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Food Safety Must Be a National Security Component

June 9, 2013 - 6:00pm

The recently proposed acquisition of Smithfield Foods by a Chinese company not only marks the largest acquisition of a U.S. company in history, but also highlights a strategic move by the worlds second largest economy to ensure they have enough food to feed their growing population over the long term.

Unlike China, the United States currently has the resources to meet the future needs of our growing population, if we let our farmers and ranchers do what they are good at.

Historically, Americans have not struggled with threats to food security. American farmers grow an abundance of food. Theyre constantly improving their techniques and technologies to grow more food on fewer acres. Grocery store shelves are stocked with endless food options at affordable prices.

In contrast, other countries throughout the world face a litany of disruptions weather, government instability, politics, population explosions that result in higher food prices, land grabs, panic buying and government price controls. The instability of food supply forces their residents to struggle to feed themselves and their families on a daily basis at a higher percentage of their income.

Today, more than 7 billion people make up the worlds population. The worlds population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. At the current rate at which the world produces food, there is no way we will produce enough to feed 9 billion people without technological leaps.

The proposed acquisition of Americas largest pork producer by Shuanghui International indicates that China anticipates the growing risk and is planning for the future. Its only the latest in a series of acquisitions by Chinese companies seeking to secure resources that can power Chinas economy. China spent more on U.S. companies last year than during the three previous years combined.

Just as China and other countries have internalized lessons from periods of great food shortages, the United States must value food security as a national security component. Food, energy and strategic resources are pillars of national defense. We cannot be as dependent on others for our food as we are for our fuel.

Investments in research and development in the life sciences will not only bring about a second Green Revolution, but will assure America hegemony in food production, while bringing greater peace and stability to a hungry, restless world.

Adam Putnam is the Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

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