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Can blockchain really improve food security?

IBM believes so as they sold their pitch to Walmart just last year proposing a solution to dealing with food borne illnesses and how to trace where the bad ingredients come from.

Walmart teamed up with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing to digitally track the movement of pork in China on a blockchain. The hope is to prevent fatal outbreaks such as the E. coli outbreak that occurred a decade ago in the U.S., killing three people and sickening more than 200.

The idea is to store information on the blockchain where fraud and inaccuracies are much more difficult to get away with. This information includes details related to farm origins, factory data, expiration dates, storage temperatures, and shipping. For food producers, the blockchain means that any attempts to tamper with a food item as it moves through the supply chain can be immediately identified and prevented before the food ever reaches the retailer.

Companies like IBM see blockchain as a new way of tracking shipments and transactions in supply chains of all kinds, from food to prescription drugs. If successful, consumers will have much more transparency in where their food comes from and how it was processed and packaged.

But to completely function as a system, all parties need to participate. A refrigerated product raised in Africa and shipped to Europe requires at least 30 people with some 200 interactions among parties, including customs, taxes, and food safety oversight.

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