Maybe youve heard this by now. Perhaps youve listened to the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Homeland Security. Theyve all issued statements along these lines.

But in the face of what could become a global panic, the simple truth is worth repeating: You cant catch the flu from eating pork.

لسوء الحظ, some people want to take advantage of public ignorance. As White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel once said in a different context: Never allow a crisis to go to waste.

The protectionists appear to know this rule inside and out. هذا الاسبوع, الصين, Ecuador, إندونيسيا, كازاخستان, الفلبينيين, Serbia, تايلاند, and the United Arab Emirates have banned pork from the United States and Mexico. Russia has taken it even further, banning all meat.

This makes no sense. Or havent you heard? You cant catch the flu from eating pork.

Obviously, bans on American pork have nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics. Anyone who believes otherwise suffers from fools flu, and the protectionists are happy to see this harmful virus spread into an epidemic of absurdity. Their agenda is to elevate the pleadings of special-interest groupsoften domestic suppliers who cant compete with American growers and workersover the common good.

Now U.S. food producers will suffer a blow. Pork exports to China alone were worth nearly $270 million last year. This is excellent news not only for inefficient Chinese hog farmers, but also for our foreign competitors. علاوة على ذلك, the expected decline in pork sales wont merely hurt pig producers in Kansas and Texas. It will also injure corn and soybean growers who supply the feed for those hogs and the truck drivers who transport them and the list goes on. Less demand means smaller incomes.

الشهر الماضي, the World Trade Organization released a report stating that world trade would decline by 9% في 2009 and global exports could drop another 8% if countries continue to enact protectionist measures.

بعبارات أخرى, these acts of protectionism function as a reverse-stimulus plan for rural America.

International law allows nations to build trade barriers on an emergency basis, if theres a legitimate public-health threat. This is a wise practice. لحسن الحظ, several key countries are not using it as an excuse to meddle with markets. اليابان, على سبيل المثال, consumes an enormous amount of U.S. لحم خنزير, and its government says that there are no plans to restrict American products.

Much of the confusion about this new flu strain is semantic. في البداية, people called it swine flu and the name stuck. Yet its victims arent contracting the virus from pigs. Transmission is human-to-human. The flu actually contains avian and human characteristics. We remain unsure of its precise origin. Calling it swine flu involves a bit of guesswork.

There is a tradition of naming flu strains after the region they come from; ال 1918 flu pandemic, which killed millions, is sometimes called Spanish flu. Some have suggested calling this new strain Mexican flu or North American flu. The most accurate name probably would be H1N1 flu, in reference to a protein sequence. This is what officials in the Obama administration have started calling it.

In the end, the name is just a label. People everywhere need to understand the realities that lie beneath: Eating cooked pork and pork products is perfectly safe. Wash your hands, sanitize your cutting boards, and cover your face when you sneeze. These simple steps will go a long way toward preventing the disease.

But dont expect calming rhetoric from the professional crisis exploiters. Protectionists in other countries arent the only ones who see the ingredients of political opportunity. في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية, the enemies of Mexican trucking will use the flu as a new excuse to continue defying a NAFTA treaty requirement. Unions continue to fight negotiated free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Its time for leadership and the political will to approve those agreements or more fools flu will spread creating a pandemic economic influenza.

For now, على الأقل, lets keep the current challenge squarely in our sights and remember: You cant catch the flu from eating pork.

Tim Burrack raises corn and soybeans in partnership with his brother on their NE Iowa family farm. Tim is a Board Member of Truth About Trade and Technology

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