At this moment, while humanity struggles to find the cure against a virus that has led it to confinement and collapsed its economy, in a farm on the planet, owned by some agro-industrial conglomerate that keeps hundreds or thousands of birds, cattle or pigs, the next virus is manufactured, equal to or more lethal than the one currently being fought. That is how forceful Silvia Ribeiro is, director for Latin America of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC).
In an interview, the Uruguayan activist also warns that the regulatory facilities that Mexico has provided for large companies in the agri-food sector to establish themselves make it, along with nations such as Argentina, Brazil, the United States and China, one of the red flags where it can outbreak the virus that causes the next pandemic.
In the facilities of these large companies there is mass rearing of animals full of antibiotics. They function as a kind of breeding grounds for very resistant viruses and bacteria, becoming factories of these. At this time, a new virus could be growing or promoting its evolution.
He explained that a transnational meat producer, for example, has thousands of cattle under overcrowded conditions, which are injected with multiple antibiotics to make them not only resistant to diseases, but to accelerate their growth, which causes viruses and bacteria that accumulate are increasingly resistant.
At this time, these viruses are not transmitted to humans, but when crossed with other animals, such as pigs or some wild animals, for example a bat, an evolution can take place, making the virus zoonotic, that is, with the ability to infect people ; 75% of new diseases are zoonotic and the majority come from indiscriminate animal husbandry.
An example of the risk that humanity is currently exposed to, Ribeiro said, is African swine fever, a pandemic that has killed millions of pigs in China alone and that, although it is not transmitted to people, by being in contact with other animals can evolve.
At this time, another such pandemic would be devastating and it is something that large companies do not want to understand.
According toAgroindustry Atlas 2019, prepared by the German foundation Heinrich Böll, the 50 largest food multinationals have a turnover of 50 percent of world sales in the field and it is precisely these that are growing the most. The 10 largest are: Nestlé, JBS, Tyson Foods, Mars, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez, Danone, Unilever, General Mills and Smithfield.
Several of them operate in Mexico, with farms for chickens, pigs or cattle. To these must be added the Mexican transnationals, such as Gruma, Bimbo and Bachoco.
The director for Latin America of the ETC Group emphasized that the problem is not only the transnational companies that raise animals, but also those that manufacture their food. In fact, it has become all in a round business. A multinational has divisions of animal feed, meat sales and even pharmaceuticals.
He explained that a clear example is the American Cargill (with operations in Mexico), the world's number one company in the distribution of grains, oilseeds and cereals, and at the same time it is the third in the world in meat production.
The country did not learn the lesson
In 2009 Mexico became the epicenter of the A / H1N1 influenza pandemic, after the virus broke out in pig farms in Veracruz de Granjas Carroll, owned by the US transnational Smithfield (now owned by the Chinese company Shuanghui); However, more than 10 years later, Ribeiro said, the lesson has not been learned.
The indiscriminate arrival of agri-food companies occurred after the signing of the free trade agreement because in Mexico the regulation was not so strict. The first warning was the 2019 flu. From there nothing was done to correct the system. On the contrary, now, with the modernization of that agreement, the rules are even more flexible, he said.
He warned that this opening, without measuring the consequences, places Mexico as a red light for the next pandemic.
Mexico was already the origin of the swine flu pandemic and nothing has changed since then. In fact, hatcheries have increased. It is a red flag in the sense of becoming the origin of a new virus. However, it is not the only one. There is also the United States, China, Argentina and Brazil, where JBS, the world's largest chicken farmer, is located.
For the activist, the only solution, not only for Mexico but on an international scale, is a radical change of direction, focused on dismantling the system of large corporations and supporting small producers, who are currently those who feed 70 percent of the population.
It is an issue that should be brought to the United Nations, but it is complicated. These companies are so large that they have enormous influence on governments. For example, right now they are telling the UN that, in the face of the pandemic, it must support them, because more food will be needed than ever, he said.
The foregoing, he said, is absurd, because precisely the agri-food transnationals are linked to the majority of non-infectious deaths, given that their products, often genetically altered and high in calories, cause cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other diseases.
It is ironic how they are already related to most of the non-infectious deaths and now, with their virus factories, also to infectious ones.
For Ribeiro, Covid-19 revealed the dismantling of health systems and their privatization, which, he stresses, is urgent to correct, but humanity must also be aware of the danger posed by industrialization without measure. The risk you run is very high. What is happening is absurd. This system, which only benefits large corporations, must be stopped.
Source: La Jornada