The vast production of food in the United States is one of the greatest achievements of American free enterprise society of a superior system of patents that encourages the invention of fantastically efficient farm machinery. In one of America's favorite patriotic songs, we wax lyrical about our "amber waves of grain."
The Clinton administration conned American farmers into being the principal lobbyists in 2000 for passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China, which gave Chinese goods unconditional access to U.S. markets.
Former President Bill Clinton promised in his State of the Union address that Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China would be a win-win for American agriculture because "this agreement will open China's market to us." The Department of Agriculture under Clinton predicted that the average annual value of U.S. agricultural exports to China would increase by $1.5 billion.
Globalization turned out to be a cheat. Department of Commerce figures show that U.S. wheat exports to China are less today than before the passage of Permanent Normal Trade Relations.
Cheap labor in Asia can produce some agricultural products less expensively than they can be with all our expensive equipment, and China's food exports to the United States have become a $2.1 billion industry. The United States is now importing 13 percent of the food Americans eat.
But Americans can't count the cost merely in dollars and in bushels. China simply doesn't have health, sanitary or safety standards that Americans expect for the U.S. food supply.
So the United States recently discovered that China has been intentionally mixing an industrial chemical called melamine into pet food and animal feed imported by U.S. companies and sold here under more than 100 brand names. Melamine, which is both a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, is used to make plastic kitchenware, glues, countertops, fabrics, fertilizers and flame retardants.
Because melamine is high in nitrogen, the Chinese have been putting it into wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate in order to trick Americans into thinking they are buying feed with higher protein content. Melamine has no nutritional value.
As this scandal unfolds, we also learn that the Chinese have been putting cyanuric acid, a chemical related to melamine that is used in chlorination during pool cleaning, into wheat gluten products sold to the United States.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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