Local News

Homeland Security Now Extends To N.C. Food Supply

Posted March 24, 2003

— Buildings and bases aren't the only potential terror targets with increased security. So is our food supply.

A new homeland security initiative was announced Friday in Raleigh to protect what Americans grow and eat.

"Agriterrorism has been identified by those in the intelligence world as one of the key targets of the terrorists," said Tom McGinn of North Carolina's Department of Agriculture.

Agriterrorism is an attack against the food production or distribution system.

Friday at the N.C. State's School of Veterinary Medicine, the Agriculture Disaster Research Institute was announced. The institute will team vet schools across the nation with the Office of Homeland Security and others to safeguard our food supply.

Cows lounging in a pasture may remind most people of tranquility. But to terrorists, the cows are targets.

"What better way to strike horror and fear into the hearts of the people than to deprive them of a bountiful and safe food supply?" said Rep. Bob Etheridge.

Etheridge was given a tour Friday of the vet school. Professors showed him the security measures that are now taken on many farms.

"Farms are often overlooked as a potential target for terror attacks," said Oscar Fletcher, dean of N.C. State's veterinary school.

"Foot-and-mouth (disease) being a classic example. It occurs in a number of places in the world. The virus is very resistant to disinfection and heat and that sort of thing. So it would be very easy to transport it and relatively hard to detect."

Because of the number of farms and animals in the state, North Carolina could be the front line.

"We're probably the highest targeted state in the nation," said McGinn.

Food from North Carolina moves to 27 states a day and nearly every foreign nation, which makes it the right place to focus security efforts.

Any hit to the food production system in the United States would be huge. Food production makes up one-sixth of the gross domestic product.

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