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Imported food supply leaves nation vulnerable

11/30/2007 Capital Press Editorial

If something happened tomorrow to the nation's food supply, would you be prepared?

A professor of horticulture and peach breeder at Michigan State University told fruit producers in Nampa, Idaho Nov. 20 that 46 percent of U.S. citizens have less than three days' worth of food on hand in their homes.

This leaves the nation vulnerable.

"If the nation became hungry, even in isolated portions of it, here is what could happen, providing lots of drama for Hollywood," Paul Friday said.

"The total lawlessness of the Old West would again become a reality. There would be fist-fighting for the last box of cornflakes in supermarket aisles, breaking into aquariums at night to spear fish, and killing pets or zoo animals for food.

"All of these horrible temporary sources of food would last only hours. How about the old golden goose story: Someone kills the cow and now you have no milk or cheese," he said.

While this scenario of spearing fish and fighting for food might seem unbelievable, if not comical, perhaps this isn't as far-fetched as it seems.

Gone are the days when a large number of people dutifully canned large amounts of fruit and vegetables, had root cellars to store potatoes for the winter, or butchered animals to freeze large quantities for later consumption.

Too often we rely on large supermarkets because of large quantities and choices of food, cheaper prices, convenience and year-around availability.

Local food producers simply cannot satisfy our growing population's needs.

Unfortunately, we also do have examples of what happens when food supplies are affected by tragedies: Think of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina where people fought each other for that last morsel of available food to survive.

Friday told people that as we import more food than we export, we need to think about how vulnerable we are.

"This leaves us at the mercy of other nations, who might decide to starve us and see if we'll negotiate. There's all kinds of public support for domestic oil production. How about food?"

Good point. Friday said Congress has not responded to his warnings, but perhaps it's time for the public to elevate this debate to a new level.

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