NAFTA Flu?

by Chris Sturr | April 30, 2009

From an interview with Robert Wallace, a geographer who has studied avian flu, on Democracy Now!. Hat-tip to LF.

The “NAFTA Flu”: Critics Say Swine Flu Has Roots in Forcing Poor Countries to Accept Western Agribusiness

So, starting in the 1970s, the livestock revolution was brought to East Asia. You have the CP Group, which is now the fourth—world’s fourth-largest poultry company, in Thailand. That company subsequently brought the livestock revolution into China once China opened up its doors in 1980. So we have cities of poultry and pork developing around the world.

And this phenomenon goes hand in hand with the very structural adjustment programs that the IMF and the World Bank helped institute during this time. So if you’re a poor country, you’re having financial difficulties, in order to get some money to bail you out, you had to go to the International Monetary Fund for a loan. And in return, the IMF would make demands on you to change your economy in such a way that would allow you—will force you to open up your economy to outside corporations, including agricultural companies. And, of course, that would have a detrimental effect on domestic agriculture. So, small companies within poor countries could not out-compete large agribusinesses from the North that are subsidized by the industrial governments.

So they’re not able to compete with them, so there’s—they either must contract their labor and land to the companies, foreign companies that are coming into their country, or they basically retire out of the business and sell their land to the large companies that are coming in. So, in other words, the spread of the cities of pork and poultry go hand in hand with this structural adjustment program.

And, of course, NAFTA is our local version of that. The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1993, instituted in 1994, and has had a subsequent effect on how poultry and pigs are raised in Mexico. So, from that time, the pattern I just described, the small farmers had to either bulk up, in terms of acquiring the farms around them, acquiring the pigs around them, or had to sell out to agribusinesses that were coming in. So the Smithfield subsidiary that is now being accused of being the possible plant of origin for this H1N1 is a subsidiary of an outside corporation.

Read the transcript or watch the video of the full interview.

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