Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cow CAFO Stink

We were so busy protesting the Jasper Hog CAFO, that we didn't pay much attention to the Dairy CAFOs going in around this area... Not until a few days ago when the wind was "just right" and we got a whiff of how bad they could be. UGH!

Thankfully, we don't get much wind from that direction on a hot summer day... and there's a wee bit of a windbreak between us and them. But now, after reading a NEW STUDY on Air Emissions from Confined Swine Feeding Operations, I'm beginning to wonder if the "stuffy head" feeling I have had for the past 3 weeks is owing to CAFOs. In my whole life, I've never had asthma or allergies (other than my alergic-like reaction to alcohols of any kind), and yet this feels so much like allergies I've read about.

I feel sorry for the folks over in Grant & Randolph Counties. I hope they take E.T. Kemp's advice and get over to the Grace Factory Farm site right away.

Still, I know first-hand what a battle it is when you're not just fighting the CAFOs from walking all over you... when you know there's a LOT of GOVT muscle behind this "march" for "so-called progress" in agriculture.

Is it any wonder that people are becoming skeptical of the Govt. bodies set up to protect us and our rights? The recent Benzene conspiracy (for lack of a better term) is a good example.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How do low pathogenic avian viruses become highly pathogenic?

"Since 1997, more than 16 outbreaks of H5 and H7 influenza have occurred among poultry in the United States. Highly pathogenic strains can cause 90 to 100 percent deaths in poultry." Source - Institute of Science in Society (ISIS)

Recent studies into the spread of the highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus have produced some startling conclusions...

For example: After testing hundreds of thousands of wild birds for the disease, scientists have only rarely identified live birds carrying the highly pathogenic H5N1. In a test of 13,000 wild birds in marshes within the bird flu infested provinces of China, the H5N1 virus was found in only 6 ducks.

They weren't prepared to draw solid conclusions, though: "Our data show that H5N1 influenza virus, has continued to spread from its established source in southern China to other regions through transport of poultry and bird migration."

According to ISIS: The reality is that nearly all the wild birds that have tested positive for the H5N1 disease were dead, and in most cases, found near to outbreaks in domestic poultry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently said that viruses from Turkey's first two human cases were virtually identical to those that killed 6 000 migratory birds in a nature reserve, Qinghai, in central China last year. But RSPB's conservation director Dr. Mark Avery insists that the trade in wild birds and the movement of poultry and poultry products, such as chicken manure used to fertilize fish farms, has led directly to the transfer of H5N1 across national boundaries.

"No species migrates from Qinghai, China, west to Eastern Europe," BirdLife's Dr. Richard Thomas said. "When plotted, the pattern of outbreaks follows major road and rail routes, not flyways."

About Avian Flus

Wild birds are the natural host for all known subtypes of influenza A viruses, according to ISIS. In wild birds and poultry throughout the world, influenza A viruses representing 16 HA and 9 NA subtypes have been detected in numerous combinations, such as H1N1, H3N3, H16N3 and so on. Typically wild birds do not become sick when infected.

Domestic poultry such as turkeys and chickens can become very sick and die from avian influenza, and some avian influenza A viruses also can cause serious disease and death in wild birds.

Avian influenza viruses are designated as low pathenogenic (LPAI) when they do not cause disease or only mild disease, and highly pathogenic (HPAI) when they do. The HA protein is synthesized as a single polypeptide precursor, which is cleaved into HA 1 and HA 2 subunits by proteases.

The switch from low to highly pathogenic avian virus is not fully understood, however... the switch appears to be associated with basic amino acid residues introduced into the HA cleavage site, which makes the protein easier to cleave and facilitates virus replication.

Influenza viruses evolve by small point mutations (antigenic drift) or large changes due to reassortment (antigenic shift), the mixing of genome segments from different viruses.

Ducks, geese, swans, gulls, terns and waders are the major LPAI virus reservoir, where the virus preferentially infects cells lining the intestinal tract and is excreted in high concentrations in their faeces. Influenza viruses remain infectious in lake water for up to 4 days at 22C, and for more than 30 days at 0C. Faecal to oral transmission is the most frequent route for transmitting viruses, both of high and low pathogenicity.

So, how do low pathogenic avian viruses become highly pathogenic?

The influenza A virus genome is in eight separate segments. The segmented genome allows the viruses from different species to mix and exchange segments to create new influenza viruses.

