Chinese food security push poses threat to US – report
China’s efforts to achieve food security represent a threat to the US, according to an American federal agency focused on trade with Beijing. Officials warn that Chinese firms could attempt to steal intellectual property, cut into Washington’s foodstuff exports profits, undermine supply chains, and even target America's genetically modified crops with biological warfare.
A report issued this week by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission centers on “China’s interest in US agriculture” and states that Beijing is “augmenting food security through investment abroad” after facing “challenges” in recent years.
“The Chinese government’s domestic efforts, however, are not enough to solve China’s problems,” the report concluded, adding that Beijing is now looking overseas “to address its needs through investments and acquisitions of farmland, animal husbandry, agricultural equipment, and intellectual property (IP), particularly of GM [genetically modified] seeds.”
These efforts present several risks to US economic and national security.
Arguing that China is “hungry” for American intellectual property, the document goes on to warn of potential “military applications” of agricultural technologies, even suggesting the People’s Liberation Army could someday attempt to wage biological warfare against genetically modified American crops.
“While China’s main interest in obtaining GM seeds from the United States is in improving its crop yields, the potential weaponization of agricultural IP is possible,” it said. “Similar to hacking a computer code, Beijing could easily hack the code or DNA of US GM seeds and conduct biowarfare by creating some type of blight that could destroy US crops.”
The report also cited more mundane concerns surrounding US supply chains, stating Beijing could achieve “undue leverage” over the American economy through its investments and “erode US competitiveness in agriculture technology.”
“Additionally, China’s illicit acquisitions of GM seeds provides a jumpstart to China’s own development of such seeds, deprives US companies of revenue, and offers an opportunity to discover vulnerabilities in US crops,” the commission added.
The warnings from Washington come amid a burgeoning international food crisis stemming from Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February, as well as the massive Western sanctions campaign in response. Both Russia and its neighbor are major agricultural exporters, supplying some nations with large proportions of their grain.
Though US and allied officials have pinned cereal and fertilizer shortages on Moscow alone, China recently pushed back on those charges before the United Nations, instead pointing to Western economic penalties.
“Sanctions will not bring peace but will only accelerate the spillover of the crisis, triggering sweeping food, energy and financial crises across the globe,” Chinese Deputy UN Ambassador Dai Bing said earlier this month.