Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/199/8153
vCJD - the real health threat
THE REPORT on the cluster of vCJD cases in the Leicestershire village of Queniborough reinstates this killer disease - not foot and mouth - as the major health threat in Britain.
The drive to maximise profits in the food processing industry spread the BSE cattle disease. BSE then jumped the 'species barrier' to humans through food products causing the fatal vCJD.
For a decade, Tory ministers and top civil servants deliberately lied about the disease to protect the livestock industry's profits. Yet the Phillips report, commissioned by Labour into BSE, whitewashed former Tory governments.
Almost 100 people are known to have developed vCJD. Many microbiologists fear that the disease may have a very long incubation period so we could see the start of a much larger epidemic infecting thousands of people. BSE is still present in cattle herds.
The report says that the common factor amongst the Queniborough cluster was cross-contamination by butchers' knives of infected tissue with other cuts of meat.
However professor Richard Lacey, who first alerted people to the link between BSE and vCJD, said the report "... is just guesswork, speculation. The aim is to reassure, rather than to get at the truth. This has been the whole basis of CJD over 15 years - not to get at the truth but to reassure in the short term."
However distressing the mass slaughter of livestock may be, foot and mouth isn't a big threat to human health - BSE is. Capitalism and food safety don't mix.
What we say
CAPITALIST AGRICULTURE'S profit-driven industrial farming techniques and global markets cannot provide safe, wholesome food. Only a socialist programme can. This would include:
Nationalisation of the big agrichemical businesses, with land leased out on a secure basis to those prepared to work it - including groups of farm workers, existing tenants and small farmers.
A plan of sustainable food production drawn up between representatives of the farmworkers' unions, consumers and small farmers who actually work the land.
Bring the food processing industry and retail industry under democratic workers' control and management to ensure standards and make sure it operates within an overall plan to supply good quality cheap food to everyone.
In The Socialist 30 March 2001: