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Articles by David M. Lawrence

Lawrence is a journalist, scientist, and author of two books. He lives in Mechanicsville, Va., and fantasizes about making a living as a scuba diver.

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The past week, the Netiverse has erupted with stories linking the Granjas Carroll confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) near La Gloria, Vera Cruz, Mexico, with the outbreak of a strain of H1N1 influenza, commonly called “swine flu,” that has triggered concerns about possible flu pandemic reminiscent of the one that claimed tens of millions of lives between 1918 and 1920. Outlets such as Grist, Huffington Post, and Daily Kos have contributed to the eruption, as have some members of the old-line print and broadcast media, but I find much of the reportage at this point troubling.

Why? Because I don’t see any beef — or pork — yet.

What I see is proximity, coincidence, and correlation being confused with causality, but without any evidence that the virus has been present in any of Granjas Carroll’s CAFO sites, we have nothing to support the hypothesis that the current outbreak started there.

Granjas Carroll is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, which is based in my current home state of Virginia (full disclosure). Smithfield Foods is notorious for its CAFO operations, which I am firmly convinced by a substantial amount of e... Read more