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Agroterrorism: Threats and Preparedness

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Congressional rept.

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The potential of terrorist attacks against agricultural targets agroterrorism is increasingly recognized as a national security threat, especially after the events of September 11, 2001. Agroterrorism is a subset of bioterrorism, and is defined as the deliberate introduction of an animal or plant disease with the goal of generating fear, causing economic losses, andor undermining social stability. The goal of agroterrorism is not to kill cows or plants. These are the means to the end of causing economic damage, social unrest, and loss of confidence in government. Human health could be at risk if contaminated food reaches the table or if an animal pathogen is transmissible to humans zoonotic. While agriculture may not be a terrorists first choice because it lacks the shock factor of more traditional terrorist targets, many analysts consider it a viable secondary target. Agriculture has several characteristics that pose unique vulnerabilities. Farms are geographically disbursed in unsecured environments. Livestock are frequently concentrated in confined locations, and transported or commingled with other herds. Many agricultural diseases can be obtained, handled, and distributed easily. International trade in food products often is tied to disease-free status, which could be jeopardized by an attack. Many veterinarians lack experience with foreign animal diseases that are eradicated domestically but remain endemic in foreign countries. In the past 5 years, agriculture and food production have received increasing attention in the counterterrorism community. Laboratory and response capacity are being upgraded to address the reality of agroterrorism, and national response plans now incorporate agroterrorism. This report discusses agriculture as a target of terrorism, congressional and executive responses to the threat of agroterrorism, federal funding to respond to agroterrorism, possible pathogens in an agroterrorist attack, and countering the threat.

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  • Agronomy, Horticulture and Aquiculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine
  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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