By Beth Forbes
Lechtenberg sees the need for improvement include:
Detection and monitoring capabilities:
Being able to detect diseases early and being able to contain them
is essential, Lechtenberg says.
Britain probably had foot-and-mouth disease for days or weeks before
they realized they had a problem," he says. "An animal
disease outbreak, or a crop disease outbreak, such as 1971's Southern
corn leaf blight, can decimate an industry."
microbes in people, food and crops has been a major focus of research
at Purdue for the past few years, and scientists have already made
great strides in detection of microbes. For example, in 2000 a Purdue
research team announced that it was the first to successfully attach
a protein to a computer chip. Scientists say that in coming years
such biochips will be able to detect minute amounts of hazardous
germs or chemicals. To attach the proteins to the computer chips,
the scientists used the tools of an emerging branch of science--nanotechnology.
says linking engineering and biology is a key to accomplish this.
"This merger of engineering and biology offers the potential
to correct many of these security problems," he says. "We
have scientists at work on these types of projects, but the successes
can't come soon enough. Fortunately, we are making rapid progress."
Inventory: A list of hazardous materials and biological agents
needs to be compiled, and then industries, universities and farms
should check to see if those items exist at their location. It's
not just large institutions that need this inventory, Lechtenberg
points out. For example, farms may contain hazardous materials.
Secure facilities: Before this summer, most agricultural
researchers and farmers weren't too concerned about unknown visitors
in the buildings or about fairly open access to their facilities.
That may have to change, but Lechtenberg points out that security
will be expensive.
could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to have electronic key
security at the laboratories at each research university in the
nation," he says. "It would cost Purdue $3 to $5 million."