Terrorism and Food Safety

Given the reality of the geopolitical terrorism threats facing the world today, agriculture can also be a potential target for terrorism. For instance, agroter-rorism, the use of microbes and poisons to shake the confidence in the food supply, could cripple the $201 billion agricultural economy in the United States. Diseases such as swine fever and citrus greening can potentially spread across the land silently. The impact of a single case of foot-and-mouth disease could require the destruction of millions of cows and result in a worldwide ban on United States cattle export for years. Furthermore, unlike the most feared bioterrorism threats, such as anthrax or smallpox, some virulent agricultural diseases are harmless to humans and can be trans ported from great distances from infected crops and animals worldwide. To defend against this threat in the United States, the USDA is building or modernizing laboratories to quickly screen disease samples from around the country. Some have advocated greater use of vaccines, but this is problematic due to high cost and logistical complexity. With increasing global trade, another concern is that many nations cannot readily distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals and may reject either at their border. Some private companies have developed a suitcase-size device that can detect DNA from the air to determine the presence of a deadly microbe within about half an hour. Such devices may help localize and map outbreaks (90).

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