Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hunger Coming To Korea

There has been an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in South Korea.

The severe foot and mouth epidemic that started in South Korea at the end of November could have even more serious repercussions for public health. Some 3m head of livestock have already been slaughtered but now the environment ministry is concerned about burial of the carcasses.

Under the pressure of events some cattle were buried alive and the authorities sometimes failed to take the necessary precautions: digging pits four or five metres deep and lining them with two layers of plastic sheeting. Farm animals were buried at more than 4,000 sites, often in easily accessible spots, for instance beside rivers.

As spring temperatures rise the corpses will start to rot. Rainfall leaching through the pits, above all during the June monsoon, could contaminate rivers and aquifers. This could be a hazard for drinking water with the risk of another outbreak of foot and mouth disease. To prevent "an unprecedented environmental disaster" the environment minister Lee Maanee last week called for "a full, detailed study of all the [burial] sites before spring".

According to a survey carried out in the eastern province of North Gyeongsang, where the epidemic started, more than one in 10 burial sites needs to be reinforced. New pits may be dug and lined with concrete.

The new problem comes on top of those posed by the epidemic itself, which has already cost South Korea 2,000bn won ($1.75bn) and pushed up food prices. The price of pork rose by nearly 12% in January alone. With about 5% of beef and dairy cattle having been destroyed the authorities are afraid there may be milk shortages, production having dropped by as much as one-fifth in some places.
Could it infect humans? Yes but it is rare.
Because FMD rarely infects humans, but spreads rapidly among animals, it is a much greater threat to the agriculture industry than to human health. Farmers around the world can lose huge amounts of money during a foot-and-mouth epizootic, when large numbers of animals are destroyed and revenues from milk and meat production go down.
And there are animal vaccines. It is looking bad for South Korea. But at least they have resources to buy their way out of the problem.

North Korea is in worse shape although the infection has not spread so far there.
SEOUL—A swiftly moving disease that has decimated South Korean livestock and damaged the country's food production now appears to be out of control in North Korea.

It is unclear where or when the latest outbreak of the airborne, easily transported illness known as foot-and-mouth disease began on the Korean peninsula. But in a sign of the pressure North Korea is facing over the issue, its state media on Tuesday reported that the outbreak originated in the South and that other countries, including Malaysia and Mongolia, have been hit with outbreaks in the past.

North Korea, which faces chronic food shortages and whose authoritarian government resists interaction with outsiders, hasn't taken any apparent steps to cull animals infected with the disease, as South Korea did.

Visitors to North Korea reported as far back as December they suspected the country was battling foot-and-mouth disease, but North Korea's state news agency didn't officially confirm the outbreak until Thursday when it said "more than 10,000 head of draft oxen, milk cows and pigs have been infected" and "thousands of them died."

In addition to reducing the North's already-constrained food supply, the disease's spread to oxen, widely used in place of tractors there, will limit the ability of North Korean farmers to carry out planting and other tasks.
And of course China, which borders North Korea is at risk. This is going to cause a spike in food prices world wide.

The rich countries will be stressed. Many of the poor countries of the world will be broken. Add in the recent freezes in in the US and Mexico and the world food supply is going to be strained severely. And yet the Delta Smelt has shut down a lot of food production in California (brilliant that) and we are using vast acreage to turn corn into alcohol. You have to wonder if the people running the show in America were born stupid or did they have to take classes?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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