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