LA Times hypt Agroterrorismus

--- Die LA Times macht sich Sorgen darüber, dass Terroristen die Landwirtschaft als Schwachstelle im Versorgungssystem ausmachen könnten und warnt vor dem Agroterror. Auch Schweine und Rinder könnten zu Waffen der Gotteskrieger werden, fürchtet das Blatt, das aber nicht sonderlich konkret werden kann: Nothing seems farther from the front lines of terrorism than the vast American hinterlands, yet since the Sept. 11attacks, they have been drawn into the amorphous battle. The threat is agroterrorism — the use of microbes and poisons to shake confidence in the U.S. food supply and devastate the $201-billion farm economy. Diseases such as swine fever or citrus greening can spread across the land silently. A single outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease could require the destruction of millions of cows and result in a worldwide ban of U.S. cattle exports for years. "The animal becomes a weapon," said Peter Chalk, an agroterrorism expert at Rand Corp., the Santa Monica-based think tank. Unlike the most feared bioterrorism threats, such as smallpox or anthrax — the latter of which was used with chilling effect in the aftermath of Sept. 11 — some virulent agricultural diseases are easily handled because they are harmless to humans. The microbes can be obtained from infected crops and animals worldwide. No known specific intelligence has linked terrorists to attempts to compromise the food supply, federal officials said, but concerns were sparked after investigators discovered that the Sept. 11 hijackers had explored the use of crop dusters. Last year, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, said U.S. forces found "hundreds of pages of U.S. agricultural documents" in caves in Afghanistan once occupied by Al Qaeda militants. "The expertise needed to mount a serious attack is quite small," said UC Davis microbiologist Mark Wheelis. "The amount of material needed — you could hold it in a ballpoint pen." To meet the threat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is building or modernizing two dozen laboratories to quickly screen disease samples from around the country. It has created rapid response teams of plant and animal pathologists in each region to respond to outbreaks and is proposing to spend $381 million on biodefense in 2005.