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Did NAFTA Spawn the Swine Flu Epidemic?

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | 1 Comment | Updated on Apr 30, 2009 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

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,

About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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