A pig infected with a human virus and a bird virus at the same time would allow the two viruses to exchange segments to create a new virus that retained most of the genes of the human virus but had the avian haemagglutinin and/or neuraminidase gene(s). The resulting new virus might be able to infect humans and spread from person to person.

If this new virus causes serious illness in humans, then a pandemic would result. This gene exchange could even take place in a human infected at the same time with human and avian flu viruses.

And that's my point...

Workers on the Jasper hog factory farm are leaving the building every single day -- but do they really know if they carry any avian virus, be it from one of the 2500 hogs, or from the tens of thousands of migratory birds that visit this region every year?

Picture it: One worker gets sick from one of the sick hogs while working inside. The worker showers, then leaves the building to go home. There's a bit of bird faeces on his truck window. He wipes it off, stuffing the rag back in his truck. He feels a sneeze coming on, grabs his hanky from his pocket....

The shower-in/shower-out policy may be effective in other areas of the world, but right next to a game reserve teeming with wildlife -- directly in the center of a massive wild bird habitat area -- am I the only person who sees any potential danger here?

And what happens when they start poking that untreated hog manure into the ground for all those birds and other wildlife to forage on...??

It may take years for anything to happen as drastic as a mutated virus. Or it may take only a few more months down the road. It kind of feels like living near a ticking time bomb, in my humble opinion.

Read more about avian flu and the science here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Trail of dead sheep

For the record, I'm not a big fan of the biotech industry yet. In my personal opinion, I feel way too many "biotech marvels" have been rushed to market in the race for Industry dominance and massive profits ...with far too little impact assessment research.

The trail of dead sheep (at least 1,820 dead) after grazing on Genetically Modified Bt Cotton in India is one example that I cite as a reason for my reservations. I could list many more, but thought you might like to know more about the dead sheep.

Picture sheep grazing on crop leftovers... and 5 to 7 days later, 25% of your herd drops dead. This isn't science fiction. It happened between February and March 2006 to the shepherds of Warangal district in India.

"The shepherds said that the sheep became 'dull/depressed' after 2-3 days of grazing, started coughing with nasal discharge and developed red lesions in the mouth, became bloated and suffered blackish diarrhoea, and sometimes passed red urine. Death occurred within 5-7 days of grazing. Sheep from young lambs to adults of 1.5-2 years were affected."

Post-mortem autopsies revealed "black patches in the intestine and enlarged bile duct and black patches on the liver."

The Ippagudem village in Ghanapur mandal (in the Warangal district) report indicated:

"Of the 2,601 sheep that belonged to 42 shepherds, 651 sheep died, giving an average mortality rate of 25.02% percent."

The sheep grazed on Bt cotton crop residues, mainly the leaves and/or bolls.

In Valeru village in Dharmasagaram mandel, the mortality rate for sheep grazing on Bt cotton crop residues was 25.32% -- with 549 dead.

In Unkkucherla village, Dharmasagaram mandal, nearly 150 adult sheep and 70 lambs, had died due to grazing of cotton fields during the months of February and March, 2006. Death occurred within 4 days of grazing the Bt crop residue in the field.

Apparently, similar reports were made in 2005 but nothing had been done about it by Agricultural and Animal Health officials.

Aside from the cross-polinization problem, of which Agricultural bodies and seed industry Giants are well-aware, there appears to be the high toxin problems associated with the plants themselves... or at least Bt Cotton.

One research team investigating the situation reported:

"The preliminary information gathered from meeting shepherds across 3 mandals, strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin, and most likely Bt toxin from the foliage."

The official "spin" from the Animal Health Centre where many post-mortems were conducted:

"...while it appeared that the deaths occurred after grazing on Bt cotton fields, and could be due to the effects of Bt toxin, it was not possible to arrive at a definitive conclusion, as farmers also spray different types of insecticides and pesticides on their crops, and this factor confounds the observations."

The Assistant Director also said there were no kits or other facilities available within the Department to enable her to arrive at a firm diagnosis that the deaths were due to Bt cotton.

A shepherd in another village, Akkapalli reported that he had cultivated Bt cotton the previous year and allowed his sheep to graze on crop residue, which resulted in deaths. This year, while he still cultivated Bt cotton, he did not allow them to graze on it, and his sheep did not die.

Coincidence? You decide...

Personally, I will stay away from bio-tech stocks relating to GM seed, food and/or animals.