Farms, wild birds and biosecurity re flu esp H5N1

After post here from Jennifer MacLeod, a smallholder with poultry in Canada, seems worth starting thread on relationships between farms, H5N1 and wild birds.

H5N1 (of Guangdong goose 1996 lineage) that's causing trouble is a product of poultry farms: evolved in them, to become a "vicious chicken killer" (Wendy Orent). Now, however, as well as impacts on wild birds - and impacts on wild birds arising from panic over H5N1 - getting farms affected too.

Here, not the place for terrible impacts on farmers who have H5N1 devastating their flocks; instead, more re biosecurity, especially concerning small farmers - who in places such as Canada and Holland are having to take measures to guard their flocks from H5N1 infection by wild birds.

The post from Jenny:

I am on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada. Our small farmers are fighting the inane regulations of both provincial and federal governments. Already in Quebec, free-range and organic poultry have been banned from public sale as of January 1st, 2006. Farmers in the Province had six weeks to comply with these regulations brought out in November 2005. It orders all poultry to be raised for public sale must be raised "under cover" as a protection from Avian Influenza. We in BC are trying to head off similar Provincial restrictions, and are battling new directives which affect our abattoir situations. This is an area where we have had NO incidents or complaints concerning tainted foods, but the new upgrades to bring the smallhold farmer into an area of "high bar" requirements (equal to the exporters requirements) are so cost inhibitive as to leave half, if not more, of our smallhold farmers lookjing at closing shop. This means a great reduction of suppliers in the fastest growing market in North America, the free-range and organic meat and egg market. I have talked with Christine Bilg, the head of the Dutch Smallhold Farmers Alliance who have made presentations to the World Health Organization on behalf of Small Farmholds in her country and across Europe. She cites similar problems for smallhold farmers in Europe. It seems to me we are really looking at the old scenario of agri-business against any other meat and egg producer. It smacks of the corporation solution (Monsanto) versus the independant food producer, the genetic diversity that this embraces and the threat to smallhold farms as a way of life. I have been researching this for three years now. Think about these implications. Is it possible that we are looking at a campaign to allow only agri-food produfers to feed the public?

article by Jenny:

QUESTIONS ON IMMUNITY AND AVIAN INFLUENZA And Its Affects on Sustainable Farming And Domestic Poultry Jenny MacLeod, Gabriola Island, BC

IMMUNITY AND DOMESTIC POULTRY

In 2004 there were over thirty-five commercial agri-food barns that were infected with Avian Influenza in the Lower Mainland section of British Columbia. Both low-pathology and high-pathology forms of AI were discovered in the same barn at the same time in some cases. In each barn birds were quickly killed or incapacitated by AI and finally destroyed by Canadian Food Inspection Agency employees.

All around these barns were commercial free-range, healthy backyard flocks in the open air.

Thousands of commercial backyard flocks were tested. Almost all the backyard flocks did not exhibit symptoms of illness. The birds in these flocks did not even carry ANTIBODIES for AI. We know this because the only test administered for AI was a test for AI antibodies, not a test that determined the active presence of the viable AI virus.

Nevertheless these healthy flocks were destroyed by the CFIA on the basis of PROXIMITY (five and then ten kilometers from an AI infected site) to sources of infection, not on the basis of infection.

I have these questions:

1 If AI was introduced in the open air by contact with wild birds, why weren't all the surrounding outdoor backyard flocks affected? Did some factor prevent them from contracting AI? Presumably if they were exposed to the focal AI virus outbreak they also would have died.

2 Was AI introduced to the agri-barn birds through another vector?

3 If the backyard flocks had been quarantined instead of being destroyed immediately by CFIA personnel, would they have eventually contracted AI or would they have represented a "control group" that survived AI and could have been studied to further our understanding of AI in domestic bird populations?

4 There is no data available that outbred birds are more resistant to Highly Pathogenic AI. If the backyard flocks did not present antibodies for AI (of any type) that means that they never had any form of AI or that the birds were totally resistant to the AI virus. If the latter statement is true, could they pass on this genetic resistance to their offspring? [Martin: total resistance v unlikely I believe; seems H5N1 highly lethal to all it infects, bar - with some strains - at least a proportion of ducks]

5 Since the hybrid birds in the agri-barns were genetically uniform, did this make it easier for the AI virus to kill its avian host?

6 There is an increasing prevalence of Highly Pathogenic AI strains that thrive in intensive rearing situations. Since the hybrid birds in the agri-barn were genetically uniform did this make it easier for the low-path AI virus to mutate into a high-path form of the AI virus?

7 Unfortunately when the environment harbours highly pathogenic forms of AI (as is occurring in Eurasia) backyard flocks can then become part of the problem. If agri-barns were kept isolated from surrounding farms by legislated required buffer zones, would this remove the threat to smallhold farms and their livestock?

AI IMMUNITY IN WATERFOWL

At one time wild geese and ducks were singled out as the main vector for AI as they flew their migratory routes. Later it was realized that these birds were victims of the disease as much as domestic poultry and waterfowl were victims of AI. As I understand it the virus is carried in the wild bird population. [Martin: seems it kills most wild birds too. Some ducks carrying it, but maybe only few strains, and it's rare in the wild]

Wild and domestic waterfowl carry AI antibodies (low pathology AI). This is so common that the CFIA stated in 2005 at the end of the AI incident in the Fraser Valley, that they were not going to test for it.

I have these questions:

1 If antibodies for AI are common in domestic waterfowl, does this mean that these birds have been individually infected (they have been at some time in their lives infected with low-path AI) or have the antibodies been passed down genetically from parent to offspring, and if so, for how many generations? [Martin: as I understand it, are infected individually; low path AI pretty common in wild - almost like common cold in humans?]

2 What kinds of low-path AI are they protected against?

3 Can this be taken as immunity and can this be bred into further generations of domestic birds? [May be a few types of AI that enable resistance to H5N1 in ducks - evidence pretty slight so far; but I don't believe passed down in DNA.]

4 Is genetic diversity a factor in creating stronger waterfowl populations? Can we prove this? [Doesn't seem to be. Instead, seems ducks have some resistance - and then maybe only some duck species, to certain H5N1 stains]

5 If they are immune to low-path AI does this mean they are protected against the high-path strains? [Probably not, unless v few specific strains, in a few ducks; see above]

6 Do the high-pathology forms of the virus exist separately as a rule in domestic birds or do they evolve from low-path opportunity-rich viral environments? [H5N1 is unusual in being HPAI that has often entered wild bird populations; and can be carried by wild birds - tho perhaps not sustained by them eg the swans in Europe: as and when they die, will virus in the wild die with them, needing further infection from poultry]

I believe that these are questions that should have been asked two years ago.

In the final days of 2005 I saw another brutal destruction of two barns full of domestic ducks in the Fraser Valley after the discovery of low-path AI antibodies in a few of the birds.

I have seen restrictions that prohibit free-range poultry and egg sales to the public and restrictions of one breed of poultry per farm in the Province of Quebec come into effect.

The CFIA still recommends that the only safe way to raise poultry for public consumption is "under cover" which entails the purchase of the barn unit, the individual cages for the birds, the mechanical means to feed the poultry, water the poultry and in the case of eggs, conveyor belts to deliver the eggs to the containers for sale to the public.

It means the hybrid chicks must be purchased from similar agri-barn environments, forced to grow to a set feed to meat ratio by the inclusion of hormones in their growth regimen, dosed with broad spectrum antibiotics for the duration of their brief lives and left in their crowded cages in the miasma of their own effluent until they are "harvested" and the agri-barn environment is finally cleaned.

This is the ideal of the CFIA in animal husbandry. This is what farmers who have raised poultry for meat and eggs all their lives will be reduced to, or lose their farms.

Why isn't the Canadian Food Inspection Agency asking questions about Avian Influenza instead of blindly pursuing recommendations which have more of the feel of large corporate interest lobbying behind them than scientific study?

I believe that until these questions are answered we are simply allowing a situation to continue that has already proved disastrous for the poultry in agri-barn conditions and the people involved with their production.

