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China’s determination to become self-sufficient and address its food security problems could put the United States, as the world’s top agricultural producer, in Beijing’s crosshairs, a federal report warned this week.
The report released by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) warned that China’s efforts to strengthen its agricultural sector pose not only an economic challenge, but a threat to American security.
China’s inability to secure sufficient domestic production to feed its gigantic population means it has turned to countries like the United States for farmland, livestock, equipment and property. intellectual – in some cases by theft.
“The United States is a global leader in all of these areas, making it a top trading partner and often a target of China’s efforts to bolster its agricultural sector and food security, sometimes through illicit means,” indicates the report.
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China seeks to dominate the genetically modified seed industry, which has the potential to generate huge economic benefits.
Beijing’s increased seed stocks would not only reduce its dependence on countries like the United States, but could make it a major competitor in the global market.
The USCC report found that the United States exported $1.62 billion worth of seeds, mostly vegetables, corn, soybeans and grasses, in 2020.
In 2021, $173.9 million worth of exported seeds were sold to China alone, equivalent to about 15% of total exports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the agricultural industry to expand its seed collection as he seeks to reduce China’s dependence on foreign resources.
Rather than directing its resources towards developing and researching national seed innovations, espionage has become a major tool for its agricultural industry.
“Acquiring US trade secrets through agricultural espionage has become a convenient way for China to improve its agricultural production and become more competitive in global markets,” according to the report. “Agricultural intellectual property theft could allow Chinese agribusinesses to thwart U.S. competitors in international seed markets.”
But aside from the economic woes that Beijing could inflict on the United States, there is an even more ominous threat to American food production.
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GM seeds help circumvent the unpredictable reality that the agricultural industry faces each season by mitigating the risk of drought, pests and disease.
While the technology behind genetically modifying a crop can save a farming season, it can also be used to target modified crops.
“One of the vulnerabilities of GM seeds is their limited genetic variation. Therefore, a virus or fungus designed to kill a GM plant could wipe out an entire crop without genetic variation to mitigate losses,” the report said.
Glenn Thompson, a ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, told Fox News that ‘food security is national security’ and said the USCC report showed the United States needed to adopt stricter positions to protect American intellectual property and agricultural industry.
“Our producers go to great lengths to ensure that the United States provides the safest food supply, and that cannot be compromised,” he said. “It is high time to strengthen our struggling supply chains and ensure American producers have access to free and fair markets to mitigate the impact of the looming global food crisis.”
Following the 2001 terrorist attacks, China expressed concern that bioterrorism could pose a growing threat and biosecurity has become a top priority for the country.
Traditionally, China has been reluctant to import genetically modified animals and plants.
But the report notes that Beijing has “increasingly recognized the strategic advantages [of] genetically modified organisms” and could use Western imports to develop its technology and achieve global agricultural dominance.
“The Communist Party of China clearly wants to supplant our nation’s influence and leadership in all areas, including agriculture,” Senator John Boozman, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Fox News. “We must not fall asleep at the switch and give China an opening to exploit.
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“The Biden administration and Congress must do everything they can to protect our food supply, the intellectual property and technology that makes our agriculture industry the envy of the world, and our supply chains from the vulnerabilities that Beijing wants to exploit. to his advantage and to the detriment of the United States,” Boozman said. added.
The USCC said it recommends the intelligence community begin working with the US Department of Agriculture to develop and protect the US agricultural industry and better protect it from foreign adversaries like China.