Archive for bird flu

Ten Theses on Farming and Disease

Posted in Evolution, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2017 by rgwallace

costarica043Every once in a while, we have to take a stab at putting all the pieces together. In some ways these ten theses on farming and disease only touch on what I, and others, have been saying all along. But there’s a growing understanding of the functional relationships health, food justice, and the environment share. They’re not just ticks on a checklist of good things capitalism shits on. Falsifying Hume’s guillotine, embodying a niche construction at the core of our human identity, justice and the ecosystem appear to define each other at a deep level of cause and effect.

1. Contract farmers around the world are suffering cost-price squeezes. Producers are at one and the same time suffering increasing input costs and low or falling prices for their goods at the farm gate. The farmers are forced to chase an economic Red Queen. Individual farmers must increase production if only in an effort to cover for low prices that increases in production across farms helped depress to begin with.

2. The squeeze is a scam agribusiness is running on farmers. In enforcing high farm output, companies are seeking gluts that cheapen ingredients for their processed product lines. High output, producing food beyond global consumer demand, is also about making money off farmers contractually obligated to buy synthetic inputs they don’t need to grow us enough food.

3. The gap between cost and price, also a form of labor discipline, forces many farmers out, leading to plot consolidation as those smallholders and mid-level operations still left buy up abandoned land, banking on economies of scale, debt-financed mechanization, and appreciation in land equity to pull them through the artificial price squeeze.

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Bird Flew

Posted in Ecological resilience, Influenza, Organic agriculture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2013 by rgwallace

Snow geese4When the red ants discovered that a new variety of canned goods had arrived, they mounted guard around the cassoulet. It wouldn’t have been advisable to leave a freshly opened can standing; they’d have summoned the whole nation of red ants to the shack. There are no bigger communists anywhere. And they’d have eaten up the Spaniard too. –Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1934)

Conservation biology explores how best to protect and restore biodiversity. The applied science aims at maintaining diversity at a variety of levels of biological organization, including genes, subspecies, species, ecosystems and biomes.

But conservation efforts aren’t interested in preserving things alone. Ecologies are defined by processes; competition, predation, symbioses, and higher-order nutrient cycling among them. Organisms are actualized in part by the actions they take upon, or with, each other.

In any environment we look at we’ll find a food web of some sort. In losing species, local ecologies can degrade and the ability of an ecosystem to buffer a disturbance of one sort of another can be compromised.

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A Dangerous Method

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by rgwallace

There were cameras literally everywhere, in London. So far, he’s managed not to think about them. He remembered Bigend saying they were a symptom of autoimmune disease, the state’s protective mechanisms ‘roiding up into something actively destructive, chronic; watchful eyes, eroding the healthy function of that which they ostensibly protected. –William Gibson (2010)

This summer Ron Fouchier’s lab in the Netherlands conducted an experiment as frightening for its simplicity as for its results. The team produced a human-transmissible version of  highly pathogenic influenza A (H5N1) or bird flu.

Rather than by reverse genetics, wherein a complex round robin of mutations are introduced in an effort to produce a human-specific bird flu, an approach which failed most recently at CDC, the Fouchier group let the virus converge on a solution all on its own. HPAI H5N1 was intranasally inoculated into a group of lab ferrets (whose immune response mimics humans’). Only ten infection generations later the virus went “airborne”—transmitted by respiration—while remaining as deadly as its field cousins (with a 75% case fatality rate). A repeat of the experiment reproduced the result.

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Egypt’s Food Pyramids

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by rgwallace

A million minds momentarily magnetizing themselves along the same axis can turn a country’s deepest despair into an ecstatic sprint for freedom. What a people find revolting–a dictator decorated in American apologia–can be turned by a people’s revolt ridiculous.

No wonder so much effort (and money) is daily expended on propaganda in countries around the world. Obedience–the notion the rulers rule–is at its heart precarious.

But once a hypnosis is broken and history lurches forward, those who are unable to come to terms with the new order are left behind. They are relics, trivia, answers to riddles lost in the sand blowing about the noseless sphinx of empire. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his Washington supporters, Anthony to Mubarak’s Cleopatra, were so startled by January 25th’s uprising that nearly a month later each party still hadn’t grasped their newfound irrelevance.

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The Scientific American

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by rgwallace

Science is the business right now. If the science works, the business works, and vice versa. –Craig Venter

Bird flu marinates a chicken in its own juices, a satay best avoided whatever the menu special. In such short an order better for the bistro than the barn infected birds rapidly bleed from the inside out.

What to do about this bit of bad news?

Broilers and layers are as much commodities as they are birds. As much engineering problems as living organisms. So ask research and development for a solution comes the answer.

It was, after all, by virtue of its open morphogenesis and behavioral flexibility that the chicken was first domesticated multiple times from red and grey jungle fowl distributed across South and Southeast Asia, artificially selected for the backyard, then scaled up in size and population to its factory model.

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