There has been a great deal of anxiety throughout the first half of 2022 as to whether or not we're in the midst of a planned destabilization of our global food supply. And, I mean, we shouldn't dismiss such suspicions out of hand. Anything can happen!
But of course such an extraordinary (and terrifying) claim should be subject to a high standard of evidence. So let's do that.
The primary route by which this theory has spread thus far has been via social media-shared rundowns like the following, pulled from Facebook:
That does indeed look like a concerning lineup of disasters that all seem suspiciously targeted toward our food supply. But the list is actually not as straightforward as it would seem.
Take, for instance, the "plane crash into General Mills Plant in Georgia" in late April. That certainly does sound like a serious event that would shut down a major food processing facility.
But wait: The plane didn't actually crash "into" the plant; rather, it essentially crashed next to it:
A plane crash at a food processing plant in Georgia on Thursday killed two people, police confirmed.
The aircraft exploded on impact about 300 yards away from the General Mills plant. ...
Not exactly a big blow against the food system. And what about the incident in mid-April when crews "battled fire for 16 hours at East Conway Beef and Pork?" Let's examine that a little more closely:
A fire destroyed East Conway Beef & Pork on Monday night, killing two cows.
The local butcher shop/slaughter house located at 3090 East Conway Road was fully engulfed in flames by about 6 p.m.
The destruction of a "local butcher shop" is surely an unfortunate local tragedy. Is it actually something we need to "pay attention to," at least as far as national concerns go? I'm not so sure.
There are other reasons to be suspicious of purported conspiracies such as this, at least insofar as they might portend a major crisis for the U.S. food supply. Consider:
- The "Taylor Farms packaging building" in Salinas was one that produced salad mixes—not exactly a critical source of daily U.S. caloric intake. There are few less likely ways to destabilize the food supply than taking out a spring mix facility.
- Following the "plane [crash] into [an] Idaho potato and food processing plant," an employee with the plant told a fact-checking organization that the plant was unaffected by the minor (though unfortunately fatal) crash.
- The Walmart distribution center fire happened two months ago and doesn't seem to have affected U.S. food supply, either at Walmart or elsewhere.
Now, I know what many of you might be saying right about now:
And that's fair. It's worth addressing what are probably the two most likely rebuttals to this criticism:
1. Even if the food supply hasn't actually been majorly disrupted, these incidents still show clear attempts to disrupt it.
Well, maybe. Then again, they're not doing a very good job at all—there have been no meaningful food shortages throughout the U.S. after months of alleged effort. If you want to wreck a country's food supply, you do it all at once—you don't give that country months of time to repair the assaults you've launched against it.
And moreover, how likely is it that there has been a concerted, sustained effort to throw the United States into privation and famine—and yet no workers or officials have apparently come forward with any evidence? Even if you contend that the average rank-and-file worker wouldn't be privy to such things, surely someone at these companies—someone with authority who should known something is seriously wrong here—should have voiced some suspicion at this point, right?
Yet where are they?
2. But surely the sheer number of incidents this year alone should convince you that something funny is happening.
Again, maybe. Then again, how do we know that numbers like these are all that out-of-the-ordinary? If we posit something based on data, we should have data to back it up—and I haven't yet seen any data to indicate that this level of incidents in the food industry is abnormal.
Consider, for instance, this report:
That's from all the way back in 2010.
That's from 2011. Or this:
That's from 2009! This sort of thing appears to happen multiple times a year, every year.
Further illustrating this point, consider that one of the reports this year describes an "explosion and fire reported at Cargill-Nutrena Feed Mill" in Lecompte, Louisiana. Yet fires break out at "Cargill-Nutrena feed mills" all the time. In 2020:
And back and back and back—all the way to 1992!
In short: Fires at Cargill plants are hardly unique to 2022.
More broadly, fires and destructive incidents at food facilities in general appear to be fairly common, and as-of-yet there seems to be little reason to worry about the number or type of incidents at food facilities so far this year.
If you've got evidence to the contrary, make your case in the comments below!
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