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  • NAFTA MAKES US SICK!

    October 12, 2009 Day of Action Against Swine Flu, Factory Farming, and NAFTA

    The Free Trade-Factory Farm Connection

    Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, Mexico has seen a major shift towards factory farm agriculture. NAFTA directly contributed to the increase in factory farms by eliminating tarriffs on US agricultural exports, allowing the US to sell its factory farm exports in Mexico at prices below those offered by local family farmers, driving family farmers out of business.

    The elimination of import tariffs on government subsidized, US produced feed crops allowed US agribusiness to outsource factory farms to Mexico, as they were now able to access the same low-cost feed available in the US while also taking advantage of Mexico's lower wages and more lax environmental and safety regulations to minimize costs. As US imports on Mexican products agricultural commodities were also eliminated, the products of these factory farms could them be exported back to the US. In effect,efforts to regulate or ban factory farms by animal advocates, environmentalists, and public health advocates are made virtually irrelevant, because corporations now need only to shift production south of the border.

    NAFTA + Factory Farming = Swine Flu

    According to the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production ". one of the most serious unintended consequences of industrial food animal production is the growing public health threat of these types of facilities. In addition to the contribution of IFAP to the major threat of antimicrobial resistance, IFAP facilities can be harmful to workers, neighbors, and even those living far from the facilities through air and water pollution, and via the spread of disease. Workers in and neighbors of IFAP facilities experience high levels of respiratory problems, including asthma. In addition, workers can serve as a bridging population, transmitting animal-borne diseases to a wider population. A lack of appropriate treatment of enormous amounts of waste may result in contamination of nearby waters with harmful levels of nutrients and toxins, as well as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, all of which can affect the health of people both near and far from IFAP facilities."

    According to Laura Carlsen of the Center for International Policy (CIP)Americas Program, "For years scientists have known that pigs incubate and mutate viruses and many have warned that "factory farms" where large numbers are kept in close quarters create a perfect breeding ground for the rapid evolution of disease. The massive use of antibiotics means that viruses seek mutations resistant to the medicines. In the past, few cases of swine flu passing to human transmission were reported but it has long been known that it is possible. This virus posed a particular risk because of its contagion from human to human."

    Breaking out first in Mexico in mid March '09, the virus, H1N1, spread to hundreds of cases within days, but was not discovered until early April. By late April, 152 deaths had been connected to the disease. The World Health Organization has declared that as many as 23,000 people may have been infected in Mexico, and H1N1 has spread to the U.S. and beyond, to at least 35 other countries. The far-and-wide transmission of the disease has alarmed the world, with the U.S. even declaring a state of emergency concerning the outbreak. In the panic, countries have mandated the slaughter of thousands of pigs, blamed for the incubation of the disease. Indeed, the new, lethal strain of so-called 'Swine Flu' apparently developed in hog farms, where unsanitary conditions and copious anti-bodies breed tough, resistant, highly infectious diseases.

    The swine flu epidemic is believed to have started at the Smithfield owned Carroll Ranches hog farm in Veracruz, Mexico. According to Al Giordano of Narco News, "In 1985, Smithfield Foods received what was, at the time, 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. The company, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dumped hog waste into the river.

    It was a case in which US environmental law succeeded in forcing a polluter, Smithfield Foods, to construct a sewage treatment plant at that facility after decades of using the river as a mega-toilet. But "free trade" opened a path for Smithfield Foods to simply move its harmful practices next door into Mexico so that it could evade the tougher US regulators.

    The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect on January 1, 1994. That very same year Smithfield Foods opened the "Carroll Ranches" in the Mexican state of Veracruz through a new subsidiary corporation, "Agroindustrias de México."

    Unlike what law enforcers forced upon Smithfield Foods in the US, the new Mexican facility - processing 800,000 pigs into bacon and other products per year - does not have a sewage treatment plant."

    The Mexican daily La Journada reports, "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, according to Town Administrator Bertha Crisóstomo López."

    Holding Obama to His Campaign Promises

    Recognizing that US voters are fed up with NAFTA, in 2008 Candidate Obama shrewdly ran on a campaign promose to rengeoiate NAFTA. Yet since taking office he has given no indication that he intends to make good on this promise. In fact, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk has made it a priority to push Congress to ratify three free trade agreements negotiated during the Bush presidency, agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.

    By contrast, many of the Freshman and Sophomore Congressional Democrats who campaigned as opponents of the NAFTA free trade model in 2006 and 2008 have become strong allies and are committed to changing US trade policy to include more labor and environmental safeguards. Many of these legislators are among the 114 cosponsors of the House version of the TRADE Act, a bill that introduces a new template for US trade policy and highlights many of the problems with current trade policy. Unfortunately, they face fierce opposition from old guard Democratic leaders who are still in the pockets of industries that benefit from free trade agreements-- legislators like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Representatives Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). With legislators on the fence being pulled from both directions, it is vital that they feel pressure from constituents fed up with dangerous free trade policies.

    October 12: An International Mobilization

    October 12, 2009 will is Colombus Day in the US and Thanksgiving in Canada, a day that has come to symbolize colonialism and subjugation, and a that has become a focal point for resistance by indigenous peoples and their allies..On Monday, October 12, activists from a broad range of social movements throughout the hemisphere will organize actions as part of a coordinated day of protest calling the for the repeal and replacement of NAFTA, DR-CAFTA (the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, and the Peru Free Trade Agreement. This is one component of a broader Global Mobilization in Defense of Mother Earth and Her Peoples from October 12-October 16 called for by 6,500 delegates of organizations representing the indigenous peoples of 22 nations on May 31, 2009. The declaration calling for the mobilization states "We reject the Free Trade Agreements with United States, Europe, Canada, China and other countries which have destroyed our economies, as new instruments of subjugation of our Peoples and plunder of Mother Earth."

    Take Action in Your Community!

    Organizers are needed to stage demonstrations at the offices of Congressmembers, urging them to support the repeal of NAFTA, DR-CAFTA, and the Peru Free Trade Agreement. Action ideas include dressing as pigs wearing swine flu masks holding signs with messages like "NAFTA makes us sick and "Sick pigs against NAFTA" and holding giant tissue boxes. A simpler approach is just wearing swine flu masks with messages written on the masks like "NAFTA Caused Swine Flu." Global Justice for Animals and the Environment can support your local action by emailing you flyers, template press releases, press kits, and offering experts who can be interviewed remotely by reporters. We'll also be preparing a webpage to support the day of action. We can provide advice on organizing effective local actions and can help you develop a media contact list for your area. We'll be coordinating actions around the country via national conference calls and will also provide issue briefings to help you be an effective spokesperson on this topic.

    If you'd like to organize an action in your community, please call our office at (347) 338-4635 or email info@freetradekillsanimals.org. Learn about other October 12 actions from Witness for Peace.

    Global Justice for Animals and the Environment is a project of:
    Wetlands Activism Collective
    Phone: (718) 218-4523
    Fax: (501) 633-34761
    activism @ wetlands-preserve.org