NEW YORK, Sept. 9 -- Protection of the nation's agriculture and food supply has taken on an increased sense of urgency in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01. Government agencies, industry and academic institutions are vigorously examining security procedures and looking for ways to more accurately assess potential threats and reduce vulnerability. Discussions of initiatives underway in several key areas and organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be featured in a daylong symposium, "Agriculture, Agrochemicals and Homeland Security," during the 226th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
The symposium begins at 8:45 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Javits Convention Center, Room 1A08. Eleven presentations are slated for the program. A few highlights are described below.
Homeland security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Michael Ruff, Director of Homeland Security for USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Assistant Administrator for ARS' Office of Technology Transfer, says the agency has issued a number of stringent policies and procedures covering pathogen control, physical and cyber security, human reliability, and emergency response planning. USDA has worked extensively with other federal agencies, state and local governments, universities and the private sector to improve communications and the ability to rapidly detect and respond to any threats to America's agriculture and food supply, he says. (Ruff's paper, AGRO 54, will be presented at 9:00 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Javits Convention Center, Room 1A08.)
Detecting and preventing agricultural bioterrorism -- Neville Clarke, director of the Institute for Countermeasures against Agricultural Bioterrorism (ICAB) at Texas A&M University, will outline the strategies that ICAB has developed to help guard against biological agents designed to cause plant and animal disease. The Institute also is involved in developing plans to handle emergency outbreaks that may threaten the food supply, including recovery plans to accelerate a return to normalcy. (Clarke's paper, AGRO 56, will be presented at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Javits Convention Center, Room 1A08.)
Livestock diseases: A threat to national security -- David Huxsoll of Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine, says terrorists who are seeking ways to attack the United States could deliberately introduce foreign animal diseases into the country, which could be difficult to prevent. (Huxsoll's paper, AGRO 63, will be presented at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Javits Convention Center, Room 1A08.)
Industry's response to ensuring food security and safety -- Jenny Scott of the National Food Processors Association's Food Safety Programs says the food industry is focusing on increased screening and supervision of food workers, more controls on access during production and transportation of food products, and stronger barriers against possible intruders. The Association has developed a Threat Exposure Assessment and Management (TEAM) process to evaluate food security risks and prepared a security checklist of questions to consider when assessing potential vulnerabilities. (Scott's paper, AGRO 64, will be presented at 2:15 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Javits Convention Center, Room 1A08.)