Food supply defense assessed

Summit at MU to take a look at the possibility of agro-terrorism.
Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:53 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Citing the ongoing threat of more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, a group of Missouri politicians and scientists are gathering today on the MU campus to discuss ways to better defend the country’s food supply against agro-terrorism.

The summit is from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Alumni Center Ballroom. Missouri senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent are among the event’s keynote speakers.

In a press release, Bond said it was important to increase the nation’s defenses against agro-terrorism, defined as any threat to the agriculture and food industry. Agriculture and food are two of the 13 critical areas of infrastructure identified in the Office of Homeland Security’s National Strategy of Homeland Security. The other sectors are water, energy, transportation, banking and finance, public health, emergency services, government, defense, telecommunications, chemical industries and shipping. “In a post 9-11 era it is more important than ever to work together to find full-scale solutions for protecting the country against threats to our agriculture infrastructure,” Bond said.

Scientists familiar with infectious disease in plants and animals, biosensor engineering, environmental management and public health education will be in attendance.

Tushar K. Ghosh is an associate professor at the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute at MU and is co-instructor of a class called “Science and Technology of Terrorism and Counterterrorism.”

Ghosh said if cattle were exposed to a disease or if a crop were contaminated, it could be disastrous for the country’s food supply and the economy. He said that it’s hard to predict when the next terrorist attack will occur, but he emphasized that the country can never be too prepared.

“The main thing is to be prepared,” Ghosh said. “Even if we don’t see an attack for the next 100 years the money will be well spent.”

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