I was recently reviewing a document created in 2006 on the subject of agroterrorism. Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, it details the potential for terrorists to introduce diseases into plants or animals “with the goal of generating fear, causing economic losses, and/or undermining social stability,” not to mention “loss of confidence in government.” (I suspect that last is already a fact of life.)
It seems to me that the current systems lend themselves quite readily to agroterrorism, not because of the terrorists. We concentrate animals in feedlots or CAFOs. They are not bred or fed for disease resistance. We ship them all over the place, with the potential for quickly spreading disease (just as air travelers quickly spread flu from one country to another). Crops are grown on large “farms” and monocropped, so that a disease which gains a foothold in something like corn can travel merrily down rows that stretch for miles.
One of the interesting things about this document is the charts that show where most foods are produced. Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and California produce the bulk of our beef (Texas leads the list at 14 percent). Iowa, North Carolina and Minnesota have cornered 53 percent of the hog production. Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama have done the same with chickens (41 percent) and Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota for corn (54 percent).
What the article doesn’t mention is that most of those areas also plant virtually identical hybrid seeds or raise genetically similar animals – in other words, they are likely to be susceptible to a particular disease. In 1970 such a situation occurred with the Southern Corn Blight. This fungus attacked hybrid corn that contained a gene called Texas cytoplasm and could wipe out a field of corn within 10 days. The fact that 46 million acres of corn contained T-cytoplasm allowed the newly mutated fungus to spread like wildfire. Experts estimated that 25 percent of the corn crop was lost in that epidemic. T-cytoplasm, by the way, was one of the early genetic engineering marvels, – similar to the current rage for GMOs.
Since it’s highly unlikely that the system is going to change, it seems to me that the best way to protect yourself against agroterrorism is to go the opposite direction to the current system. Raise your own food when possible or buy locally from small producers. Plant open-pollinated seeds and plant more than one kind of a particular plant. Plant diversified gardens rather than monocrops. Raise animals from heritage breeds (I think that’s particularly important with chickens; the commercial chickens out there have really deteriorated in terms of disease resistance, thriftiness and growth, from what I’m seeing). Butcher and process your own meat and produce. Stockpile food so if an attack comes or the system goes down the tubes, you can feed your family.
Be a Boy Scout/Girl Scout and be prepared.