For several years, public policy experts, homeland security advocates, and members of the intelligence community have characterized agriculture as a potential target for terrorists or others with a political or economic agenda. After 9/11, retired CIA official and consultant Peter Probst told The New York Times (Dillon, 2001) that "agriculture is the soft underbelly of the American economy." Mr. Probst said, "It's an absolutely vital sector, but it's terribly difficult to protect." In his 2004 Congressional Research Service Report to the U.S. Congress, Agriculture Policy Analyst Jim Monke (2004) concluded that: "The results of an agroterrorist attack may include major economic crises in the agricultural and food industries, loss of confidence in government, and possibly human casualties. Humans could be at risk in terms of food safety or public health, especially if the chosen disease is transmissible to humans (zoonotic)." With agroterrorism as a new and high-profile threat, how does our work fit? First, we must remember that people on the front lines of a terrorist strike are usually the most significantly affected. The majority of the people who died during and following the jetliner crashes on 9/11 were at work. This included the office workers in the World Trade Center, those working in the Pentagon, the employees working on and flying in the airplanes, the responding fire service and police force workers, and other emergency service personnel. Likewise, it was people working in postal facilities and other places who were exposed and became ill or died in the October 2001 anthrax attacks. The potential for terrorism in agriculture is most certainly an occupational safety and health issue and concern. Many of the bioterrorism agents that are a threat to agriculture are also zoonotic diseases. If a person wished to introduce a chemical toxin such as botulism toxin, ricin, or a pesticide into animal feed, a grain storage bin, a farm's water supply, or other point of contact, those most likely to be first exposed are front-line workers within the operation. Workers are also the ones most likely to be first responders, and may be exposed during clean up and recovery activities after an intentional event.
Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-workers; Agriculture; Analytical-processes; Biohazards; Biological-monitoring; Biological-weapons; Emergency-responders; Emergency-response; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-hazards; Environmental-protection; Environmental-technology; Exposure-methods; Public-health; Emergency-care; Rescue-measures; Rescue-workers; Risk-analysis; Risk-factors;
Author Keywords: Agricultural Safety and Health; Post-9/11
John M. Shutske, PhD, Professor and Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Specialist, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota