Washington, D.C. (February 28, 2002)—Three leading members of The American Phytopathological Society, the world’s largest organization of plant health scientists, met with members of the U.S. congress and congressional staff today to inform them on efforts to protect the world’s food supply against possible terrorist attack.
“While there is no evidence that agriculture might be a current target of terrorism, September 11 has made us all more aware of the need to be prepared for any possibility,” stated Jacqueline Fletcher, a plant health scientist at Oklahoma State University and president-elect of The American Phytopathological Society (APS).
Fletcher, along with colleagues O. W. Barnett, North Carolina State University and director of the APS Public Policy Board, and Larry Madden, The Ohio State University and former chair of APS’s Emerging Plant Diseases and Pathogens Committee, discussed biosecurity issues regarding the nation’s crops and the role that science and technology can play in protecting the food supply. Claire Fraser, president of the Institute for Genomic Research and a leader in microbial genomics and biosecurity issues, joined APS leaders in providing the briefing.
The scientists provided attendees with information on the types of terrorist activities that could threaten the world’s crops, how well prepared we are for such a possibility, what is needed to make us better prepared, the genomics revolution and biosecurity, and what APS is currently doing to help protect world agriculture.
APS recently formed a special bioterrorism ad hoc committee composed of members who have specific expertise in bioterrorism, plant disease detection, and emerging diseases. The plant health scientists see their role as similar to that of public health officials except their job is to develop methods and protocols for preventing and recognizing possible attacks on food crops rather than on humans. “It’s unfortunate that we need to use our scientific resources and intelligence in this way, but we’re thankful that we have so many talented scientists ready to come to the calling,” stated Fletcher.
APS planned the briefing to provide congress with needed information as they develop public policy and funding initiatives in this area.
The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is a nonprofit, professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant diseases with 5,000 members worldwide.