[News] How “The NAFTA Flu” Exploded

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 29 14:30:58 EDT 2009

How “The NAFTA Flu” Exploded

Smithfield Farms Fled US Environmental Laws to 
Open a Gigantic Pig Farm in Mexico, and All We Got Was this Lousy Swine Flu


By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

April 29, 2009

US and Mexico authorities claim that neither knew 
about the “swine flu” outbreak until April 24. 
But after hundreds of residents of a town in 
Veracruz, Mexico, came down with its symptoms, 
the story had already hit the Mexican national 
press by April 5. The daily La Jornada 

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.

The town has 3,000 inhabitants, hundreds of whom 
reported severe flu symptoms in March.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting from Mexico, 
identified a La Gloria child who contracted the 
first case of identified “swine flu” in February 
as “patient zero,” five-year-old Edgar Hernández, 
now a survivor of the disease.

By April 15 – nine days before Mexican federal 
authorities of the regime of President Felipe 
Calderon acknowledged any problem at all – the 
local daily newspaper, 
reported that a company called Carroll Ranches was “the cause of the epidemic.”

Jornada columnist Julio Hernández López connects 
the corporate dots to explain how the 
Virginia-based Smithfield Farms came to Mexico: 
In 1985, Smithfield Farms 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, 
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 
Farms, 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 Farms 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 Farms 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 
Farms 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.

According to 
Stone magazine, Smithfield slaughters an 
estimated 27 million hogs a year to produce more 
than six billion pounds of packaged pork 
products. (The Veracruz facility thus constitutes 
about three percent of its total production.)

Reporter Jeff Teitz reported in 2006 on the 
conditions in Smithfield’s US facilities 
(remember: what you are about to read describes 
conditions that are more sanitary and regulated than those in Mexico):

Smithfield’s pigs live by the hundreds or 
thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of 
wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially 
inseminated and fed and delivered of their 
piglets in cages so small they cannot turn 
around. Forty fully grown 250-pound male hogs 
often occupy a pen the size of a tiny apartment. 
They trample each other to death. There is no 
sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors 
are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a 
catchment pit under the pens, but many things 
besides excrement can wind up in the pits: 
afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by 
their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of 
insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn 
pigs­anything small enough to fit through the 
foot-wide pipes that drain the pits. The pipes 
remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in 
the pits to create good expulsion pressure; then 
the pipes are opened and everything bursts out into a large holding pond.

The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter 
than ninety degrees. The air, saturated almost to 
the point of precipitation with gases from shit 
and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. 
Enormous exhaust fans run twenty-four hours a 
day. The ventilation systems function like the 
ventilators of terminal patients: If they break 
down for any length of time, pigs start dying.

Consider what happens when such forms of massive 
pork production move to unregulated territory 
where Mexican authorities allow wealthy interests 
to do business without adequate oversight, 
abusing workers and the environment both. And 
there it is: The violence wrought by NAFTA in 
clear and understandable human terms.

The so-called “swine flu” exploded because an 
environmental disaster simply moved (and with it, 
took jobs from US workers) to Mexico where 
environmental and worker safety laws, if they 
exist, are not enforced against powerful multinational corporations.

False mental constructs of borders – the kind 
that cause US and Mexican citizens alike to 
imagine a flu strain like this one invading their 
nations from other lands – are taking a long 
overdue hit by the current “swine flu” media 
frenzy. In this case, US-Mexico trade policy 
created a time bomb in Veracruz that has already 
murdered more than 150 Mexican citizens, and at 
least one child in the US, by creating a gigantic 
Petri dish in the form pig farms to generate 
bacon and ham for international sale.

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.” 
Authorities now want you to grab a hospital 
facemask and avoid human contact until the 
outbreak hopefully blows over. And if you start 
to feel dizzy, or a flush with fever, or other 
symptoms begin to molest you or your children, 
remember this: The real name of this infirmity is 
“The NAFTA Flu,” the first of what may well 
emerge as many new illnesses to emerge 
internationally as the direct result of “free 
trade” agreements that allow companies like 
Smithfield Farms to escape health, safety and environmental laws.

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