Did NAFTA Spawn the Swine Flu Epidemic?

Date: 30 Apr 2009 | posted in: From the Desk of David Morris, The Public Good | 1 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Two weeks before the US learned of the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, the Mexican press reported, “Clouds of flies emanate from the rusty lagoons where the Carroll Ranches business tosses the fecal wastes of its pig farms, and the open-air contamination is already generating an epidemic of respiratory infections in the town of La Gloria, in the Perote Valley…” 

In 1985, Smithfield Farms, a huge US hog producer, received the most expensive fine in history – $12.6 million – for violating the US Clean Water Act at its pig facilities near the Pagan River in Smithfield, Virginia, a tributary that flows into the Chesapeake Bay.  US environmental law succeeded in forcing a polluter to construct a sewage treatment plant.  But the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) allowed Smithfield to move its harmful practices into Mexico. NAFTA came into effect on January 1, 1994, the same year Smithfield opened the “Carroll Ranches” in the Mexican state of Veracruz through a new subsidiary.  Smithfield processes 800,000 pigs into bacon and other products per year.  The facility has no sewage treatment plant.

As Al Giordano reports in The Narco News Bulletin,   “None of that indicates that this flu strain was born in Mexico, but, rather, that the North American Free Trade Agreement created the optimal conditions for the flu to gestate and become, at minimum, epidemic in La Gloria and, now, Mexico City, and threatens to become international pandemic.

Welcome to the aftermath of “free trade.” 

For background on how changes in US state law spurred the creation of industrial hog farms in the first place, see
Hogging the Market, http://www.newrules.org/banking/publications/new-rules-journal-fall-1999

David Morris
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David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.