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April 29, 2009

Organic Bytes #171

Health, Justice and Sustainability News
from the Organic Consumers Association

In This Issue

  • Alert of the Week: Ban Factory Farms Spreading Deadly Flu
  • Related Web Video of the Week: Bird and Swine Flu - Viruses of Our Own Hatching
  • Tips of the Week: How To Avoid Swine Flu
  • Grassroots Victory of the Week: rBGH Labeling Bill Vetoed
  • Web Forum Posting of the Week: Clarification on How to Avoid MSG
  • Headlines and Articles of the Week

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Alert of the Week

Ban Factory Farms Spreading Deadly Flu

Despite years of warnings by public interest organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association and the Humane Society of the U.S., new evidence indicates drugged-out animals on intensive confinement factory farms are incubating deadly viruses that could set off a deadly epidemic.

A dangerous and rapidly spreading strain of influenza, which combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before, has killed over 150 people in Mexico, infecting thousands, and has spread to over a dozen countries, including the United States.

The World Health Organization warned early this week that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels and raised the threat level to 4 (with 6 being the highest panedemic alert level). The last major global pandemic, the 1918 flu epidemic, killed 20-50 million people.

Despite company denials, a number of Mexican and U.S. news outlets are pointing to Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pig producer ($12 billion in annual sales), as a likely source of the deadly outbreak. Smithfield sells pork and operates massive hog-raising operations in 40 nations, including Perote, Mexico, in the state of Veracruz, where the outbreak originated. For months, local residents and workers in Mexico have complained of pollution, contamination, and illnesses from the Smithfield plant. For years, Smithfield has been criticized in the United States for polluting rural communities, endangering public health, and exploiting workers and farmers.

CAFOs, such as Smithfield, cram thousands of pigs together inside unhygienic disease-ridden factory farms, injecting pigs with powerful vaccines to keep them alive, thereby putting enormous pressure on swine viruses to evolve into more virulent pathogens such as the H1NI virus. In the case of Smithfield's million pig operation in Veracruz, Mexico (as in many regions in North America, Asia, and across the world), massive poultry operations located nearby thes pig CAFOs incubate bird viruses that can then recombine with swine viruses, as well as human flu viruses, endemic among typically exploited and unhealthy pig and poultry workers.

Filthy and disease-ridden factory farms for pigs and chickens, maintained by exploited and often unhealthy farm workers, kept in operation only with massive injections of animal drugs, are a biological time bomb set to explode. Hopefully the current H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic will not kill millions of us. Unfortunately scientists warn us that it is not a question of if, but rather when, a future swine/bird/human virus will kill millions--unless we shut down the CAFOs and transform the current insane global industrial/factory farm agriculture system into a chemical and drug-free organic system, whereby local and regional organic farms produce healthy food for local and regional markets.

Please take action today.

Learn more and Take Action in OCA's Swine and Bird Flu Center

Related Web Video of the Week

Bird and Swine Flu - Viruses of Our Own Hatching

Many experts believe that the bird flu virus that triggers the next human pandemic may come from filthy, crowded factory farms.



Tips of the Week

How To Avoid Swine Flu

Swine flu has now spread across Mexico and into Europe, Latin America and several U.S. States, including California, Texas, and New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided the following tips for staying healthy through the pandemic.

1) Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds each time.

2) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

3) Viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.

4) Swine Flu cannot be spread through pork products, but you should void close contact with sick people.

5) If you have flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor as documentation of the disease spread is important as well as medical advice on dealing with the illness.

6) The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

7) If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

8) Learn about homeopathy for influenza here.

Grassroots Victory of the Week

rBGH Labeling Bill Vetoed

In Organic Bytes #168 the OCA called on readers to contact Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and urge her to veto a bill that could restrict U.S. dairy companies from properly labeling their milk products as free from genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). Last week, Sebelius vetoed the bill saying, "The Bill before me provides for changes in dairy labeling that could make it more difficult to provide consumers with clear information. The milk labeling provisions negatively impact a dairy producer's ability to inform consumers that milk is from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone." A special thanks to all of our readers for taking part in the OCA action alert.

Learn More

We Are Making Positive Change

The Organic Consumers Association is one of the few nonprofit organizations that provides you with success stories, nearly every week, showing you how your financial donations are directly bringing about positive change. These success stories are due to the involvement and donations of our supporters. In order to continue bringing positive change in the realms of health, social justice, and sustainability, we need your contributions. If you are unable to donate, please help spread the word about OCA to friends, family and colleagues. Please donate today!


Web Forum Posting of the Week

Clarification on How to Avoid MSG

OCA Web Forum User "Tater_Chip" posted this question and response: "Due to the recent email from OCA (Organic Bytes #170) covering MSG I was very alarmed to learn that whey protein, especially in isolate and hydrolyzed form are basically forms of this substance. I just purchased Solgar "Whey to go" at my local health store, Mount Hope Foods. Does anyone know the relationship/safety of whey protein powders, since they are associated with MSG?"

Response: "I got a phone call today from Solgar. They told me that their processes do not create MSG because they use no sodium. So even though free forms of glutamic amino acids are in the formula, there is nothing for them to bind with to make the dangerous form of MSG. Now this may not be the case with cheap formulas widely available. In my opinion, I would check for sodium content on the nutrition label. If it has sodium, it could bind with the glutamic acids and form MSG unintentionally. At any rate, it is something to watch our for when buying protein powder. This rule of thumb can actually apply to other protein powders as well - not just whey. You must watch out for it in soy especially, but it may also be in pea protein powder....."

Post Your Questions and Comments at OCA's Web Forum

Headlines and Articles of the Week

1) Study of the Week: Cats Fed Irradiated Food During Gestation Develop Severe Neurologic Disease
According to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cats fed an irradiated diet during gestation developed a severe neurologic disease. Cats that were returned to a normal diet recovered slowly so that by 3-4 months they were neurologically normal...
Read full study

2) When Times Get Tough, the Tough Get Resilient
Discovery of a new movement that puts you psychologically, economically and environmentally in fighting shape for the coming storms...
Learn more

3) Scientist Warning of Health Hazards of Monsanto's Herbicide Receives Threats
"There are reports coming our of Argentina of attempts to intimidate the lead researcher of the study showing that Roundup - the glyphosate herbicide developed by Monsanto, could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses..."
Learn more

4) USDA Head Vilsack Promises to Push Harder for Genetically Engineered Frankenfoods & Crops
"If there was any question about how the Obama administration would get behind agricultural biotechnology, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is removing any doubt. In fact, he says he's going to do a better job than the Bush administration. Just back from the G8 summit in Italy, Vilsack pledged today to bring a "more comprehensive and integrated" approach to promoting ag biotech overseas..."
Learn more

5) USDA's Historic Actions to Assist Minority Farmers
"I have never seen a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) like this one. At the very beginning of the Obama administration, Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, has developed initiatives to address the extensive and infamous civil rights problems at USDA..."
Learn more


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