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Winter 2002

Safe Keeping
By Beth Forbes

Image: State of Indiana Animal Health Emergencies exercise

Last fall, several state agencies and representatives from Purdue Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine participated in a mock animal disaster drill. The State of Indiana Animal Health Emergencies Exercise provided state officials with the opportunity to react to and plan for possible animal-health related incidents. Last year's foot and mouth disease outbreak in Western Europe pointed out the need for updating emergency preparedness for both livestock owners and animal health officials in this country.

Biosecurity a priority for agriculture

Recent terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks and the threat of bioterrorism demonstrate the need for increased security measures in the agricultural sector, says Purdue's Dean of Agriculture Victor Lechtenberg.

"If you look at the World Trade Center attack, which disrupted our economic system, and the anthrax mail attack, which disrupted our communication system, it makes sense that the food system could be a target," Lechtenberg says.

After talking with scientists and industry leaders, Lechtenberg has identified six areas that the food, agriculture and natural resources system needs to upgrade to improve security. The key areas involve keeping better track of hazardous materials, increased security, improvements in detection and monitoring, faster response to problems, education, and increased research and development. "We have work to do to better understand the threats to the security of the agriculture and food system," he says.

In addition to concerns brought to the forefront after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, those involved in food production face other perils, such as Great Britain's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which caused entire farms to lose all of their livestock. Add to that the threat of introduced disease and hazardous materials, it's no surprise that farmers, food processors and agricultural scientists are suddenly feeling quite vulnerable, Lechtenberg says.

 

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