Archive for farm workers

‘Biosecure’ Farms Not So Biosecure

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2009 by Rob Wallace

There are times when perniciously false premises are treated as the criteria by which truth is determined. We lose the argument before it’s begun. And where does that leave us in our efforts to control mortal dangers of our own making?

An article of faith among veterinarians and epidemiologists is that large industrial farms are both biosecure and biocontained: livestock pathogens such as highly pathogenic influenza can’t check in, and if they do, they can’t check out. The premise is so engrained that international health agencies have codified levels of biosecurity by the size of farming sectors alone. The operational standard is the bigger the farm, the better its protection.

A paper published last year cuts against the grain. Graham et al.’s review shows industrial farming can promote the spread of pathogens to other farms, to the outside environment, and to farm workers. All three modes can expose surrounding communities to daily doses of the latest and greatest in xenospecific bugs, some of which, as this spring’s swine flu pandemic attests, may take root as widespread human outbreaks.

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