Agroterror defense and coordination
| 05.24.2006 | 09:27:51 | Views: 2807 | ID:
May 24 '06: Part of defending the nation against the threat of domestic and international terrorism is making sure the food supply is safe. A cooperative, federal effort called the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative is working to "Develop mitigation strategies to reduce the threat/prevent an attack.
Strategies may include actions that either industry or government may take to reduce vulnerabilities," the Food and Drug Administration's website read. The program, begun last July, focuses on state and local meetings with federal officials from the Department of Agriculture to "discuss security issues from farm-to-table and consider ways to better protect our food supply."Among cooperative efforts between the federal government with state, local and academic food experts, are funds totaling more than $30 million targeted toward research "to manage and respond to food contamination events, both international and naturally occurring," a Department of Homeland Security press release read. DHS efforts concerning agroterrorism prevention also include research at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). "The Center focuses on biological countermeasures to reduce the probability, and the potential consequences, of a biological attack on the nation's agricultural system." But according to a Government Accountability Office report released last year, the US "still faces complex challenges that limit the nation's ability to respond effectively to an attack against livestock," and other sectors of the agriculture industry. Some examples of deficiencies cited are that the "USDA would not able to deploy animal vaccines within 24 hours of an outbreak" which was mandated in a presidential directive. Additionally, "there are also management problems that inhibit the effectiveness of agencies' efforts to protect against agroterrorism. For instance, since the transfer of agricultural inspectors from the USDA to DHS in 2003, there have been fewer inspections of agricultural products at the nation's ports of entry," the GAO report found. But, whether the threat is natural or manmade, the government would have to respond quickly because of the nature of a biological threat, attack, or outbreak. Recently, new developments in the spread of the avian flu virus among poultry flocks in Europe, Asia and Africa have prompted quick action from health and agricultural officials. Experts have warned that if the virus mutates into a human-transmissable disease, a global pandemic could kill millions of people.
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