There was a huge crisis in BC agriculture in 2004 in the Fraser Valley. Economically it was a true bio-disaster. Millions of birds were killed, thousands for no better reason than proximity to infected agri-barns. Hundreds of smallhold farmers never got compensation for their stocks of rare or endangered birds, or adequate compensation for their breeding stocks. Some stocks were so rare as to be irretrievably lost to the farmers that had nurtured bloodlines for generations.

We did not just lose birds in B.C. We lost the people who raised the birds. We lost smallhold farmers who were sources of free-range poultry and eggs, breeders of the heritage poultry and rare breeds. For some of these good, dedicated people the disaster was too great, the blow of losing healthy birds for no good reason was crippling in the extreme, financially and emotionally.

And yet here we are in 2006 with the same vulnerable hybrid poultry, the same opportunity-rich environment for Avian Influenza infection and possible mutation to high-pathology AI in the agri-barns and the same CFIA recommendations for keeping poultry "under cover".

Free range poultry for meat and egg production and organically raised poultry are being treated as dangerous to the public in at least one province (Quebec) in 2006.

I am left with my biggest questions:

Why is the Federal Government ignoring the need for a study of AI and its causes and effects on small-scale agriculture and animal husbandry vs. large scale agri-business agriculture and animal husbandry?

Why is the Federal Government trying to make intensive farming manageable rather than working on farming practices that would make farming into a sustainable resource?

Why is the Federal Government under the auspices of the CFIA so bent on eradicating free-range and organic farming in this country?

It seems nothing of any value has been learned from this terrible agricultural, economic and public disaster, nor will anything be learned until somebody asks these questions and finds the answers.

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/17 03:26

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/17 03:32

Share this

article in The Guardian includes:

[quote]iseases have spread from wildlife to humans throughout history but we now interact with animals in a very different way, says Danielle Nierenberg, a researcher with the US Worldwatch Institute. "In the last 40 years the world has gone through a livestock revolution, not unlike what happened to crops with the green revolution," she says.

Since 1961, she explains, worldwide livestock has increased 38%, to about 4.3 billion today. The global poultry population has quadrupled in that time, to 17.8 billion birds, and the number of pigs has roughly trebled to 2 billion. As the numbers of animals bred for food have vastly grown in a very short period, humankind's relationship with them has changed.

"Raising animals has morphed into an industrial endeavour that bears little relation to landscape or natural tendencies of the animals. Wherever [industrial farming] is introduced it creates ecological and public health disasters," she says.

Others argue that intensive confinement of animals promotes emerging viruses, stokes the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and can transform animals into disease "factories". According to Hans-Gerhard Wagner, an officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation based in Thailand, the "intensive industrial farming of livestock is now an opportunity for emerging diseases".[/quote]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/birdflu/story/0,,1715517,00.html

Just read new report from Grain, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge.
Looks excellent. Full report at:
[url=http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=194#_ftn31]Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis[/url]

Here's press release:

New from GRAIN
26 February 2006

GRAIN report says global poultry industry is the root of the bird flu crisis
GRAIN PRESS RELEASE

REPORT SAYS GLOBAL POULTRY INDUSTRY IS THE ROOT OF THE BIRD FLU CRISIS

Small-scale poultry farming and wild birds are being unfairly blamed for the bird flu crisis now affecting large parts of the world. A new report from GRAIN shows how the transnational poultry industry is the root of the problem and must be the focus of efforts to control the virus. [1]

The spread of industrial poultry production and trade networks has created ideal conditions for the emergence and transmission of lethal viruses like the H5N1 strain of bird flu. Once inside densely populated factory farms, viruses can rapidly become lethal and amplify. Air thick with viral load from infected farms is carried for kilometres, while integrated trade networks spread the disease through many carriers: live birds, day-old-chicks, meat, feathers, hatching eggs, eggs, chicken manure and animal feed. [2]

"Everyone is focused on migratory birds and backyard chickens as the problem," says Devlin Kuyek of GRAIN. "But they are not effective vectors of highly pathogenic bird flu. The virus kills them, but is unlikely to be spread by them."

For example, in Malaysia, the mortality rate from H5N1 among village chicken is only 5%, indicating that the virus has a hard time spreading among small scale chicken flocks. H5N1 outbreaks in Laos, which is surrounded by infected countries, have only occurred in the nation's few factory farms, which are supplied by Thai hatcheries. The only cases of bird flu in backyard poultry, which account for over 90% of Laos' production, occurred next to the factory farms.

"The evidence we see over and over again, from the Netherlands in 2003 to Japan in 2004 to Egypt in 2006, is that lethal bird flu breaks out in large scale industrial chicken farms and then spreads," Kuyek explains.

The Nigerian outbreak earlier this year began at a single factory farm, owned by a Cabinet minister, distant from hotspots for migratory birds but known for importing unregulated hatchable eggs. In India, local authorities say that H5N1 emerged and spread from a factory farm owned by the country's largest poultry company, Venkateshwara Hatcheries.

A burning question is why governments and international agencies, like the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, are doing nothing to investigate how the factory farms and their byproducts, such as animal feed and manure, spread the virus. Instead, they are using the crisis as an opportunity to further industrialise the poultry sector. Initiatives are multiplying to ban outdoor poultry, squeeze out small producers and restock farms with genetically-modified chickens. The web of complicity with an industry engaged in a string of denials and cover-ups seems complete.

"Farmers are losing their livelihoods, native chickens are being wiped out and some experts say that we're on the verge of a human pandemic that could kill millions of people," Kuyek concludes. "When will governments realise that to protect poultry and people from bird flu, we need to protect them from the global poultry industry?"

[1] The full briefing, "Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis", is available at
http://www.grain.org/go/birdflu.
Spanish and French translations will be posted shortly.

[2] Chicken faeces and bedding from poultry factory floors are common ingredients in animal feed.

Dear Martin,

Much like the recent article by Laurie Garrett, this article is peppered with statements and half truths that do not accord with the situation on the ground.

Of particular importance is the fact that much of the disease in smallholder poultry goes undiagnosed. In countries with poorly developed veterinary services it is only when a case occurs in a commercial farm that the problem is diagnosed and brought to the attention of veterinary authorities.

A clear distinction needs to be made between farms that have in place sound biosecurity systems, which usually remain free from disease, and those where production systems are inadequate to prevent entry of pathogens.

I note that Lao PDR has been used again as an example of a place where all outbreaks occurred in commercial flocks - but these were not high level, biosecure farms.

Much of the problem in Asia has been caused by farms developing to service the rapidly growing urban demands for poultry without concurrent enhancement of farm biosecurity (i.e. a backyard flock grows bigger). This is not being driven by the big multinational companies but by smallholders who see the economic benefit of servicing these markets. These farmers grow more birds under fairly primitive conditions and do not implement appropriate disease control measures. The solution to this problem is to enhance the biosecurity of these farms.

This article also suggests that the virus needs to circulate in poultry to become pathogenic. This is not the case with the H5N1 viruses circulating currently. These are already highly pathogenic from the moment they enter a flock and have been since 1996.

As I have stated many times this is predominatly a disease of poultry but it is incorrect to blame its emergence on intensive farming.

Regards,

Les Sims

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/01 15:59

Hi Les:

Surely Guangdong goose 96 H5N1 was already a product of poultry farms.
With culling etc having not eradicated it, now like genie that's out of the bottle.

Martin

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/02/28 23:57

Dear Martin,

We still do not know the precise origin of Goose GD-96. There is a black hole in the data prior to this so the following is by necessity speculative but based on the best information we have.

I beleive that this virus initially emerged in geese. Goose raising in Guangdong involved a mixture of semi-intensive and extensive rearing. On one large farm I visited geese were reared in cages housing multiple geese on a farm surrounding a large dam in cages. After an initial rearing period on the farm they were sent out to graze paddies for about a month before returning to cages for final fattening - not exactly biosecure.

If we assume that this virus moved from its original wild waterfowl origin (originally as a low path virus) into geese there had to be an opportuinity for this to occur, which this type of farming provided.

Given the way poultry are sold in China and the consequent large amount of movement of live poultry, this virus would have spread through the live bird markets. It is probably in these markets where the virus acquired the genes that converted it to the 1997 strain poultry strain. Some say this happened in Hong Kong live poultry markets - it might have, but I remain sceptical on this. We will never know for sure but the Hong Kong experieince showed how these viruses could be easily propagated under the unsanitary conditions that existed in the markets then.

