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Just in case

first_imgThe U.S. food and water supply could become targets of terrorism,and scientists in Georgia are preparing for such attacks. Center formedShortly after the events of 9/11, University of Georgiaresearchers teamed up with state officials to form anagroterrorism task force. The Georgia Emergency ManagementAssociation, Georgia Agribusiness Council and Georgia Departmentof Agriculture are partners. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of Georgia Later, a joint venture between Georgia Tech Research Instituteand University of Georgia led to establishing CSAGE, the Centerfor Security of Agriculture and the Environment. “The focus of CSAGE research is to counteract the intentional useof pathogens and chemicals to create terror,” said Jeff Fisher,co-director of CSAGE.”Areas which could be targeted include areas where animals andfood are produced and distributed, fields, water supplies and theatmosphere,” said Fisher, a professor of environmental health atthe UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Not just farmers’ problemThe threat of agroterrorism isn’t a problem just for farmers. “If a disease was introduced into our animal populations, plantcrops or food supply, the value of agriculture would plummet,”Fisher said. “Our trading partners would refuse to buy from us,and the U.S. would head into a deep recession.” Introducing foreign animal diseases like foot-and-mouth diseasecould decimate the nation’s livestock industry. And farmerswouldn’t suffer alone, Fisher said. Every American would feel thepinch.”We could lose up to $100 billion from our national economy fromfoot-and-mouth alone,” he said. “Avian influenza or Newcastledisease, two devastating poultry diseases, would cripple thenation’s poultry industry.”This would be a huge blow to Georgia, which many consider thepoultry capital of the nation.Georgia farmers constantly fight diseases and pests that pop upaccidentally. Intentional introductions could have “a significantand long-lasting impact on agriculture in Georgia,” he said.Researchers at Georgia Tech are working to develop sensors thatcan detect and characterize contaminants in the food chain. “Thissensor technology could be used for field detection, warning forfood processing and laboratory analysis,” Fisher said.Models will assess risksUGA scientists are working on mathematical models to help assessthe risks that attacks could pose to crops, animals and humans.The success of these projects lies in awareness and education.”The extension service at UGA will be used to disseminateagroterror information and educate agriculture personnel acrossthe state,” Fisher said. “Overall, the CSAGE plans to cover thegamut of activities involved in countering agriculturalterrorism.” The group would like to present a mock agroterroristic scenariofor FBI agents, GEMA officials and others to prepare for actualemergencies. But the group needs funding.Fisher has applied for and hopes to get funding for the center through the president’s homeland security program, he said.last_img

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