By Jim Kouri
U.S. President Barack Obama has invited a number of African leaders to join the upcoming G8 summit for a discussion on food security on their continent, the White House announced on Monday. But experts say Obama has failed to address food security at home.
They will join leaders at the G8 summit at Camp David on May 19 for “a discussion session on accelerating progress towards food security in Africa,” said the statement.
The G8 summit is due to be held at Camp David in Maryland on May 18 and 19, the White House said in a statement.
Unfortunately, in a biting reprimand from the Pew Health Organization, officials claim that President Obama has failed to address agroterrorism and food security concerns here in America.
Only months after the Obama Administration boasted of enacting “sweeping” legislation to protect the nation’s food supply, experts at a federal symposium revealed that half of what Americans eat comes from foreign countries not covered by the FDA-enforced measure, according to a public-interest group based in Washington, D.C.
This situation leaves the nation vulnerable to bioterrorism via tainted food, according to experts participating in the FBI’s International Symposium on Agroterrorism. The annual event, that took place in Kansas City last month, hoped to help protect the world’s food supply from terrorism through information-sharing and collaboration among governments, the private sector and academia, states a Judicial Watch report.
“The world-renowned agroterrorism experts attending this year’s symposium have some rather worrisome news for Americans, despite the president’s political horn-tooting. Because it’s nearly impossible to know where 50% of our food comes from, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to protect consumers from tainted supplies as well as intentional bioterrorism attacks,” said former intelligence and police officer Sid Franes.
“Why terror groups or fanatics haven’t already ‘attacked’ us using our food is a mystery in itself,” said Franes.
The watchdog group points out that a director at a special Homeland Security Food Protection and Defense program admitted more foreign companies are registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — the government agency that regulates the industry — to sell products in this country than domestic firms. That means federal regulators in the U.S. have little control or say over the fast-growing global food market.
You wouldn’t know that from reading the Obama Administration’s promotion of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which claims to “set in motion sweeping improvements to the security and safety of our nation’s food supply,” Judicial Watch officials pointed out.
When Obama signed the measure last year the White House issued a press release referring to it as “historic legislation” that will establish “science-based standards” for safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables to minimize the risk of serious illness or death.
The legislation also “significantly enhances” the FDA’s ability to oversee food products coming into the U.S. from other countries each year, according to the release, which also claims that only an “estimated 15 percent” of the U.S. food supply is imported.
The agroterrorism experts, many of them on the government’s payroll, have stated its more like 50%. Then again, they were quoted in the media, not in a skewed White House press release such as the one examined by Judicial Watch.
In March 2011, the U.S. Congress investigated the subject of food safety. A report assessed how the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are addressing challenges in overseeing the safety of imported food.
It also assesses how the FDA utilizes resources by working with other entities, such as state and foreign governments, and attempts to determine how the FDA is using its Predictive Risk-Based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting system to oversee imported food safety.
US agriculture generates more than $1.5 trillion per year in economic activity and provides an abundant food supply for Americans and others. There are continuing concerns about the vulnerability of US agriculture to the deliberate introduction of animal and plant diseases by those wishing to harm American citizens.
“The big problem is money be spent to monitor food products being imported into the United States. So far, the budget for food safety is minimal when compared to other government programs. For example, politicians push for vaccinating millions of Americans against what they characterize as a deadly flu epidemic, yet they do not seem concerned over a very real threat to all Americans — contaminated food,” said political strategist Mike Baker.
Federal agencies also have been conducting vulnerability assessments of the agriculture infrastructure; have created networks of laboratories capable of diagnosing animal, plant, and human diseases; have begun efforts to develop a national veterinary stockpile that intends to include vaccines against foreign animal diseases; and have created new federal emergency coordinator positions to help states develop emergency response plans for the agriculture sector. However, the United States still faces complex challenges that limit the nation’s ability to respond effectively to an attack against livestock.
However, gaps in enforcement and collaboration undermine these efforts. First, CBP’s computer system does not currently notify FDA or FSIS when imported food shipments arrive at U.S. ports, although efforts are underway to provide this information to FDA for air and truck shipments.
“This is a problem we see with law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies and other government entities,” claims former police detective and Marine intelligence officer Sidney Frances.
“Whenever we see multiple government agencies involved in one single function, there will almost certainly be some kind of Snafu,” he added.