The original 1996-type virus persisted in geese until about year 2000 by which time it under went reassortment with other "avian" viruses of unknown origin (again presumed to be from aquatic birds) but these changes allowed the virus to multiply more readily in ducks, which was probably a key change in its genesis and further spread. It provided a much wider range of hosts, given the much larger number of ducks that are reared, and also provided the opportunity for infection of a wider range of wild birds.

Very few ducks are reared in intensive farms - they are reared on ponds, channels and paddy fields providing ample opportunity for exchange of viruses between domestic and wild birds. These ducks were sold live also providing ample opportunities for exchange of viruses between different species in the uncontrolled live bird markets in the region. What we do know is that from 1999 onwards a wide range of different reassortants arose including the Z genotype which was first recorded in Guangxi in 2001 apparently in ducks.

We don't know exactly where all this occurred but it is likely that this involved transfer of viruses from geese to ducks to chickens and back again because the more recent viruses have features in the "N" gene that indicate adaptation to terrestrial poultry (the deletion of amino acids in the stalk of the NA protein).

My overall assessment is that the H5N1 viruses that have emerged did not originate in large industrial type farms but in semi-intensive and extensive farms and large live bird markets in which different species of poultry were mixed and housed together long enough for exchange of viruses/viral genes to occur.

Regards,

Les

Dear Martin,

Thank you for sharing the response from Dr Sims. Unfortunately, Dr. Sims was commenting on our press release and not our full report, which may have generated some confusion. I hope that, in the future, contributors to your forum, especially those with expert credentials, take the time to read the report before commenting. Nevertheless, I wish to address some of the points that Dr. Sims made.

Dr. Sims writes:

[quote]Of particular importance is the fact that much of the disease in smallholder poultry goes undiagnosed. In countries with poorly developed veterinary services it is only when a case occurs in a commercial farm that the problem is diagnosed and brought to the attention of veterinary authorities.[/quote]

Dr. Sims appears to be speculating here. To my knowledge, there are no studies that show that much of the disease goes undiagnosed in smallholder poultry. To the contrary, what we have seen in many countries is smallholders coming forward to authorities to ask about the mysterious deaths of poultry on their farms, while the commercial farms take steps to cover-up and deny bird flu outbreaks on theirs. In Japan, for instance, authorities only found out about a bird flu outbreak at one of the country's biggest commercial farms because of an anonymous call. In Thailand, bird flu was denied by the government and the industry for months while small farms were begging for answers. In India, the farm where the first outbreak occurred and which is owned by South Asia's biggest poultry multinational claimed it was another disease and pointed to testing done at its own labs, which was later contradicted by independent tests. Yet, despite this track record, the industry remains largely self-regulated and, even in Indonesia, where bird flu is killing people, authorities still have trouble getting access to the big commercial operations. All of this and more is in the report.

Let me offer my own speculation: much of the outbreaks on commercial farms go unreported.

Dr. Sims continues:

[quote]A clear distinction needs to be made between farms that have in place sound biosecurity systems, which usually remain free from disease, and those where production systems are inadequate to prevent entry of pathogens.

I note that Lao PDR has been used again as an example of a place where all outbreaks occurred in commercial flocks - but these were not high level, biosecure farms.

Much of the problem in Asia has been caused by farms developing to service the rapidly growing urban demands for poultry without concurrent enhancement of farm biosecurity (i.e. a backyard flock grows bigger). This is not being driven by the big multinational companies but by smallholders who see the economic benefit of servicing these markets. These farmers grow more birds under fairly primitive conditions and do not implement appropriate disease control measures. The solution to this problem is to enhance the biosecurity of these farms.[/quote]

There are elements to what Dr. Sims says that I would agree with, however, it is important to bear in mind that most of the mid-sized farms that Dr. Sims is talking about are tightly integrated into the production systems of multinationals, generally as contract production operations. To suggest that these contract production operations are the result of small backyard farmers eagerly pursuing bigger farms is certainly a "half-truth", to borrow his words. Multinationals such as Charoen Pokphand and others have pushed aggressively over the years to promote this model and governments have supported its development through agricultural banks and a whole range of incentives and regulations. Look at Thailand, where the Department of Livestock, a major source of chicks in the country, is only selling chicks to farmers in lots of thousands. Moreover, in many countries, such as Laos, Burma or Nigeria, the large commercial farms are generally not operated by your average farmers, but by businessmen and members of the political establishment.

I'd rather not get into a lengthy discussion about how much such commercial operations actually contribute to food security and economic development, but, to quote Hans Wagner, Senior Animal Health and Production Officer with the FAO's Asia-Pacific office: "The main beneficiaries of the demand surge [for meat in Asia] are large-scale, urban, capital-intensive producers and processors and urban middle and upper class consumers. The overwhelming majority of the poor do not benefit."

But let's get back to this idea of biosecurity. Bird flu, whether H5N1 or other viruses, is no stranger to modern, supposedly "biosecure" operations.. In our report we list a few outbreaks of bird flu that have occurred on modern factory farms: Australia (1976, 1985, 1992, 1994, 1997), USA (1983, 2002, 2004), Great Britain (1991), Mexico (1993-1995), Hong Kong (1997), Italy (1999), Chile (2002), Netherlands (2003) and Canada (2004). In the case of the H5N1 virus, outbreaks have happened on plenty of factory farms run by multinationals: India, Vietnam, China, etc.

Which brings me to Dr. Sims' next point:

[quote]This article also suggests that the virus needs to circulate in poultry to become pathogenic. This is not the case with the H5N1 viruses circulating currently. These are already highly pathogenic from the moment they enter a flock and have been since 1996.[/quote]
- note: see above message from Dr Sims, re emergence of 1996 virus

This is not what we say in our report. We do not say that H5N1 needs to circulate in poultry before becoming pathogenic. What we say is that highly-pathogenic viruses are not generated in backyard flocks but in the crowded, genetically uniform, and highly susceptible flocks of factory farms. It is well-documented that low-pathogenic viruses evolve into highly-pathogenic viruses within factory farms, even in ultra-modern "biosecure" farms. This is the likely source of the highly-pathogenic H5N1 virus. Our point is that new highly-pathogenic viruses (bird flu or other) can emerge from these farms at any point and there's no reason to think that we won't soon see a new H5 or H7 virus on the loose.

What we also say is that factory farms amplify the disease in ways that backyard flocks and wild birds do not have the capacity to. On a factory farm the mortality rate is regularly 100%; it is almost always much lower in backyard farms. The viral load that infected factory farms generate can then spread rapidly through the many channels that flow in and out of the factory farm and that flow far and wide-- live animals, chicks, hatching eggs, feed, machinery, etc.

Fundamentally, the biosecurity solution that Dr Sims appears to be proposing locks us into a vicious cycle. Breeches happen in the biosecurity of a factory farm, this is followed by calls for tighter controls, leading to new expenses, bigger farms, and more drastic interventions, such as bans on outdoor poultry and transgenic chickens-- which researchers at Cambridge University are already pursuing. And as the cycle goes on, the potential consequences grow ever larger, not just in terms of the potential for the release of pandemic viruses, but also on the ground, in the destruction of small farms, biodiversity and local food systems. In our report we point out that in Viet Nam the FAO admits that the implementation of one element of its proposed restructuring plan for the poultry sector ("production zones") would result in the loss of income of potentially one million small commercial producers.

As experience with other poultry diseases, such as Newcastle Disease, has shown, small farms can effectively manage poultry diseases and keep losses to a minimum. They have the added advantage of being run by small farmers-- providing them with a direct source of income, food security, and dignity.

As we write in our report:

"Backyard farming is not an idle pastime for landowners. It is the crux of food security and farming income for hundreds of millions of rural poor in Asia and elsewhere, providing a third of the protein intake for the average rural household. Nearly all rural households in Asia keep at least a few chickens for meat, eggs and even fertilizer and they are often the only livestock that poor farmers can afford. The birds are thus critical to their diversified farming methods, just as the genetic diversity of poultry on small farms is critical to the long-term survival of poultry farming in general."

