech companies desperate for a return on their investments in genetic engineering, for grain traders seeking coverage in volatile commodity markets, and for politicians seeking to provide the public with a magic bullet for the systemic problems caused by overconsumption. "
"Agrofuels in the Americas" is available for free in PDF format at the following address:
3- No to forest monocultures
Several nongovernmental organizations, including Survivor / Friends of the Earth Paraguay, are distributing an international petition addressed to governments, international financial institutions, and other multilateral and bilateral agencies urging them to exclude all financial support for monoculture tree plantations. the financial mechanisms established to promote forest conservation, including the financial mechanisms established for the reduction of deforestation, degradation and restoration of forests as a measure to mitigate climate change.
According to the petition, large-scale monoculture tree plantations are a very important direct cause of the destruction of native forests in countries like Brazil and Chile, they are also a very important cause of the destruction of other ecosystems such as grasslands (including pampas and savannas). , and swamps, and therefore, lead to the loss of biodiversity, and due to the great use of pesticides in these plantations, they are a very important cause of pollution and deterioration of land and water resources.
"By providing very little employment per hectare of land and thereby increasing pressure on remaining available land, tree monocultures are increasing pressure on natural forests rather than reducing it," the petition says.
"We denounce the actions of the same organizations that are falsely defending the expansion of tree plantations as a measure to reduce the pressure on natural forests while they are promoting an increase in demand in wood products and agrofuels and the bio-energy produced of cellulose… Only effective demand measures that result in a sharp reduction in demand for wood, cellulose and other forest products will reduce the pressure on natural forest ecosystems by the forest industry. "
4- GM soy can never be "responsible"
The international campaign "La Soja Mata", which documents the ravages caused by the monoculture of soybeans (or soybeans) in South America, has denounced the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) (formerly called Roundtable on Sustainable Soy) as an operation of public relations to wash the face of the soy industry. He finds it particularly scandalous that environmental NGOs such as the Fundación Vida Silvestre (WWF) and international cooperation agencies such as Solidaridad lend themselves to participate in the RTRS.
"La Soja Mata" recently announced that the RTRS is considering certifying transgenic soy as (socially and environmentally) responsible. He is currently disseminating an open letter / petition to WWF and Solidarity asking them not to certify GM soy and to leave the round table.
"The cultivation of soybeans (GM Roundup Ready) ... causes great social and environmental problems in Latin America," the open letter reads. "Soy monoculture changes nature and small-scale agriculture in a green desert. The high use of pesticides intoxicates the vital environment of the local population ...
"The Roundtable legitimizes a further expansion of soy cultivation. Peasant organizations and NGOs in Latin America and beyond have protested time and again against the false idea that this soy could be 'responsible' ... Solidaridad and WWF play a game leading role in that Roundtable. Especially thanks to your support, poisonous transgenic soybeans will soon receive the label of 'responsible'. That is why I urge you to change your opinion. Stand up for small farmers and nature and leave that Round Table! "
5- BRAZIL: Transgenic sugar cane
Brazil is experiencing explosive growth in its production of sugarcane, for sugar and ethanol, which promises to repeat the experience of the soy boom, with similar social and environmental consequences, and also accompanied by the drive towards the development of transgenic varieties. Brazil is today the largest producer and exporter of sugar in the world, producing more than 50% of the raw sugar traded internationally today. From 2000 to 2007 its area planted with sugarcane grew by 300 thousand hectares annually.
In 2008, the US corporation Monsanto bought the Brazilian biotechnology companies Canavialis and Allelyx for $ 280 million, with which it had been developing transgenic sugarcane resistant to the herbicide Roundup. With this purchase, Monsanto has become the largest cane breeding company in the world.
In an article published in April, GRAIN detailed the dire social and environmental impacts of the sugarcane boom, which the biotech industry aims to advance with its transgenic varieties. These impacts range from violent conflicts over land that often result in evictions of peasant and indigenous communities, to deforestation, destruction of biodiversity, and contamination and poisoning caused by pesticides.
"Taking a stand against GM sugarcane ... is important for many reasons," says GRAIN. "It is part of a larger opposition to the expansion of corporate sugar onto agricultural land that should be used by farmers for local food production. It is also a rejection of the industrialization and dehumanization of a food crop that has had great cultural and cultural significance. economic for many communities, especially with the current boom in sugarcane-derived ethanol. Workers, farmers and other food producers in the tropics and sub-tropics depend on cane as a source of food and for their livelihood. Today they suffer badly from As governments and agribusiness work together to redesign the world map of sugar production. The introduction of GM sugar cane will only worsen and intensify its problems. "
GRAIN, "Corporate Candyland: The Looming GM Sugar Invasion", Seedling Magazine, April 2009
Carmelo Ruiz Marrero is an independent environmental journalist and environmental analyst for the CIP Americas Program (www.ircamericas.org), a fellow of the Oakland Institute and a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, as well as founder and director of the Biosafety Project of Puerto Rico (bioseguridad.blogspot.com). Its bilingual website (carmeloruiz.blogspot.com) is dedicated to global environment and development issues.