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Swine flu 'inevitable' with industrial farming, says Green candidate

Green Party candidate Dirk Becker said the swine influenza outbreak is as much an agricultural issue as a public health one, and called such outbreaks "inevitable" given industrial farming practices.

22 cases of swine flu have been confirmed in B.C. and a school in Vernon was closed for a week after a student tested positive.

"We need to move away from treating situations like this as isolated incidents and we need to see them in a greater context," said Becker, who is the Green's agriculture critic and a candidate in Nanaimo.

On Monday, both NDP leader Carole James and Liberal MLA Mary Polack called the outbreak a serious public health matter, and told the CBC they weren't going to make it a campaign issue.

Becker, who is the Green's agriculture critic and a candidate in Nanaimo, said he's "an activist first, a farmer second. Anything I say or do is anything I would say or do year-round anyway."

He offered no specifics on what the Greens would change about current farming regulations in B.C., but said farm condition, not necessarily size, was the important thing.

"Pigs need natural grazing, grass and eating dirt and getting their nose in the dirt and getting enzymes," he said. "And as long as we have this attitude to have whatever we want at whatever farming, what is sacrificed is lack of heritage breeds, biodiversity, the outbreak of disease."

La Gloria, Mexico has been called swine flu ground zero. According to news reports, the residents blame ongoing respiratory problems on pig waste from nearby breeding farms. A young boy from the town was the first confirmed victim of swine flu, although health officials haven’t confirmed where, or how the epidemic started.

The form that originated in Mexico is a genetic mixture of viruses that have been seen in pigs, birds and humans, known as H1N1.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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