Backyard poultry production is far more valuable to the people of the countries affected by bird flu than the large factory farms. Effective measures need to be taken to protect these systems from bird flu, even if this means putting the brakes on factory farming and looking to more sustainable and diverse means of poultry production. Unfortunately governments are doing the opposite-- sacrificing backyard poultry farming and small farmers to protect a politically powerful industry.

-Devlin Kuyek
GRAIN

The full GRAIN briefing, "Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis", is available at http://www.grain.org. Spanish and French translations will be posted shortly.

from Richard Thomas; works with Birdlife International, here in his personal capacity:

[quote]Of particular importance is the fact that much of the disease in smallholder poultry goes undiagnosed. In countries with poorly developed veterinary services it is only when a case occurs in a commercial farm that the problem is diagnosed and brought to the attention of veterinary authorities.[/quote]

Where's his evidence for this? There's circumstantial evidence this is not true in the Nigerian case, and I find it hard to believe in several other countries too.

A clear distinction needs to be made between farms that have in place sound biosecurity systems, which usually remain free from disease, and those where production systems are inadequate to prevent entry of pathogens.

So, an admission that even those with sound biosecurity systems only "usually remain free from disease". Not always then - and what happens when they get it? They're the biggest single producers who export the furthest.

[quote]I note that Lao PDR has been used again as an example of a place where all outbreaks occurred in commercial flocks - but these were not high level, biosecure farms.[/quote]

USDA and FAO both used this term to describe them.

[quote]Much of the problem in Asia has been caused by farms developing to service the rapidly growing urban demands for poultry without concurrent enhancement of farm biosecurity (i.e. a backyard flock grows bigger). This is not being driven by the big multinational companies but by smallholders who see the economic benefit of servicing these markets. These farmers grow more birds under fairly primitive conditions and do not implement appropriate disease control measures. The solution to this problem is to enhance the biosecurity of these farms.[/quote]

True, but it's not these farms that ship their products world-wide.
This article also suggests that the virus needs to circulate in poultry to become pathogenic. This is not the case with the H5N1 viruses circulating currently. These are already highly pathogenic from the moment they enter a flock and have been since 1996.

That's what I understood the article to be saying.

[quote]As I have stated many times this is predominatly a disease of poultry but it is incorrect to blame its emergence on intensive farming.[/quote]

Agreed it's predominantly a poultry disease - so why this misguided focus on migrant birds? Where's the FAO reports on the international poultry trade?

Cheers
Richard

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/02 11:47

Here's case - from Japan - where H5N2 (less dangerous than H5N1) was evidently diagnosed in large farms, but covered up.
Have been cases where cover-up for H5N1 in farms/reports on infections only very slow to emerge.

[quote]MITO, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) Police arrested four people Monday related to a poultry farm operator in Ibaraki Prefecture in connection with a suspected coverup of an avian flu outbreak last year.

Police suspect Ikuo Eguchi, 58, Yoshio Maeda, 53, Takanori Nakamura, 36, all veterinarians at IKN Egg Farms Co., and IKN employee Tomohiro Nakane, 32, violated the Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control Law, which requires reporting any suspected contagious diseases in poultry.

They also suspect an antibody test conducted at the National Institute of Animal Health in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, by a veterinarian at the request of the IKN vets showed positive, the sources said.

The Tsukuba veterinarian is an acquaintance of the IKN vets.

The four IKN employees allegedly failed to report a case of suspected avian flu infection to the Ibaraki government late last August.

Polices searched IKN Egg Farms and the Tsukuba research institute in December and questioned the vets.

The vets at IKN Egg Farm are also suspected of obstructing an avian flu test at three farms conducted by Ibaraki Prefecture last August by submitting samples taken from other poultry farms, the sources said.

The prefecture has alleged that IKN Egg Farms committed similar misdeeds at two other poultry farms it operates in Ibaraki, prefectural officials said.

Avian flu infections have been found at 40 farms in Ibaraki Prefecture since June, and about 5.8 million chickens have had to be killed.[/quote]
[url=http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20060228a2.html]Veterinarians held over Ibaraki bird flu coverup[/url]

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/01 13:10

Dear Martin/Devlin/Richard,

Cases of human infection that occurred in villages in China, Thailand, Turkey and Viet Nam before poultry cases were reported, but detected retrospectively, provide the visible evidence of non-reporting in the smallholder/backyard sector. Humans should not be the sentinels for infection in poultry but, repeatedly, this has been the case.

In Viet Nam where I am working at present (incidentally, working on ways to protect the livelihood of the millions of households involved in rearing scavenging poultry) the Department of Livestock Production estimates that about 20% of the total chicken population(close to 40 million poultry) is in "semi-intensive" commercial flocks containing between 100 and 300 poultry. These are not part of integrated operations and are the flocks most at risk from H5N1 avian influenza because of their system of production and method of marketing. Ways need to be found to protect these poultry and some basic biosecurity (and vaccination) help to do so.

These are the farms I was referring to in my posting and not the flocks owned by contractors working for integrated companies, which are usually larger and practice reasonable biosecurity.

Anyone reading the Grain article would be led to your conclusion that "The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia". However this statement is not consistent with the way H5N1 viruses emerged in Asia (through geese and live bird markets), with the lack of solid data on the exact mode of spread across Eurasia, with the key role of free ranging domestic ducks in the maintenance and spread of H5N1 viruses since about year 2000, and the occurrence of cases since late 2004 in Asia which predominantly (but not exclusively) involved smallholder flocks (e.g. cases in Siberia in 2005, cases in Thailand in the second half of 2004 - see page 8 of http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/documents/ai/AVIbull029a.pdf).
Have large poultry farms contributed to the spread of H5N1? Absolutely and they have not helped their cause by covering up some outbreaks, but they are not alone in doing so.

Finally, for your information, I had read the whole report on the day the news article was released. Unfounded comments to suggest otherwise are not particularly helpful in a forum such as this.

Regards,

Les Sims

Dear Martin/Devlin/Richard, [quote]Cases of human infection that occurred in villages in China, Thailand, Turkey and Viet Nam before poultry cases were reported, but detected retrospectively, provide the visible evidence of non-reporting in the smallholder/backyard sector. Humans should not be the sentinels for infection in poultry but, repeatedly, this has been the case. [/quote] In the Turkish case there was a report in a US newspaper (NYTimes?) of trucks arriving in the town where the children died, carrying old broilers from a nearby factory that were sold off cheap. Not proof of anything, but a plausible way people could get infected ahead of backyard flocks. [quote]In Viet Nam where I am working at present (incidentally, working on ways to protect the livelihood of the millions of households involved in rearing scavenging poultry) the Department of Livestock Production estimates that about 20% of the total chicken population(close to 40 million poultry) is in semi-intensive commercial flocks containing between 100 and 300 poultry. These are not part of integrated operations and are the flocks most at risk from H5N1 avian influenza because of their system of production and method of marketing. Ways need to be found to protect these poultry and some basic biosecurity (and vaccination) help to do so. These are the farms I was referring to in my posting and not the flocks owned by contractors working for integrated companies, which are usually larger and practice reasonable biosecurity. [/quote] I'm sure Devlin can help here: my understanding was [some at least] contract farms use chicks supplied by the big factory farms? [quote]Anyone reading the Grain article would be led to your conclusion that The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia . However this statement is not consistent with the way H5N1 viruses emerged in Asia (through geese and live bird markets), [/quote] See below re Lhasa. Is that market a "wet" one? [quote] with the lack of solid data on the exact mode of spread across Eurasia,[/quote] But there's a perfectly rational and obvious explanation: the pattern of spread goes from east to west following road and railway lines. Avian flus have been moved along railway lines before: 1925 in the USA for example. Dirty carrying crates were apparently the vector then. The spread across Eurasia doesn't follow any bird migration pathway, nor is there any species that begins its migration in the east in spring and ends up in the west in autumn. Migration is a forward-backward movement: if the disease went north in spring, it would come back south in autumn. [quote] with the key role of free ranging domestic ducks in the maintenance and spread of H5N1 viruses since about year 2000, [/quote] But it's very strange the disease hasn't crossed from domestic free-range ducks to wild, migrant ducks (e.g. complete absence of the virus in healthy wild birds for the last decade at Mai Po). Shouldn't wild bird populations be awash with the disease in Asia by now? [quote] and the occurrence of cases since late 2004 in Asia which predominantly (but not exclusively) involved smallholder flocks (e.g. cases in Siberia in 2005, cases in Thailand in the second half of 2004 - see page 8 of AVIbull029a.pdf).[/quote] Again, there's a perfectly rational explanation for this. One of the FAO bulletins reported that an outbreak in Lhasa, Tibet, in 2004 was traced back to Lanzhou, China, 1,500 km away. The outbreak was at the main poultry market in Lhasa. Suppose the birds had been sold to smallholders a day or two earlier at the market? Result: sudden, near simultaneous outbreaks in backyard farms across Tibet - precisely the pattern reported in e.g. the Ukraine. And where was the finger of blame pointed? Wild birds of course. And where is Lanzhou? A "hub" on the silk road, on a major railway line that runs from China to Eastern Europe. [quote]Have large poultry farms contributed to the spread of H5N1? Absolutely and they have not helped their cause by covering up some outbreaks, but they are not alone in doing so. [/quote] I'm sure, therefore, you can understand our frustration when the popular belief is that wild birds are the sole spreaders of the virus. Sure they could be playing a part, but a very minor one at most. [quote]Finally, for your information, I had read the whole report on the day the news article was released. Unfounded comments to suggest otherwise are not particularly helpful in a forum such as this. [/quote] Agreed.
Regards
Richard

