Neither good, nor clean nor fair: No to pig mega-factories in Argentina

05 Oct 2020

On July 6 of this year, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, the Ministerio de Relaciones, Comercio Internacional y Culto of Argentina announced the imminent signing of a memorandum of understanding with the People’s Republic of China for the establishment of mega-factories of pig production in Argentina.

This led to a public pronouncement titled: “We do not want to become a pig factory for China or a factory for new pandemics”, that was signed by more than 500,000 organizations and individuals throughout the country, and which opened an intense public debate around this investment proposal.

As a result, there were requests for access to public information, meetings, press releases, talks, and various mobilizations in different parts of the country, despite the social, preventive, and mandatory isolation decreed by the national government.

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Image credit Suzanne Tucker from Unsplash.com

Although official information has been scarce and not very transparent, the project synthetically contemplates the installation of at least 25 megafactories with 12,000 sows each, and a very capital-intensive vertical integration scheme.

As a result of the intense debate that arose, the national government announced the postponement of the signing of the memorandum to November of this year, in order to incorporate in the text the demand for the protection of biosecurity and natural resources.

The Slow Food Argentina Assembly has closely followed the matter and considered it necessary to issue a public statement on the subject, which we reproduce below.

Statement of the Slow Food Argentina Assembly on the project to install pig mega-factories in Argentina

The Slow Food Argentina Assembly, in defense of good, clean and fair food, joins the voice of hundreds of thousands of organizations and people from all over the country who, under the slogan “No to false solutions”, reject the project to establish pig megafactories in Argentina.

The investment project, as it is proposed, and based on the little official information that has been made public, if it materializes, it would promote:

1- The growth of the transgenic agribusiness model imposed in our country since 1996, since the basis of the feeding of the pigs, according to the official forecast, will be transgenic corn and transgenic soy, tolerant to pesticides.

As we have expressed in previous pronouncements, it is urgent to abandon the transgenic agribusiness model since it causes contamination of the soil, air, water, promoting the destruction of pollinators. The heavy pesticides are to blame in chronic non-communicable diseases and destruction of the immune systems, associated with acute and chronic environmental exposure.

The social impact ranges from concentration of power, foreignization and conflicts over land; displacement of peasants and native peoples, rural exodus and urban overcrowding.

The biodiversity and climate impact include the displacement of other crops important to the communities; deforestation and destruction of forests, jungles and wetlands; plus increase in gas emissions responsible for the climate crisis; soil degradation and desertification; expansion of resistant and tolerant weeds; droughts and floods; increasing displacement of real food by ultra-processed edible objects harmful to health and the destruction of local food cultures.

2- Allocate large quantities of freshwater, since a daily use of 1,500,000 liters of water is expected for each of the 25 mega-factories announced, affecting the availability and accessibility of water for other essential purposes, in a context of water crisis and climate and in a country that even today has not been able to guarantee 10% of its population access to drinking water.

3- Air, water and soil pollution derived from waste, since urine slurry and fecal material from pigs contain more than 300 different volatile toxic substances, bacteria and residues of antibiotics used in this type of farm.

4- Generate higher greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the climate crisis, since highly demanding mega factories of vertical integration are foreseen throughout its chain of fossil fuels;

5- The generation of zoonotic diseases with the potential to generate new pandemics, since the People’s Republic of China decided to outsource pig production after in 2018 it had to slaughter between 180 and 250 million pigs due to an outbreak of swine fever Africana (ASF), which today also plagues several European countries, and that there is already a new strain of H1N1 swine flu that recently infected Chinese workers and another with the potential to be transmitted to humans in neighboring Brazil. Herding large numbers of genetically homogeneous animals under stress conditions, as science shows, makes them more vulnerable to suffering and transmitting diseases.

6- Increase in bacterial resistance due to the use of antibiotics, since 80% of the antibiotics used in the world are to promote growth and prevent or treat animal diseases in these types of farms. In Fact, according to the World Health Organization and the G-20, 800,000 people die every year from bacterial resistance, constituting one of the main public health problems of today and for years to come.

7- Social conflict due to pollution, odors, flies, mosquitoes, and rodents, and diseases associated with these farms.

8- Institutionalize animal cruelty on a massive and unusual scale, since animals, reduced to mere converters of vegetable protein into animal protein, are subjected to mutilations, overcrowding, stress, and cruelty that force a serious ethical debate on how to that we interact with other species with which we share our common home.

9- Generation of jobs of very low quality and qualification in which workers are exposed to suffer and transmit diseases to the communities in which they live.

10- The deepening of the concentration of the pig market in our country, since an investment of 150 million dollars is officially foreseen for each mega factory, in a vertical integration business scheme that does not contemplate small and medium pig producers. This will generate not only a greater concentration of an already concentrated market but also the true risk that the production theoretically destined exclusively for export will be turned over to the domestic market, simply causing the destruction of local pork producers.

For all these reasons, we demand that the national government, the provincial and municipal governments abandon their pretense of imposing false solutions, and instead make decisive progress in the construction of public policies that promote the realization peasant-based agroecology, food sovereignty, and the full enjoyment and exercise of the right to good, clean and fair food for all the people who inhabit the Argentine territory.

Slow Food Argentina Assembly, September 18, 2020.

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