Ohio researcher explains first line of crop defense


WASHINGTON – Ohio State researcher Larry Madden and two other leaders of the American Phytopathological Society met with members of Congress and Congressional staff Feb. 28 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,” said Jacqueline Fletcher, a plant health scientist at Oklahoma State University and president-elect of the American Phytopathological Society.

Fletcher joined Madden, former chair of society’s Emerging Plant Diseases and Pathogens committee, and O.W. Barnett, North Carolina State University, in discussing biosecurity issues regarding the nation’s crops and the role that science and technology can play in protecting the food supply.

The scientists provided 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 scientists are currently doing to help protect world agriculture.

The American Phytopathological Society 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.

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