from Devlin Kuyek of Grain:
Dear Martin,
My apologies for jumping to the conclusion that Dr. Sims had not read the report. Perhaps I've been influenced by all the speculation that surrounds this issue (or maybe it was his reference to Laurie Garrett). I would like to briefly respond to a couple points in his latest posting, while encouraging others on your forum with more knowledge than I to reply to those points that I have left out.
It is admirable that Dr Sims is devoting his attention to smallholder farmers. We too believe that they are most at risk from continued outbreaks of bird flu, not only from the virus but also from control measures that are impractical for them to implement and "restructuring" plans that will wipe them out of the picture. We also believe, from our experience in working closely with farmers around the world, that farmers have a tremendous wealth of knowledge about how to manage disease on their farms, whether for crops or animals, that is all too often dismissed as "primitive" by outside experts. As Dr Sims alluded to in his comments, biosafety requires different approaches for small, mixed farms and factory farms. He can correct me if I'm wrong, but conventional approaches to control Newcastle Disease, for instance, are entirely different for small holders and big operations.
With small farms, Newcastle is treated as a low-level disease that regularly occurs but that causes only minor mortality. But in a factory farm, it can get in through a small breech of biosecurity, evolve to more virulent strains, rapidly wipe out most if not all of the flock and then spread to other factory farms and smallholder farms, where it is now more lethal. That's why there are massive culls whenever an outbreak occurs at a factory farm (as it regularly does).
In general, biosafety on a small farm focuses on balance and adaptation to the local ecosystem (with outside interventions required only under certain circumstances-- vaccines, etc). The goal is to keep diseases in check-- an approach that certainly makes sense when the disease is endemic, as bird flu now seems to be. This is not possible for a factory farm, which is why it must be totally enclosed and must take such drastic biosafety measures-- which are inevitably breeched at some point. From our research in bird flu and other poultry viruses it also seems clear that a central element of biosafety for small farms is to protect them from the poultry industry.
As we point out in the report, what is most interesting about the Laos case, where highly-pathogenic H5N1 is confined to the commercial sector, is that there is almost no contact between the small holder sector and the industrial farm sector (markets, etc). In other words, small farms in Laos appear to be protected from H5N1 because they are protected from the poultry industry, although the illegal poultry imports coming from Thailand and China are worrying. (Laos also has the lowest ratio of vets to poultry farms in the region and the highest percentage of native chickens, which should give some pause for thought.)
As we also point out in our report, the FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) report that there is "growing evidence that the survival of the virus in smallholder and backyard poultry is dependent on replenishment." But this incredible statement from these top agencies has received hardly any attention! And hardly anyone is considering how poultry biodiversity may be related, even though the same agencies report that village chickens are showing resistance to H5N1.
It seems to us that the key to keeping the virus under control is to keep it from getting out of control. And the understanding that we have gleaned from our research is that this disease gets out of control in the factory farms. It may be that geese and free-ranging ducks were involved in the emergence of the H5N1 strains now stalking the planet, as Dr Sims suspects.
But our view is that the problem only exploded because of factory farming and the transnational poultry industry. Just look at the most recent outbreaks in Nigeria and India. Or look at the massive outbreak in Southern Russia, where the top vet speculates that half a million chickens died on a few factory farms because some wild birds got into the feed preparation facilities. This is why we say that the poultry industry is at the centre of the bird flu crisis.
When I asked Joseph Domenech, the Chief Veterinarian of the FAO, about the Laos case, he said that it was the low poultry density in the country as well as the lack of major markets that prevented outbreaks. Well could it be that small-scale, biodiverse, mixed farming and local markets are the solution to the bird flu problem? Could it be that this is the kind of so-called restructuring that countries like Vietnam and Thailand require?
Enjoying the discussion....
Devlin

Just come across a site founded in wake of UK's foot and mouth epidemic in 2001; "providing a daily commentary on matters having a connection with animal health or welfare or legislation from the perspective of an independent onlooker." Has news page devoted to H5N1, esp re wild birds, biosecurity, and vaccination. UK focus, but info culled from many sources. [url=http://www.warmwell.com/]Warmwell.com[/url] or, direct to [url=http://www.warmwell.com/h5n1.html]Avian influenza[/url]
Two letters from UK virologist Dr Ruth Watkins of interest (as perhaps not elsewhere); suggesting vaccination for poultry in Turkey. (In letter posted on this forum, vet Les Sims has written of vaccination being important in Hong Kong's success in controlling H5N1: [url=http://www.drmartinwilliams.com/h5n1-poultry-flu-and-migratory-birds/lea... to live with H5N1[/url] In second letter, Watkins makes ominous prediction should things go awry in Turkey: [quote]It would seem that Turkey's exit strategy could be to eliminate the keeping of domestic poultry altogether- I have seen this on the latest ProMed bulletin. This may be very unfortunate for the nutrition and health of its poorer population who- if they ever get the meagre monetary compensation proposed- may be hard pushed to find it would cover another long term source of nutrition as valuable as poultry. They may become like the Maltese and attempt to catch and kill every migrating bird that passes through Turkey- a disaster for wild birds.[/quote]

Excerpt from a "machine translation" of an essay published in Germany:

[quote]It is similarly wrong and by nothing proven to assume that a swan infected
with bird flu could briefly feel the need before its end still to
land on a chicken yard how it is most improbable that migratory birds
empty themselves just over the yard and infect the unsolicited
chickens. For such procedures each concrete reference is missing,
even if Virologen in laboratory tests prove the infection ability of
bird excrement free of doubts.[/quote]
- quite right!!

[url=http://www.welt.de/data/2006/03/07/856037.html]Neue Pest, alte Angst - Essay[/url] [New plague, old fear - essay]
by Josef H. Reichholf

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/03/08 03:53

Dear All,

It was asked what proof there was for Dr Sim's statements regarding reporting of infection in small flocks, and in general with the role of intensive farming in the spread of bird flu.

Well, there is a paper published in 2004 describing H5N1 epidemiology in Thailand. I have not re-read the paper for this post, but if I remember clearly, the authors found higher levels of infection in smaller flock sizes, the opposite of what I would have expected. There is also some discussion of the reporting of disease by different sized operations.

The reference is:

Tiensin T., et al. (2004). Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1, Thailand, 2004. Emerging Infectious diseases 11(11): 1664-1672.

and can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol11no11/05-0608.htm

Best Wishes,
Gavin.

[url=http://www.lapresse.ch/vqhome/le_journal/economie/usine_poulet_130306.ed...\
.html]The H5N1 will support the chicken factories[/url]
["machine translation"]

[quote]INTERVIEW Switzerland Samuel Jutzi is l'un directors of
l'Organisation of the United Nations for l'alimentation and
l'agriculture (FAO). It analyzes the consequences of the influenza
aviaire for the poultry producers and the consumers.

