China will start buying up the world's most fertile farmland, if it enacts a new national food policy that could catapult the notion of food security into the space now occupied by energy and national security.
"Chinese companies will be encouraged to buy farmland abroad, particularly in Africa and South America, to help guarantee food security under a plan being considered by Beijing," the Financial Times reported. "A proposal drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture would make supporting offshore land acquisition by domestic agricultural companies a central government policy. Beijing already has similar policies to boost offshore investment by state-owned banks, manufacturers and oil companies, but offshore agricultural investment has so far been limited to a few small projects."
The idea might not be familiar to Americans, but food security has actually been discussed extensively among conservationists fighting suburban sprawl for years. Take New York City and the fertile farmland in the surrounding counties that has over the years been carved up, subdivided, plowed under and paved so folks could build new homes. The only crop many farms grow, as far away as 75 miles from the city, is McMansions.
Farm advocates have long criticized this as short-sighted. What if fuel costs rise to such a degree that those 9 million or so people need locally grown food? How valuable would that once-fertile soil be?
We get riled up when China, or any other nation, acts colonial, or tries to corner the market on a natural resources we also desire. There's no more important natural resource than food, with the exception of clean water. Geopolitical strategy has always been about oil. It may increasingly be about food and water.
Food security ought to be on the agenda in the United States, too. That means reining in sprawl in the exurbs, at a minimum.
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