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Hitting America's Soft Underbelly. The Potential Threat of Deliberate Biological Attacks Against the U.S. Agricultural and Food Industry

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Agriculture1 and the food industry in general are enormously important to the social, economic, and, arguably, political stability of the United States. Although farming directly employs less than 3 percent of the American population, one in eight people works in an occupation that is directly supported by food production. Agricultures share of produce sold overseas is more than double that of other U.S. industries, which makes the sector a major component in the U.S. balance of trade. Unfortunately, the agriculture and food industries are vulnerable to deliberate and accidental disruption. Critical concerns in this area include The concentrated and intensive nature of contemporary U.S. farming practices The increased susceptibility of livestock to disease A general lack of farmfood-related security and surveillance An inefficient, passive disease-reporting system that is further hampered by a lack of trust between regulators and producers Veterinarian training that tends not to emphasize foreign animal diseases FADs or large-scale husbandry A prevailing focus on aggregate, rather than individual, livestock statistics Although vulnerability does not equate to risk, and there are few recorded instances of terrorists actually using disease against agriculture, a realistic potential for disruption exists. Indeed, what makes the vulnerabilities inherent in agriculture so worrying is that the capability requirements for exploiting those weaknesses are not significant and are certainly less considerable than those needed for a human directed bio-attack. Several factors account for this situation. First, there is a large menu of agents from which to choose, with no less than 15 List A pathogens identified by the Office International des Epizooties OIE as having the potential to severely effect agricultural populations andor trade.

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  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Food, Food Service and Nutrition
  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare
  • Government and Political Science

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