To the head office of FAO, to Rome, Samuel Jutzi, directs division
livestock health and production. A station which places it in first
line in the battle against virus H5N1 that FAO carries out on the
ground, mainly in the countries deprived of effective veterinary
services.

- Why the trade play does such a role in the propagation of the
influenza aviaire?

- Quite simply because the avicolous sector became a sector
globalized par excellence! Since a score of years, in the whole
world, he knows a spectacular growth and incredibly industrialized
himself. The weight of the exchanges does not cease increasing. For
this reason the poultry trade explains in good part the expansion of
the disease, in spite of strict medical rules on a world level.

- And its origin? Does the mass production offer a ground favorable
to the virus?

- Not. It is necessary to distinguish between the density of
poultries in an area and the number of poultries in the industrial
companies. These last can be protected effectively from the viruses.
Actually applied, the safety requirements of these complexes offer a
high degree of protection. For a virus, the best conditions of
development they are the family breedings with a strong density of
poultries.

- A to hear you, the future they are the factories with poulets...

- There is D E any manner a tendency to industrialization encouraged
by the economy. In Europe, the near total of the production is done
already in an intensive way, the developing countries follow the same
evolution. Current epizooty still will accelerate the movement since
the poultries can be better protected in these protected artificial
environments. Other side of the coin: the races will be fewer and
that will lead to the standardization.

- And farm chickens? They will be soon nothing any more but one good
memory?

- Not, but this type of production will be very minority. The
poultries of great quality, high in the open air and nourished with
the grain will become products of niche. In Europe, one wants to
continue to produce them, but for that it is necessary to find the
means of protecting them from epizooties. It is one of the reasons
for which France tries out the vaccination targeted in certain areas.
Because it is known that after this influenza aviaire which is spread
on planet, there will be other epizooties. In a globalized world, it
is difficult to escape from it.[/quote]

[quote]Vietnam's poultry sector has been ravaged by bird flu, but a lull in infections has left producers divided on whether to slow down or forge ahead and revolutionise the industry. Some experts and corporate survivors of the disease that tore through backyard chicken farms here say now is the time to invest in modern integrated operations that promise more safety for workers and consumers.
A shift from family chicken coups to cutting edge factory farms would make both public health and business sense, said Tony Forman, avian influenza technical adviser for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Vietnam. "Groups prepared to invest in biosecure facilities in breeding, animal feed, slaughter houses and food processing may achieve a high level of return on their investment," he told AFP. Since late 2003, Vietnam has been the ground zero of the bird flu crisis. Of the 97 known human deaths worldwide, 42 occurred in the communist country, leading to bans on poultry sales and the slaughter of tens of millions of birds. ... But as the disease has spread to Europe and Africa this northern winter, a three-month lull in reported animal outbreaks in Vietnam and four months free of human cases here have raised cautious hopes that the worst may be over.
The guarded optimism comes after the sector took a heavy hit. Aside from the human cost, bird flu took a high toll on the businesses of farmers, butchers and retailers, both small and large. US food giant Cargill has closed a local chicken facility and slowed animal feed production. "We will reconsider getting back into that activity if the market gets better in future," said Truong Chanh, head of Cargill in Vietnam. Animal feed market leader Proconco -- a Vietnamese subsidiary of the French group EMC that has actually turned a profit amid the crisis by shifting to feed for pigs and aquaculture -- is now torn between doubt and optimism. "Sales started again in January," said Michel Boudrot, general manager of Proconco. "The next months should not be so bad."
But at least one producer, Thai company Charoen Pokphand (CP), has voiced enthusiasm and insists that now is the time to invest heavily. The company, which says it already controls 80 percent of industrial poultry production in Vietnam, plans to double output to a million chicken per week by the end of the year. "CP will succeed in turning a crisis into an opportunity of development," says Sooksunt Jiumjaiswanglerg, president of CP Vietnam Livestock. "We anticipate 30 percent growth of turnover each year," said Sooksunt, adding that the company also plans to open more than 100 new CP Fresh Mart shops this year and 200 to 300 Five Star roast chicken stalls. "That is how high our level of confidence in the future is," he said. The Thai group is the principal supplier of the fast-food chains KFC and Lotteria here, as well as of supermarket chain BigC (Casino), whose poultry sales have actually climbed since last May. "The customers pay great attention to health safety", said Christophe Varvier, food purchasing manager for BigC. He said since the crisis Vietnamese customers "buy more and more chickens processed by industries, cut up and conditioned on their premises, because they are less likely to be contaminated during transport."
In the long term, CP wants to control the entire process, from egging to sales -- a drastic shift in a country where birds now tend to be transported on motorbikes before being hand-slaughtered with a hachet on a wooden block. The government will eventually promote the industrialization of the sector, said Patrice Gautier, Vietnam coordinator of Veterinarians Without Borders, with real results likely "perhaps in five or 10 years". But the shift will come at a price, Gautier predicted. "It's hard to tell what will become of the small breeders," he said. "Will they have to find an alternative way to make money?"[/quote] Does bird flu cloud have silver lining for Vietnam's poultry sector?

More on the madness resulting in large part from bird flu fears (also, here, Newcastle Disease): [quote]Tom Silva's chickens pump out 1.4 million eggs a day, but his operation looks more like a prison than a farm. To reach his hen houses, an intruder would have to scale eight-foot fences topped by razor wire, then sneak past surveillance cameras. "Biosecurity" is the buzzword du jour at chicken, turkey and egg operations across the country. A bird flu pandemic sweeping through flocks in Southeast Asia and beyond has spurred American commercial farmers to tighten their defenses. "This is certainly the biggest issue facing the industry today, no question about that," said Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council. The stakes are especially high in California, where a $2.5 billion poultry industry ranks among the top 10 producers nationwide for dinner chicken, turkey and table egg output. State officials say migratory bird routes that stretch southward from the Bering Strait and down the West Coast could bring the disease by this summer.
A tradition of raising "backyard chickens" for eggs, meat, cockfighting and bird shows runs deep in some Asian and Hispanic subcultures here in the Central Valley. Industry executives and state officials say these backyard birds number in the millions, and they worry these birds out in the open could be exposed to sick migrating flocks. Then they could pass the disease to their owners - many of whom work at commercial poultry operations. And there is painful precedent here. An outbreak of Exotic Newcastle disease killed more than 3.1 million birds, mostly poultry, in Southern California in 2002 and 2003. Silva, vice president of the valley's J.S. West Milling Co., is as concerned about human carriers walking into his four facilities as he is about keeping sick birds out. "If it gets into our industry, the only way to get it out is to euthanize complete complexes like this," he said during a tour of an egg-laying operation whose 1.5 million hens alone he valued at nearly $10 million.
The tour was brief, because no outsiders are allowed beyond the "STOP: BIOSECURE AREA" sign and razor wire - not even the lab workers who collect blood samples once a month for disease testing. They too are on Silva's payroll. Even the short tour provided striking evidence of the measures the poultry industry is taking to combat bird flu before it reaches America. Today, all trucks entering and exiting Silva's complex get an automated bath of ammonia-based disinfectant. Incoming drivers are asked where they've been and whether they've been exposed to poultry. Every employee enters the site through a "dirty door" into a trailer that serves as a changing room. They swap their street clothes for pre-washed boots, hats and coveralls, then enter the hen houses through a "clean door." They reverse the process on the way out. Various poultry companies even try to avoid each other on the road. They plot routes and stagger deliveries throughout the day, on the premise that the virus might jump from truck to truck. ...
Foster Farms is taking a different approach with its "broiler"-raising farms. One of its facilities, the 120-acre Gurr Ranch, is not ringed by razor wire or even fencing. The hen houses are padlocked, and outsiders are not welcome, but the real emphasis is on making the ranch as repulsive as possible to migrating birds. The resulting landscape looks like a moon base, intentionally devoid of trees and ponds but colonized by 64 identical outbuildings that house nearly 1.3 million chickens.
Migrating birds are looking for food, water and shelter, said Charles Corsiglia, an avian veterinarian on the staff of Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms, the biggest poultry company in the West. "If we make our farms so that they don't have those things as they're flying over, they say, 'You know, that looks like a really bad place to land, because there's nowhere for me to waddle around,'" Corsiglia said. "'So I'm going to land at the dairy, or the canal.'" Like the J.S. West Milling facility, the farm buildings are meant to be impenetrable by outside birds, though swallows flitted in and out of the eaves one recent morning. Corsiglia said these visitors can't get into the hen houses. Every person must don disposable plastic boots before setting foot on the Gurr Ranch property. And truckers delivering feed are required to hose their rigs off with the same ammonia-based disinfectant used at J.S. West Milling. It's all part of Corsiglia's three-part formula for biosecurity: isolating birds from disease, controlling people and equipment who come and go, and sanitizing everything. "Animals that aren't exposed to disease don't get sick from those diseases," Corsiglia said. "The logic is so simple, it's laughable." Exotic Newcastle hurt the industry, but forced it and the government to refine surveillance and response procedures, Corsiglia said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials believe farm workers who kept cockfighting roosters at home brought the disease to the egg farms where they worked. A quarantine on pet birds and commercial fowl in a 46,000-square-mile area spanning from Santa Barbara to San Diego cost federal and state agencies more than $151 million but kept the disease contained to Southern California. "That was kind of like a dry run," Corsiglia said. "We never had it up here (in Northern California), which was actually very good because it showed the system really works." Exotic Newcastle lingered for years in California during an outbreak in the 1970s, but the 2002-2003 outbreak was eradicated in less than a year, said Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Silva keeps a brown foam chick in the center console of his truck. It's made for squeezing - a stress-buster. He's not squeezing yet. Silva has invested $250,000 since 2002 in biosecurity measures. But like many in the industry, he worries that a Chicken Little, sky-is-falling panic may be his business' worst enemy. "It's not in the United States. It's not even close to the United States," he said of bird flu. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from "regular" flu, Silva said. "And we're worried about this bird flu?"[/quote]
Biosecurity' is buzzword vs. bird flu
Is this really what we (as people) want? Do you think the advertising for poultry products from such places show razor wire, padlocked houses in place like the moon; or chickens pecking around in green open space, with wild birds singing in the trees?
Foster Farms website says: "Foster Farms is absolutely committed to the humane treatment of all animals." - which would seem debatable if run a farm system that's repulsive to migratory birds. Also, "Foster Farms poultry is always 100% natural with no added hormones or steroids." - again, what does "Natural" mean, when chickens live purely indoors, in controlled artificial environment, no chance of contact with any other wild birds?

