The Threat of Agroterrorism

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Transcript The Threat of Agroterrorism

The Threat of Agroterrorism
Emily Baker
Importance of US Ag Sector
“U.S. agriculture generates more than $1
trillion per year in economic activity and
provides an abundant food supply for
Americans and others.
The agricultural industry generates almost
one-sixth of the Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) and employs 1 out of every 8
American workers
California Agriculture
remained the No.
1 state in cash
farm receipts in
2006, with its
$31.4 billion in
representing 13.1
percent of the U.S.
CFDA Report:
California County Total Value
and Rank
Monterey – ranked 3rd with $3.49 billion
Key Commodities: Leaf Lettuce, Head Lettuce,
Strawberries, Nursery, Broccoli
Risks for Crops: pest organisms, water supply
(esp. for organic crops), chemical and biological
Agricultural bioterrorism as “the deliberate
introduction of a biological agent or biotoxin, either against livestock or into the
food chain, for purposes of undermining
stability and/or generating fear.”
Effects of successful attack
Local economy
 US exports - American agricultural sector
accounts for more than $50 billion in
exports, or 15% of all global agriculture
 Human health and reliable food sources
 1st responders and effect on public health
Why would terrorists attempt?
Risk of getting caught is low and multiple targets could
be hit by one cell
Pathogens are relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain
from culture collections or to produce.
Biological agents make for useful weapons due to the
fact that they are silent, invisible, and odorless, allowing
the attacker to contaminate a food source without
leaving any signs of tampering.
Agroterrorism can exploit fundamental national
vulnerabilities, like porous border, an open society, and
dense population centers, to severely challenge the
public health infrastructure.
Why is it an ineffective tactic?
Lacks a single, highly visible point of focus for
the media, which is a primary consideration in
most terrorist attacks.
 In order for an agroterrorist attack to be
effective, the biological agent must be widely
disseminated in order to contaminate multiple
targets simultaneously (this is especially true in
reference to plant stocks).
 In an agroterrorist attack that utilizes food or
water as the vector agent, the pathogen can be
diluted by the vector.
Vulnerabilities of US Ag Sector
A large part of the problem of hardening
the agricultural infrastructure is that
foodstuffs proceed through several
different industries and therefore fall
under multiple agencies responsibilities.
 Certain pathogens that infect but do not
kill livestock can have far more lethal
effects on humans. Animal husbandry has
weakened livestock’s immune systems.
Vulnerabilities (cont.)
Highly concentrated industry - For
instance, 70 percent of U.S. beef cattle is
raised in an area with a 200 mile radius
 This concentration of animals within such
a small area results in a multiplying effect.
 Food sources lack security and
 Large herds make outbreaks difficult to
How to Protect Agriculture
Preventative Measures
– identifying potential threats, maintaining a
disease outbreaks database, increasing
research into bio-agents, educating the
agricultural sector
Response Measures
– early detection, traceability, predictions of the
spread of pathogens, how to contain an
outbreak before its impact increases