TU College of Law alumna Kelly Hunter Foster (JD ’96) comments on the current controversial sale of United States-based Smithfield Foods to Chinese-based Shuanghui. Hunter Foster is a member of The University of Tulsa College of Law’s Sustainable Energy Resources Law (SERL) Board of Visitors.
Published by Chicago Tribune
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Outside Opinion: Sale of Smithfield Foods threatens our food and water
U.S. shouldn’t let foreign, financial interests exercise control over its farmers, natural resources
By Kelly Foster
The sale of Smithfield Foods to a foreign corporation threatens farms, food and water in the United States. The rise of industrialized meat production has nearly destroyed the family farm. A few corporations now exercise unprecedented control over our food supply. They control
production of roughly 70 percent of beef, chicken and pork in the U.S. and hold the power to influence government regulation, prices and farmers’ livelihoods. Industrialized meat and feed production, which are dependent on fossil fuels and federal subsidies, are the leading cause of nutrient and pathogen pollution in the U.S and emit greenhouse gas. Illinois is the fourth-largest hog producer in the U.S., with 2,900 hog farms —most without any state oversight, resulting in pollution of the state’s water.
These corporations are expanding internationally, allowing global markets, multinational corporations, foreign sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms to determine the future of U.S. agriculture. Smithfield Foods’ acquisition by China’s Shuanghui, a Hong Kong-based holding company backed by CDH Investments, Goldman Sachs, and Singapore’s state-owned Temasek, will result in foreign control of the largest U.S. pork processor and producer. Fortune magazine has referred to increasing foreign ownership as being “colonized by purchase rather than by conquest.” Colonized economies become subject to foreign markets’ demands and investors’ financial motivations, often resulting in natural resource depletion, pollution and increased unemployment. China consumes 50 percent of the world’s pork, and demand is soaring. China already imports huge quantities of soybeans and corn from the U.S. to supply feed for it pork production. With the acquisition of Smithfield, Shuanghui plans to increase production in the U.S. and export pork to China, leaving behind the economic, health and environmental damage not factored into industrial pork’s market price. The U.S. should not accept the costs associated with this acquisition, nor should it allow foreign and private financial interests to exercise this kind of control over its food supply, its farmers and its natural resources.
Kelly Foster is senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, which aims to protect water from polluters.
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