Archive for industrial poultry

Bidding Up Bird Flu

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , on June 22, 2015 by rgwallace

Twenty-one thousand turkeys in Otter Tail County. Forty-five thousand in Meeker County. Fifty-thousand in Kandiyohi. Fifty-six thousand in Redwood. Sixty-seven thousand in Stearns. Do I hear 76,000 in Stearns?

Here’s the talk on H5N2 I gave at the Institute on Agriculture and Trade Policy June 11. Although it’s only a half-hour, I manage to cover a lot.

I’d say there are two key take-homes. First, by dint of its industrial model, rather than a bit of bad luck, the poultry sector is well placed for selecting for and sustaining outbreaks of virulent influenza.

Second, externalizing the costs of such outbreaks–and other sources of health, ecological and economic damage–lards the sector with moral hazards of perhaps one day apocalyptic proportions.

Like an outbreak that kills a billion people.

H5N2 Much

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2015 by rgwallace

John Gaps III AP Rose Acre Farms, IowaA week from Thursday, June 11, I’ll be talking about the H5N2 bird flu outbreak here in the Midwest at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. Find out the details here. All are welcome.

Midwest bird flu: A diseconomy of industrial poultry

Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza A (H5N2). Millions of birds have been killed by the virus or culled in an effort to control the outbreak.

In its efforts to protect a $265.6-billion-a-year industry, the poultry sector has laid blame upon farm workers and wild waterfowl. In actuality, H5N2 demonstrates poultry production is defined by inherent diseconomies of scale it survives solely by externalizing the resulting damage to consumers, workers, governments and the environment. In a market economy, such costs, moved back onto company margins, would end the industry as we know it.

We will review the mechanisms by which poultry’s bioeconomics is thought sooner than later to select a deadly disease with the potential for killing millions of people worldwide. We will also address what an alternate food landscape might look like.

You can find a video of the half-hour talk here.

Bird Flu’s Industrial Revolution

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2009 by rgwallace

Public talks can be private affairs. In sharing our work we bare the triumphs and limits of a thinking born in long hours alone or with a few fellow conspirators sworn to secrecy. But in breaking our oaths we are able to take the next step.

In talking bird flu twice this past month I learned something new.

Much of the talk was dedicated to describing the role industrial poultry played in the evolution and diversification of highly pathogenic influenza, including H5N1, bird flu’s marquee star. The evidence is presently circumstantial, but for me offers a convincing working hypothesis:

  • A phylogenetic burst of influenzas capable of infecting humans coincided with the globalization of the industrial model of poultry: H5N1, H7N1, H7N3, H7N7, H9N2, in all likelihood H5N2 and perhaps some of the H6 serotypes.  Continue reading