I've posted first part of this to thread on evolutionary biology; but implications for farms n biosecurity, so adding here too:

Further evidence of evolutionary biology at work in poultry farms comes from UK's H7N3 outbreak. (Not conclusive here, but fits evol biology - as ever with flu.)

[quote]Birds on the free range unit, however, suffered only a mild form of the flu and none died from the infection....

the virus was transported from the egg farm to the Banhams chicken farm, where it killed some 400 chickens and triggered a drop in egg production by other birds.[/quote]
note also, from intensive farms:
[quote]Blood samples from birds on their farm showed that they had been exposed to the H7N3 virus as long ago as four weeks.[/quote]
- during which, presumably, the virus evolved towards virulence in the "disease factories"

Original, low path virus thought to have been introduced to free-range flock, from wild birds.
Now this may be possible (a few routes mooted).
But, again, leads to serious questions re poultry farming, and conservation.
Do we really want farms that are hermetically sealed from outside world (and yes, that is really impossible, tho can have very tight security)? Ensure wild birds are kept away from poultry farms - like the US farm with not even a tree.

Or do we aim for farming system that can detect bird flus; and have farming systems/measures to guard against introduced strains of flu evolving to virulence?
(Then, can biosecurity really work now, or is it too late; I've seen paper on poultry in China market, where had several strains of flu.)

[url=http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2160597,00.html]
Vets track spread of bird flu strain[/url]

[b]Gavin Smith wrote:[/b]
[quote]Dear All,

It was asked what proof there was for Dr Sim's statements regarding reporting of infection in small flocks, and in general with the role of intensive farming in the spread of bird flu.

Well, there is a paper published in 2004 describing H5N1 epidemiology in Thailand. I have not re-read the paper for this post, but if I remember clearly, the authors found higher levels of infection in smaller flock sizes, the opposite of what I would have expected. There is also some discussion of the reporting of disease by different sized operations.

The reference is:

Tiensin T., et al. (2004). Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1, Thailand, 2004. Emerging Infectious diseases 11(11): 1664-1672.

and can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol11no11/05-0608.htm

Best Wishes,
Gavin.[/quote]

I did re-read the study. Yes, it does find more detected cases of infection in backyard flocks (83% of all cases). But this figure taken alone paints a distorted picture given the much greater number of backyard flocks in the country than commercial flocks. It also doesn't provide a comparison of the number of infected birds per flock size (given that the backyard flocks are minute in comparison with the factory farms and that mortality rates within backyard farms are generally much lower).

Most importantly, the study found that the proportion of factory farms infected were five times higher than for backyard farms.

-Devlin

Article from Institute of Science in Society (UK), looking at wild birds wrongly blamed for h5n1 spread; also re farming - should be closing factory farms, not small farms.
[url=http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Fowl-Play-in-Bird-Flu.php]Fowl Play in Bird Flu[/url]

After news from Romania suggesting itinerant sellers involved in spread of H5N1, this note from Richard Thomas of Birdlife International: "The buyers could be the main source of spreading the disease. We saw that they went from one farm that had suspected avian flu to another farm and within three days it broke out there," says Centre Director Dr Isep Sulaiman. "Then, the buyer sold the infected live chickens at market, people took them home and didn't kill them immediately and it spread even further." Taken from the FAO's: Enemy at the gate: saving farms and people from bird flu (April 2005)

