Thursday, April 30, 2009

Capitalism and the flu

"There should be no excuses. This is not a “black swan” flapping its wings. Indeed, the central paradox of this swine flu panic is that while totally unexpected, it was accurately predicted.
Six years ago, Science dedicated a major story (reported by the admirable Bernice Wuethrich) to evidence that “after years of stability, the North American swine flu virus has jumped onto an evolutionary fast track.”
But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution? Probably the same thing that has favored the reproduction of avian flu.
Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China — an immensely productive ecology of rice, fish, pigs, and domestic and wild birds — is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal “drift” and episodic genomic “shift.” (More rarely, there may occur a direct leap from birds to pigs and/or humans, as with H5N1 in 1997.)
But the corporate industrialization of livestock production has broken China’s natural monopoly on influenza evolution. As many writers have pointed out, animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in schoolbooks." (Thanks Marcy)

No comments: