This week the Federal Bureau of Investigation kicked off the 4th International Symposium on Agroterrorism in Kansas City, Mo. The 750+ in attendance represented local, state and federal law enforcement, the military, the scientific and veterinary communities and other government entities such as USDA, and 22 countries were represented.

In his welcome address, Kansas City FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Brian Truchon pointed out some of the agricultural/food safety incidences that have happened in recent in history, including:

  • Foot-and-mouth disease in Southeast Asia and Bulgaria
  • Salmonella in U.S. shell eggs
  • Fruit flies in Florida
  • Melamine in milk powder in China
  • Intentional poisoning of fruit in Australia

“Food defense is a real issue, not just a theoretical concern,” Truchon said. “Interfacing with law enforcement early on improves the odds of mitigating threats.”

Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, Laurie Bennett, knows firsthand how important it is to protect agriculture as she grew up on a dairy farm in Green Bay, Wis. “All entities must protect our collective ability to feed the world. Accidental or intentional, any incident could impact the global economy.”

Bennett cited the 2010 non-terrorist event of the recall of millions of shell eggs due to Salmonella contamination. “The eggs were distributed I 22 states and beyond the U.S. border – 500 million were recalled. There was a tremendous loss of revenue and decreased consumer confidence in all egg products.”

Though that incident did not involve terrorism, Bennett said Al Qaida and other groups have expressed interest in using chemical and bio-weapons. “They have provided different attack scenarios.” Fortunately, she noted, to-date any intentional incidents have not involved terrorists, but disgruntled employees, animal rightists, or they have been proven to be hoaxes.

“Success of our mission depends on partnerships,” Bennett said. “No single agency can protect our food supply alone.”

The FBI International Symposium on Agroterrorism continues through April 28. For more information from presentations, check back post-conference at the official website here.