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Agroterrorism: Where Are We in the Ongoing War on Terrorism?

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The U.S. agricultural infrastructure is one of the most productive and efficient food-producing systems in the world. Many of the characteristics that contribute to its high productivity and efficiency also make this infrastructure extremely vulnerable to a terrorist attack by a biological weapon. Several experts have repeatedly stated that taking advantage of these vulnerabilities would not require a significant undertaking and that the nation's agricultural infrastructure remains highly vulnerable. As a result of continuing criticism, many initiatives at all levels of government and within the private sector have been undertaken to improve our ability to detect and respond to an agroterrorist attack. However, outbreaks, such as the 1999 West Nile outbreak, the 2001 anthrax attacks, the 2003 monkeypox outbreak, and the 2004 Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak, have demonstrated the need for improvements in the areas of communication, emergency response and surveillance efforts, and education for all levels of government, the agricultural community, and the private sector. We recommend establishing an interdisciplinary advisory group that consists of experts from public health, human health, and animal health communities to prioritize improvement efforts in these areas. The primary objective of this group would include establishing communication, surveillance, and education benchmarks to determine current weaknesses in preparedness and activities designed to mitigate weaknesses. We also recommend broader utilization of current food and agricultural preparedness guidelines, such as those developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Nutrition Sciences, 1675 University Boulevard, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA; University of Alabama at Birmingham's Center for Emergency Care and Disaster Preparedness, 625 19th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA 2: University of Alabama at Birmingham's Center for Emergency Care and Disaster Preparedness, 625 19th Street South, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA 3: Kansas State University's National Agricultural Biosecurity Center, 203 Fairchild Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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