Bonnie Bucqueroux

Bonnie Bucqueroux
Mason, Michigan, United States
May 01
Editor & Publisher
Sustainable Farmer
I recently retired from Michigan State to spend more time on Sustainable Farmer.com, an online multimedia "magazine" for people who grow food with respect for all living things. Yet another leading-edge Boomer still trying to save the world.


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Editor’s Pick
MAY 22, 2009 12:08PM

Swine flu: Will U.S. media tell us the whole truth?

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Swine flu virus - CDC
Swine flu virus (CDC)

The Associated Press, as published in the LA Times, looks at the possible connection between swine flu and the corporate pig farm called La Gloria in Veracruz, Mexico. This thoughtful article does a good job of explaining how difficult it can be to trace the origin of this new flu strain. However, as a journalist myself, I am as interested in what is left out as what's left in.

Glaringly absent is any reference to the connection between La Gloria and Smithfield, the U.S. corporation that dominates the production of so much of the pork we eat. According to the Times Online (United Kingdom), Granjas Carroll in Mexico owns La Gloria, and Smithfield owns part of Granjas Carroll. Leaving those facts out of the story - and the fact that the Mexican farm produces almost a million pigs a year - means the AP provides no analysis of any corporate responsibility for outsourcing pig production to huge factory farms in countries like Mexico where environmental and labor laws do not match ours and where enforcement of their relatively feeble laws is often lacking.

The Times Online (United Kingdom) may have gone too far in headlining its story as directly linking this new flu strain to the manure lagoons at La Gloria, but it also gives much-needed context to the problems of industrial ag. Why isn't the press in the United States as willing to tackle this issue of corporate responsibility? Too much lapdog, not enough watchdog?

Newspapers across the country are begging for our sympathy, arguing that we must save them from financial ruin because of the crucial role they play in keeping government honest. But it is that narrowness of focus  - always on government, never the corporations - that is part of the reason that people like me don't trust them. U.S. news organizations are quick to investigate the mayor with his hand in the till but not the companies robbing us blind legally. Why is the AP telling us only part of the story? I would be interested in knowing what the editors took out.

UPDATE: The AP is now reporting that the Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that genes that part of the new swine flu virus habe been circulating in pigs for at least a decade. The article says that the team investigating the origins of this new flu strain warn that pig populations should therefore be monitored more closely. Another good reason that the U.S. press should do a better job of watchdogging corporate agriculture.

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the flu scary me i mean i live in lancaster and well around here there lots of case like 50. >
Some scientists are watching the swine flu virus this way: In the 1918 flu epidemic that killed millions, it started like this. In the spring the flu surfaced, was fairly benign then disappeared over the summer. In the fall it surfaced much, much stronger and killed millions. No reason why this can't happen again.
I think you are wise to be concerned but not freaked out, Anemic Leader. As Deborah notes, we should know lots more this fall. If the virus becomes increasingly lethal, we could really have our hands full. As always, it would likely be the poorest countries that would suffer most, but reading about the 1918 pandemic should make us all uneasy. My concern is that leaving vaccine to the private sector means that companies don't want to produce vaccines that might not be needed. And that means we do not have the capacity to increase production for a vaccine for this new strain without overstraining our capacity to produce vaccines for existing flu viruses. For all the talk about not wanting government to run the show, this is another case where we misguidedly left our health in the hands of corporations whose only concern is the bottom line.
My mother's father (who died long before I was born) joined the army in World War I.One day he woke up in the barracks and saw the guy in the cot next to him wasdead from the flu. He turned to tell the guy on the other side of him, and that guy was dead, too.

Still, I wouldn't press the panic button just yet. Nutrition and sanitation have greatly improved since 1918.

But your general point is well taken, that all too often the media act as lapdogs for the giant corporations, rather than watchdogs.
So far, the flu appears to mainly attach in upper airway receptors, which is a good thing, as that means it's less likely, except in more susceptible individuals, to descend into the lower lungs and start its infection there. But, if it combined/mutated with some other this might change. The possibility, however slight, that it might combine with avian flu is always on the table. And avian flu attaches in the lower lungs. That would be bad.

