Update on swine flu

Following our report on the swine flu outbreak in April 2009, we provide a short update here (July 2009).

Following our report on the swine flu outbreak in April 2009, we provide a short update here (July 2009).

A food system that kills - Swine flu is meat industry's latest plague

Mexico is in the midst of a hellish repeat of Asia's bird flu experience, though on a more deadly scale. Once again, the official response from public authorities has come too late and bungled in cover-ups. And once again, the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows. Just five years after the start of the H5N1 bird flu crisis, and after as many years of a global strategy against influenza pandemics coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world is now reeling from a swine flu disaster. The global strategy has failed and needs to be replaced with a public health system that the public can trust.

Mexico is in the midst of a hellish repeat of Asia's bird flu experience, though on a more deadly scale. Once again, the official response from public authorities has come too late and bungled in cover-ups. And once again, the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows. Just five years after the start of the H5N1 bird flu crisis, and after as many years of a global strategy against influenza pandemics coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world is now reeling from a swine flu disaster. The global strategy has failed and needs to be replaced with a public health system that the public can trust.

Corporate candyland

One of the most destructive developments in agriculture over the past two decades has been the boom in soya production in the southern cone of Latin America. The corporations that led that boom are now moving aggressively into sugar cane, focusing on large tracts of land in southern countries where sugar can be produced cheaply. If these developments are not resisted, the impacts are likely to be severe: local food production will be overrun, workers and communities will face displacement and exposure to increased levels of pesticides, and foreign agribusiness will tighten its grip on sugar production. We look at the intersection between the development of genetically modified (GM) sugar cane and transformations in the global sugar industry.

One of the most destructive developments in agriculture over the past two decades has been the boom in soya production in the southern cone of Latin America. The corporations that led that boom are now moving aggressively into sugar cane, focusing on large tracts of land in southern countries where sugar can be produced cheaply. If these developments are not resisted, the impacts are likely to be severe: local food production will be overrun, workers and communities will face displacement and exposure to increased levels of pesticides, and foreign agribusiness will tighten its grip on sugar production. We look at the intersection between the development of genetically modified (GM) sugar cane and transformations in the global sugar industry.

The soils of war (Seedling article version)

In recent decades humanitarian aid has regularly been made conditional on the adoption of neoliberal economic policies. Recently, however, there has been a troubling tendency in war-ridden countries to interweave this aid, classified as “reconstruction”, closely with the military machinery of the invading powers. Afghanistan and Iraq have been the testing grounds for this militarised aid. In both countries the distinction between the US’s civilian and military activities has been completely, and deliberately, blurred. (For a fuller version of this article, see GRAIN Briefing, “The soils of war – The real agenda behind agricultural reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq”, March 2009, http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=217)

In recent decades humanitarian aid has regularly been made conditional on the adoption of neoliberal economic policies. Recently, however, there has been a troubling tendency in war-ridden countries to interweave this aid, classified as “reconstruction”, closely with the military machinery of the invading powers. Afghanistan and Iraq have been the testing grounds for this militarised aid. In both countries the distinction between the US’s civilian and military activities has been completely, and deliberately, blurred. (For a fuller version of this article, see GRAIN Briefing, “The soils of war – The real agenda behind agricultural reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq”, March 2009, http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=217)

Melaku Worede (Interview in English)

Dr Melaku Worede is an Ethiopian plant geneticist who has been a pioneer in shifting perceptions and attitudes globally towards recognising the vital importance of on-farm diversity as a strategy to increase and conserve biodiversity. He has always been one of that rare breed: a scientist who puts the farmer first. He is admired by friend and foe alike for his integrity, his deep knowledge, his vision and his humility.

Dr Melaku Worede is an Ethiopian plant geneticist who has been a pioneer in shifting perceptions and attitudes globally towards recognising the vital importance of on-farm diversity as a strategy to increase and conserve biodiversity. He has always been one of that rare breed: a scientist who puts the farmer first. He is admired by friend and foe alike for his integrity, his deep knowledge, his vision and his humility.

Corporations are still making a killing from hunger

In April 2008 GRAIN published a short report on the huge profits that agribusiness was making from the food crisis. Another year has passed. More financial results are in. So has anything changed?

In April 2008 GRAIN published a short report on the huge profits that agribusiness was making from the food crisis. Another year has passed. More financial results are in. So has anything changed?

Indonesia fights to change WHO rules on flu vaccines

The WHO’s global surveillance system acts as a free virus collection and R&D department for the world’s largest vaccine companies, yet gives very little benefit back to the developing countries in terms of available vaccines. Angered by the inequity, Indonesia decided in 2007 to suspend its sharing of viruses with the WHO. This action sent shock waves around the world. It alerted many developing nations to the need for reform, while provoking companies and the developed nations to fight to maintain the status quo. The outcome is still to be determined, while the world awaits the next pandemic.

The WHO’s global surveillance system acts as a free virus collection and R&D department for the world’s largest vaccine companies, yet gives very little benefit back to the developing countries in terms of available vaccines. Angered by the inequity, Indonesia decided in 2007 to suspend its sharing of viruses with the WHO. This action sent shock waves around the world. It alerted many developing nations to the need for reform, while provoking companies and the developed nations to fight to maintain the status quo. The outcome is still to be determined, while the world awaits the next pandemic.

Seeds of information

This section of Seedling is devoted to short topical items. We welcome contributions from readers.

This section of Seedling is devoted to short topical items. We welcome contributions from readers.