If regulators approve the sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese company, the US will soon be producing more pigs to feed China's growing appetite for all things porcine. And more pigs will produce more poop. Smithfield—America's (and the world's) largest producer of pork—already produced some 4.7 billion gallons of hog manure just last year. Adding even more to the pile could result in a slurry of health and environmental risks, reports Scientific American. The feces from Smithfield's pigs sits in a lagoon for six to 12 months before being turned into fertilizer. Emissions from the lagoons have increased respiratory problems for people living nearby.
And the more crowded the pigs' living conditions get, the more antibiotics they need to stay disease-free. Researchers are worried that antibiotic-laced poop could seep into the air and water supplies, increasing drug resistance in nearby communities. Earlier this week, Smithfield's CEO stressed to Congress that the deal wouldn't affect food safety or standards. Not all were convinced, reports USA Today, while others remain worried about how it will affect Smithfield's valuable intellectual property. "They will take our technology and they will integrate it into China," says a commissioner with the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, per the National Journal. "Once they digest all of this and they get the their industry up, they'll start to try to export their pork to us."