I agree that some oversight needs to be done. Really, we should do away with these factory farms, but sadly, the money makers will never allow this.
@ Deborah

No reason except modern medicine, better communication, and the CDC. I'm not saying it could never happen, but in 1918 things were much different: there were no flu vaccines, there wasn't an internet or 24 hour news stations to warn people and to help doctors connect the links of how the disease was spreading and therefore take preventative action. Then again, worldwide air travel is a factor now so a virus could spread much more rapidly. Let's hope the positives outweigh the negatives.
What they also are not examining is how the THREE strains of avian, human and swine flu crossed. That is somewhat unusual.
Don, strange indeed. There is some suspicion that this may be a case where the virus escaped from a research lab somewhere. I remember the Russian flu, and many people suspected that came from a Russian lab, perhaps bioweapons.
MSM? tell you everything? HAHAHAHA
some posts on swine flu in my blog. how about the bombshell element that maybe aspects of it were mfg'd in a lab?

I dont see how the usa gets away with not claiming
responsibility for the Swine Flue. It can be pretty easily
traced, in electromagnetic evidence,
to the sources...but we do nothing about it, yre right

becuz its just a story in the paper,
which focuses on govt doings,
not corporate doings....until the corporation spills

bad taste over us all....like a drug ugly uncle
here for the holidays...
we give him our labor,
we Common Man,
and he shits in our living room and
expects us to clean it up
if hes comin to visit today...

the shit hit the fan when the corporations crumbled and
the system shook and it broke
into a thousand million billion private affairs

feudal rules are in force...tha t means
as it always has at these "feudal" shifts in the
historical fabric..

the brotherhood, or the sister and brother-hood...get the brotherhoods together...the meeting of the Tribes..

Roomey the Arab Philosopher said:
"at the tiem of the last dance,
when the tribes come to see
the way to be free...

at that time, rejoice, and
not before...fot it is pre
mature rejoicing that they willalways use against ya

and lock ya up
in the "manacles of yr mind"....amen jim
Interesting points! I have wondered about the legal activities of corporations myself. Sometimes, what they do seems like false advertising, or highway robbery!
From what I know about the flu of 1918 besides that it was a pandemic is that it turned into pneumonia which then killed young, healthy people. As for your story about Smithfield, guess where I heard that a couple of weeks ago? NPR. They were discussing a Smithfield farm in Mexico, which I believe is the same one you mention, La Gloria. The people in that vicinity had complained for years of the smell and the clouds of black flies hovering over it. The flies were found to carry portions of the swine flu and other diseases.
First Iwould like to congratulate you on receiving the coveted EP. It is not that often that the designation is awarded to a topic of such weight and merit. You have posed the question of the story. My follow up to your query is how is it possible for the genes of birds, pigs, and humans to combine in nature? Why do these exotic diseases always seem to eminate from a third world country populated primarily with people of color? Your post is on time and on target.
Hi, Bonnie:

Wired reported on 1 May that H1N1 was linked to US industrial pig farming and a virus identified in 1998. See my April commentary at Newsvine.
Oh. And you might be interested in this RollingStone magazine profile of Smithfield, from December 2006.
Thanks, Kathy. Please also check out the Wired blog from May 22 - http://is.gd/DYNf As the article says, while we all suspect the jump was made from an industrial swine operation (and many of us have our sights set firmly on La Gloria), the definitive word is not yet in. But I remain irritated by AP's timidity in sharing these far-from-off-the-wall suspicions in their article. I wonder if the reporters fought with the editors about what should and should not go in?
I'd like to think that the reporter fought with editor ... but that's only going to happen if the reporter is a subject matter expert. Don't know if AP works that way.
Obviously swine flu, bird flu and mad cow disease come from sketchy farming methods, including gene modification and overusing antibiotics.
This is not due to close proximity to the animals. Dog owners are constantly getting kissed by their dogs. If these diseases were a natural progression, humans and dogs (and cats) would be passing diseases around left and right.