The virus that causes foot-and-mouth-disease (FMD) is a pathogen that terrorists could use, says the February issue of Jane's Intelligence Review ( The leading global information and intelligence provider for international and national security says “the farming industry represents a lucrative and vulnerable target for terrorists in terms of the ease of attack and the level of damage caused.”

The article cites the addition of $40 million to the 2001 USDA budget to fight agro-terrorism. This reflects a growing concern that the ag sector, which accounts for one-sixth of U.S. gross domestic product, may become the target of a future act of chemical or biological (CB) terrorism, the report says.

“This concern has been generated by a growing realization that CB attacks against livestock and the food chain are substantially easier and less risky to carry out than those directed at civilian targets.”

One of the most immediate effects would be to destabilize the economy. The economic consequences of such an attack could be felt in three ways:

  • Direct economic losses,

  • Indirect multiplier effects via government compensation payments and lost worker wages in the affected livestock sectors, and

  • International costs in lost trading opportunities.

To view the entire article, look for the link on

The national pork checkoff will continue under a deal negotiated by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and USDA. The agreement continues the mandatory checkoff that collects $54 million annually until at least 2003.

However, the agreement bans the NPPC from receiving any checkoff funds. Instead, the program will be handled by the National Pork Board (NPB).

USDA will conduct a survey after June 2003 to determine if 15% of producers favor a referendum.

Defenses aimed at keeping bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) out of the North American continent are being bolstered.

In February, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that BSE could spread to as many as 100 counties across the globe, most of them in the Near East, Eastern Europe and Asia. The FAO says these countries are at risk because of cattle or meat meal imported from Europe in the 1980s.

More than 40 countries have placed full or partial bans on imports of European Union beef and variety meats.

Meanwhile, in North America:

  • Hamburger giant McDonald's is asking its packer suppliers to sign a “letter of compliance” stating the materials fed to cattle from which the meat is derived are in compliance with Food and Drug Administration rules that prohibit the feeding of ruminant meat and bone meal to ruminant animals.

  • IBP is requiring its suppliers to certify they don't use ruminant meat and bone meal in cattle feed. The packing giant will conduct on-site audits to verify compliance.

  • The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and Mexico's Confederacion Nacional Ganadera signed a statement pledging a joint commitment to ensure BSE is kept out of North America. The groups will work within their jurisdictions to ensure full compliance with all measures designed to prevent BSE.

  • BSE is now NCBA's top research priority for 2001.

  • The American Feed Industry Association approved two measures recently to enhance food safety and increase consumer confidence. These include advocating the voluntary withdrawal of ruminant-derived meat and bone meal from feed production facilities for ruminant animals, and creating a certification program to ensure compliance to FDA's mammalian protein feeding rules.

Scientists have decoded the DNA of E. coli 0157:H7, which should help create a vaccine for cattle and other animals, and lower the human risk. Still, scientists say developing a vaccine will be difficult as the strain often picks up genetic material from other bacteria and viruses.

Meanwhile, University of Georgia (UG) experiments have found E. coli 0157:H7 can be removed from cattle by giving cattle probiotic cultures of other E. coli strains that are harmless to people and animals.

“In most animals, these friendly bacteria have killed all the 0157 bacteria by germ warfare inside the gastrointestinal tract within two weeks,” says Michael Doyle, UG Center for Food Safety.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail