Capitalist farming, deforestation cause new pandemics

Frequent outbreaks of diseases caused by the coronavirus and other zoonotic diseases are linked to capitalist landgrabbing, massive deforestation and mass food production of big agribusiness corporations. Under the neoliberal regime, these companies cause massive environmental degradation which inadversely affect humans and animals.

According to biology and environmental experts, epidemics and pandemics should not be treated as periodic or isolated from each other. Extensive studies prove that capitalist food production, meat in particular, cause the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans. Forest destruction, on the other hand, result in the release of wild animals’ pathogens previously isolated in forests. These pathogens are transmitted to domesticated animals and eventually to humans.

Among the epidemics that broke out in the last two decdes are various types of flus which originated from swines and birds. There are also pathogens from wild animals such as the deadly coronavirus strains of SARS-Cov and MERS-Cov.

The strain of swine flu transmitted to humans originated from giant piggeries, dubbed as factory farms. In these farms, pigs are placed in confined spaces, subsistent on long-term use of antibiotics that weakens resistance, and bred to meet high global meat demand. The crowded condition is perfect to the emergence, mix and rapid transmission of microbes. Diseases are transferred from one factory farm to another due to the practice of selling live hogs and a fast transportation system.

An example of a pandemic caused by capitalist production is the swine flu or (H1N1)pdm09 outbreak in 2009. The pandemic started in a swine megafactory of US company Smithfield in Mexico. The company is notorious for violating environment regulations and disregarding the health of residents in nearby communities. The company dumped swine wastes in large tracts of land near their factory in La Gloria. Aroung 60% of the residents here caught the flu, which rapidly spread from Mexico to the US. From April 2009 to April 2010, 61 million were infected, 274,000 hospitalized and 12,500 died in the US due to (H1N1)pdm09. This flu strain persists in the US up to the present.

Capitalist companies undertake largescale and accelerated swine production to produce the highest volume of meat with minimum production costs. Smithfield’s megafactory in Mexico produce half a million hogs every year. The company supplies almost a quarter of the US’ demand. It also exports processed meat to Europe.

Coronaviruses and other viruses from wild animals, on the other hand, are caused by unimpeded destruction of forests by big corporations to make way for their mining, logging and commercial plantation operations. This upset the ecological balance, limit wild animals’ source of food and weaken their bodies and resistance to the pathogens they carry. They eventually excrete the said pathogens which are then transmitted to other animals, and eventually to humans. Companies clear even core forest areas, which release entrapped pathogens.

These are transmitted rapidly among humans who have no antibodies against the said pathogens.

An example of this is the repeated outbreak of the ­­­Ebo­la vi­rus di­sea­se which has been linked to widespread clearing of forests in Ugan­da, Co­ngo and Gui­nea in Africa. In Borneo, massive deforestation to pave way for oil palm plantations has resulted in a higher incidence of dengue and malaria. Deforestation of Peru’s Amazon has resulted in an increase of malaria cases, from 600 to 120,000, in nearby communities. The deforestation paved the way for the construction of roads and operation of cattle ranches in the area. An extensive study in 2017 revealed that the deforestation of Amazon is linked to the increase of malaria cases in 67 countries.

In general, more than half of new contagious diseases are caused by deforestation and largescale farming of agribusiness corporations. These corporations compete against each other in grabbing lands from peasants and national minorities in backward countries to expand their food production and increase their profits. This has harmed not only the populace of the said countries, but all peoples affected by new diseases and epidemics.