Ensuring Food and Environmental Security Post 9/11 Attack

University of Missouri Professor Emeritus John Ikerd discusses the importance of ensuring food and environmental security post 9/11 attack.

| June/July 2002

Dealing the questions of food and environmental security in post-September 11 America.

Unfamiliar questions of security were forced into the minds of Americans by the events of September 11. We immediately focused on questions of physical security. We also questioned our economic security. But now perhaps we should question our food and environmental security. How can we ensure we will have enough food to eat if we face decades of global unrest and economic uncertainty?

Ultimately our food is no more secure than our relationships with each other and our relationships with the land.

In an increasingly global society, America seems to be willing to carry out a long and protracted war against countries that support the terrorists who might threaten our physical security, ensuring decades of global turmoil. America also appears to be willing to become increasingly dependent on other countries of the world for our food, even during these times of growing global distrust. In the world trade arena, U.S. negotiators are pushing for removal of all social and ecological barriers to economic "free trade."

Other countries have lower-cost land and labor, and thus have an economic "comparative advantage" in food production. For example, in South America and China agricultural land and farm labor costs are but a small fraction of U.S. land and labor costs. Nonfarm employment opportunities and residential demands for land in the United States will keep upward pressure on costs, eventually pricing American agriculture out of a "free market" global economy.

In addition, American agriculture increasingly is coming under corporate control, through contractual arrangements that move all-important production and marketing decisions from local farmers to executives in some distant corporate headquarters. Many of the agribusiness corporations are multinational — with corporate offices and stockholders in countries all around the world. These corporations have no commitment to any particular community, region or nation. Eventually they will move their agricultural operations to wherever on the globe they can produce at the lowest dollar-and-cent costs. Increasingly that will be somewhere other than in America. Our future food security is at risk.

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