Agroterrorism in the News

The November 29, 2012 BBC article “Canadian ‘eco-terrorist’ surrenders in the US” is another example that indicates the agriculture and natural resources industry is at risk of terrorism. Although the BBC reported it as an “eco terrorist,” the accused actions of Rebecca Jeanette Rubin fit the definition of agroterrorism. Rubin is accused of being part of a group linked to arson attacks in the western U.S. from 1996 to 2001.

“The damage to the targets, including forest ranger stations and meat processing plants, ran to more than $40m (£25m).”

Agroterrorism is a relatively new term that was evolving before the September 11, 2001 attacks that focused the American public’s attention toward terrorism.  There are many definitions of agroterrorism, but all generally revolve around this idea from a University of Florida Extension publication:  “Agroterrorism is the deliberate introduction of detrimental agents, biological and otherwise, into the agricultural and food processing system with the intent of causing actual or perceived harm.”

In this view the attacks on ranger stations and meat processing plants fit the definition of an agroterrorism event.

Since 9-11, a great deal has been done to understand, plan for, and respond to potential agroterrorism attacks. The Food and Ag Defense Initiative is a program of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This program provides support for the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) to identify and respond to high risk biological pathogens in the food and agricultural system. The network is used to increase the ability to protect the nation from disease threats by identifying, containing, and minimizing disease threats. The funds also are used to support the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN).

to address local emergency management planning for the food and agriculture sector, EDEN developed a program that has been delivered in more than 20 states called Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Preparedness (S-CAP). This unique training brings together multi-disciplinary teams of local agricultural emergency planning stakeholders to increase capacities within communities to address agricultural issues during an emergency or disaster. To find out more on S-CAP, visit the project’s page on the EDEN website.

– post written by Steve Cain, Purdue University Extension