[quote]According to experts, wild birds are spreading the deadly H5N1 virus that's wiping out poultry worldwide. But are they really to blame? Or is the disease not only a direct result of intensive farming - but actually being spread by the industry? Joanna Blythman reports Wednesday June 7, 2006 The Guardian If you normally make a point of buying free-range poultry and eggs, then you may be wondering if this is any longer a wise decision. The television reportage of bird flu, with its shots of men wearing white suits and masks chasing chickens in poor, rural Asian or African villages, or footage of chickens being slaughtered in third world markets while sinister-looking, positively Hitchcockian wild birds circle overhead, has helped build the perception that H5N1 is a disease of wild birds and domesticated poultry kept outdoors in primitive - and, by implication, dodgy - circumstances. On the home front, the nation is on amber alert.
All the major summer agricultural shows have decided to abandon their customary displays of live poultry. The fear is that H5N1 is winging its way to Britain, and that if we don't get every last chicken, hen and budgie indoors, then it could mutate into a human flu pandemic and any minute we'll be dead. A stream of statements and strategy documents from august bodies such as the World Health Organisation reinforce the "wild birds and backyard poultry are the problem" plot-line. This must come as music to the ears of the intensive poultry producers, who heartily resent the good press that organic and free-range poultry generally receive. For once it is free-range birds that everyone is worried about, not the caged laying hens and tightly packed broiler birds that generally feature in food exposes. But what if those august bodies have got it wrong? Multiple cracks are beginning to show in the supposed scientific consensus on the origins of avian flu.
A growing number of non-governmental organisations, bird experts and independent vets are pointing the finger at the global intensive poultry industry. A new report from Grain, an international environmental organisation, challenges the official line. "H5N1 is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices," it says. "Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and south-east Asia. Although wild birds can carry the disease, at least for short distances, [the main infection] route is the highly self-regulated transnational poultry industry, which sends its products and wastes around the world through a multitude of channels." Grain's alternative theory for the emergence of H5N1 - which got backing in an editorial in the Lancet medical journal last month - starts with the observation that bird flu has coexisted pretty peacefully with wild birds, small-scale poultry farming and live markets for centuries without evolving into a more dangerous form of the disease. An explanation for this is that outdoor poultry flocks tend to be low-density, localised, and offer plenty of genetic diversity in breeding stock.
By contrast, the hi-tech, intensive poultry farm, where as many as 40,000 birds can be kept in one shed and reared entirely indoors without ever seeing the light of day, is just like an overcrowded nursery of wheezy toddlers when the latest winter bug comes knocking - an ideal environment for spreading the disease and for encouraging the rapid mutation of a mild virus into a more pathogenic and highly transmissible strain, such as H5N1.
"What we are saying is that H5N1 is a poultry virus killing wild birds, not the other way around," says Devlin Kuyek, from Grain. The organisation's view is supported by the charity BirdLife International, which plots the migratory routes of wild birds. "With few exceptions, there is a limited correlation between the pattern and timing of spread among domestic birds and wild bird migrations," it says. It points out that most of the bird flu outbreaks in south-east Asian countries can be linked to the movements of poultry and poultry products. Looking at the outbreaks in Nigeria and Egypt, which occurred almost simultaneously in multiple large-scale poultry operations, it says that there is "strong circumstantial evidence" that it was the transfer of infected material - straw, soil on vehicles, clothes or shoes - from one factory unit to another that spread H5N1 there, not wild birds. ... Intense debate has built up over one particular mass outbreak last year among geese at Qinghai lake in northern China.
The widely accepted official explanation is that migratory birds carried the virus westwards from there to Russia and Turkey. But according to BirdLife International's Dr Richard Thomas, no species migrates from Qinghai west to eastern Europe. "The pattern of outbreaks follows major road and rail routes, not flyways," he says. What Qinghai lake does have, however, is many surrounding intensive poultry farms whose "poultry manure", a euphemism for what is scraped off the floor of factory farms - bird faeces, feathers and soiled litter - is used as feed and fertiliser in fish farms and fields around Qinghai.
According to WHO, bird flu can survive in bird faeces for up to 35 days. Might it be that at Qinghai, H5N1 was passed from intensively reared birds to wild ones via chicken faeces, and not the other way around? ... When H5N1 turned up in a remote village in eastern Turkey in January, this was initially blamed on migratory birds. Then when villagers gave their side of the story, it emerged that their diseased birds were intimately connected with a large factory farm nearby.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has now acknowledged that the poultry trade spread H5N1 in Turkey, singling out the common practice of intensive poultry farms sending out huge truckloads of low-value (possibly ailing) birds to poor farmers. Yet when bird flu hit a factory farm in Nigeria in February, the FAO spokesman still insisted: "If it's not wild birds [that are the cause], it will be difficult to understand."
The Nigerian authorities, on the other hand, blamed the poultry industry. It subsequently emerged that the hatching eggs used by the farm in question were not from registered hatcheries, and may have come from a bird flu-infected country, such as Turkey. Worldwide, intensive poultry production has exploded and this growth seems to be mirrored by an increase in avian flu. ... Joanna Blythman's new book, Bad Food Britain - How A Nation Ruined Its Appetite, is published by Fourth Estate, price £7.99.[/quote] [url=http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,1792075,00.html]So who's really to blame for bird flu?[/url]

From FAO website; not sure this info will be trumpeted by chief vet Joseph Domenech, who seems a big proponent of big poultry farming (and ready blamer of wild birds for much to do with H5N1). [quote]There is an assumption that because the majority of HPAI outbreaks have been reported in smallholder backyard flocks, these operations are inherently more risky than other types of poultry operations. This assumption was tested using published data from the 2004 HPAI epidemic and concurrent active surveillance programme in Thailand. ... Estimation of the crude risk of HPAI infection in 2004 by flock type as defined by the Thai animal health authorities, showed that, for example, although layer flocks only constituted one percent of all flocks, they accounted for five percent of all registered infected flocks. Quail flocks showed the highest risk of detected HPAI infection, nearly reaching 1.6 percent. [b]Against widely held expectations, backyard flocks showed the lowest risk of detected HPAI infection, 0.05 percent, only one quarter that of layer and broiler flocks[/b]. ... [b]it appears warranted to review the ‘bio-security’ of commercial operations[/b]. ... Campylobacter spp, for example, similar to HPAI virus, move among avian host species, both domesticated and wild and in both directions. The inability of conventional bio-security measures to prevent the movement of Campylobacter in and out of modern broiler facilities was clearly demonstrated in a recent study of Campylobacter-free broiler flocks in the USA, housed in sanitized facilities, using standard bio-security measures, and fed Campylobacter-free feed and water. ... The above example provides ample evidence for the potential of pathogens to move in and out of standard, reputedly bio-secure, commercial poultry facilities, even in developed settings. ... Given the much stronger political influence of commercial interests vis-à-vis smallholder producers there is a clear danger that regulators will opt for ‘easy’ solutions, such as imposing measures to make subsistence poultry production ‘safer’, eg forced housing or confinement of poultry. ...[/quote] HPAI Risk, Bio-Security and Smallholder Adversity

Worldwatch Institute isn't a pioneer in saying that avian flu is a by-product of intensive meat production, tho is novel in saying (at same time) that another by-product is contribution to global warming. Should help with slop progress towards truth emerging, tho the myth of wild birds as ready vectors of H5N1 remains potent.

[quote]The growth of factory farms, their proximity to congested cities in the developing world, and the globalized poultry trade are all culprits behind the spread of avian flu, while livestock wastes damage the climate at a rate that surpasses emissions from cars and SUVs. These preliminary findings on avian flu and meat production, from the upcoming Worldwatch Institute report Vital Signs 2007–2008, were released today by research associate Danielle Nierenberg at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.

At least 15 nations have restricted or banned free-range and backyard production of birds in an attempt to deal with avian flu on the ground, a move that may ultimately do more harm than good, according to Nierenberg. “Many of the world’s estimated 800 million urban farmers, who raise crops and animals for food, transportation, and income in back yards and on rooftops, have been targeted unfairly by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization,” she told participants at the AAAS event. “The socioeconomic importance of livestock to the world’s poor cannot be overstated.”

In 2006, global meat production increased 2.5 percent to an estimated 276 million tons. Sixty percent of this production occurred in the developing world, where half of all meat is now consumed thanks to rising incomes and exploding urbanization.

Rising demand for meat has helped drive livestock production away from rural, mixed-farming systems, where farmers raise a few different species on a grass diet, toward intensive periurban and urban production of pigs and chickens. Because of unregulated zoning and subsidies that encourage livestock production, chicken and pig “confined animal feedlot operations” (CAFOs), or factory farms, are moving closer to major urban areas in China, Bangladesh, India, and many countries in Africa.

Locating large chicken farms near cities might make economic sense, but the close concentration of the birds to densely populated areas can help foster and spread disease, Nierenberg says. In Laos, 42 of the 45 outbreaks of avian flu in the spring of 2004 occurred on factory farms, and 38 were in the capital, Vientiane (the few small farms in the city where outbreaks occurred were located close to commercial operations). In Nigeria, the first cases of avian flu were found in an industrial broiler operation; it spread from that 46,000-bird farm to 30 other factory farms, then quickly to neighboring backyard flocks, forcing already-poor farmers to kill their chickens.

Due mainly to the spread of avian flu and the culling of birds, global poultry output rose only slightly in 2006 to approximately 83 million tons, roughly a 1-percent decrease from the preceding year. Pig meat production, however, grew by 3 percent to 108 million tons, an increase likely due to shifting consumption in Asia from chicken to pork due to concerns about avian flu.

Avian flu has existed among backyard flocks for centuries, but has never been found to evolve there into highly pathogenic forms such as the deadly H5N1 virus. In CAFOs, in contrast, where animals are concentrated by the thousands, diseases erupt and spread quickly. Trade in poultry from these operations is a culprit in spreading the disease to smallholder farmers.

Experts suggest that rather than culling smaller, backyard flocks, the FAO, WHO, and other international agencies should focus the bulk of their avian flu prevention efforts on large poultry producers and on stopping disease outbreaks before they occur. The industrial food system not only threatens the livelihoods of small farmers, it potentially puts the world at risk for a potential flu pandemic. “While H5N1…may have been a product of the world’s factory farms, it’s small producers who have the most to lose,” says Nierenberg.

Intensive animal farming is not only deleterious to human health and economies; it is also responsible for a great deal of ecological destruction. The growing numbers of livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent). They account for 37 percent of emissions of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and 65 percent of emissions of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, most of which comes from manure.[/quote]
[url=http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4925]New Meat Byproducts: Avian Flu and Global Climate Change[/url]