Food

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CDC: swine flu strain has genetic roots in U.S.A.

(Another hat tip to the increasingly essential Tom Laskawy.) In an interview with Science Magazine,  CDC chief virologist Ruben Donis essentially confirmed the reading of the current swine flu strain made by New Scientist: that it evolved from a strain that cropped up in U.S. hog farms in 1998. Both New Scientist and Donis emphasize that what we’re talking about is a swine flu — in direct contradiction of the pork industry’s party line. In an interview with me today, David Warner, director of communications at the National Pork Producers Council, repeatedly attributed the outbreak to “human flu, not swine …

Big Pork speaks

Smithfield is listening!

What’s that you say? Smithfield claims that they are awaiting the results of “additional” tests on the pigs at their Veracruz, Mexico, CAFO — the facility at the heart of speculation here on Grist and elsewhere as the source of the current swine flu outbreak — to determine if any pigs are infected. And just in case you were wondering, Smithfield is fully aware of who’s “driving” the CAFO/swine flu meme, if their CEO is to be believed (reg req’d): In a letter to employees, [CEO C. Larry] Pope wrote that the results of those independent laboratory tests will be …

CDC chief confirms U.S. origin of flu strain

H/t to Fair Food Fight for this one. In a Q&A with ScienceInsider, the CDC’s chief virologist Ruben Donis confirms what Columbia researchers declared: the current H1N1 swine flu virus is “all swine” in origin, the human and avian components present in the current virus date to the 1998 swine flu outbreak, and that this is not a recent triple reassortment of swine/human/avian, as has been reported: Q: How does it tie to the current outbreak? R.D.: Where does all this talk about avian and human genes come from? I was describing a fully swine virus. For [the] last 10 …

Not ready for swine-time players

‘New Scientist': Swine flu stems from virus that evolved in U.S.

In a pair of articles in New Scientist, Debora MacKenzie links the swine flu virus now spreading across the globe to large-scale pork-raising operations in the United States. In the first article, titled “Swine flu: the predictable pandemic?,” MacKenzie writes that the “virus has been a serious pandemic threat for years, New Scientist can reveal — but research into its potential has been neglected compared with other kinds of flu.” She writes that the strain now in the headlines has its origins in an earlier outbreak in the United States a decade ago: This type of virus emerged in the …

Quote of the day

Obama: what swine flu?

Swine wha ….?From an Associated Press account of a Wednesday evening White House press conference: The news conference lasted an hour and covered topics ranging from the outbreak of swine flu — which Obama referred to as the H1N1 virus, evidently in deference to U.S. pork producers — to abortion and the recent flare-up in violence in Iraq. Hat tip to Tom Laskawy, who first began pointing out Obama’s careful flu nomenclature on Twitter yesterday.

Taking Issue

Don’t jump to conclusions on swine flu and pork production

Editor’s Note: Tom Philpott’s April 28 piece on the swine flu pandemic, which raised the question of whether there is a link between the virus’ emergence in Mexico and the presence nearby of factory-scale pork farms, sparked a vigorous debate on the Society for Environmental Journalists listserv. Merritt Clifton was one of several writers to take issue with Tom’s piece. At Grist’s invitation, he put his critique into an essay form, which is posted below: – Thirty years ago this month I knelt beside the Yamaska River in southern Quebec with a test kit — downstream from several of the …

Ultra-Healthy or Overindulgent?

What we eat when we eat alone

My dear friend Deborah Madison has created a delightful book called What We Eat When We Eat Alone, an investigation into some of our most intimate moments.  When no one is looking, no one is judging, and your most secret cravings can come out, what do you eat? And how? As a companion/intro, Deb has created this YouTube video (less than 5 minutes long — watch below) interviewing a few of the many people she spoke to for the book.  All walks of life are there, and the responses are fascinating, tell-tale vignettes in their own right.  Illustrations are provided …

Geopolitics of food

The great wealthy nation land-grab

Land is where the food isGlobally, farmland — and just as critically, water on that land — is disappearing at an alarming rate. Approximately 50 million acres vanish each year to urbanization, population growth, and economic and industrial development. So what are countries doing in response? Looking to buy or lease fertile land in parts of the developing world, where property is cheap and governments are eager for foreign investment. For example, Cambodia has entered land-for-oil talks with Kuwait and Qatar, and Laos has signed away 15 percent of its arable land. Yet both Cambodia and Laos have large food-insecure …

Not the triple theat?

Current flu virus may be 100% swine in origin

Everything swine and dandy?This intriguing notice posted to the International Society for Infectious Diseases by Columbia University researchers suggests that the current swine flu outbreak may be a “reassortment” (i.e. rearrangement) of existing swine flu viruses and not a swine, avian, and human influenza combo: The preliminary analysis using all the sequences in public databases (NCBI) suggests that all segments are of swine origin. NA and MP seem related to Asian/European swine and the rest to North American swine (H1N2 and H3N2 swine viruses isolated since 1998). There is also interesting substratification between these groups, suggesting a multiple reassortment. We …