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Agriculture

Is the War on Food Terror Useless?

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Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 2:20 PM
click to enlarge This California farmer was given money from the Department of Homeland Security to buy a lock for his dairy barn. - ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Associated Press
  • This California farmer was given money from the Department of Homeland Security to buy a lock for his dairy barn.

A report released by the Associated Press yesterday, September 13th, found that the post-9/11 plan to protect the American food supply is mostly ineffective and unorganized. Over the last 10 years, $3.4 billion has gone into "food counter-terrorism" -- all without an official person or department in charge of the fight.

Apparently defending our food involves too much bureaucracy, too little organization and the lack of a concise plan on how to fight food terror.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing Tuesday, one adviser said, "We may be blindsided by an intentional food-based attack on this nation sometime soon."

In the case of this botched war on food terror, the AP's report shows $31 million was wasted on creating a database to "monitor biological threats to food" that no one even uses.

The AP report said, "The department [of Homeland Security] also spent $550 million to run its Office of Health Affairs, which coordinates responses to biological events across federal agencies. In fiscal year 2008, that office set out to build a new data integration center where food, agriculture, disease and environmental officials could see each other's surveillance information in real time."

To help farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, the FDA has spent $1.3 billion on food defense in the last six years. The USDA has spent $1.6 billion in the last eight years.

Perhaps the pricey, obscure plans are working though. No major national outbreak of food poisoning or terror has occurred in the last decade, with no threats being made either.

But what is food defense? Among the defense program details listed, the government's efforts include funding locks for farmers, integrating food-testing labs, funding animal disease labs. Yet the national system seems impossible to manage based on this report.

Corporate food producers versus small-town, single plant owners operate differently, and one farmer may have summed it up best:

When it comes to treating a Tyson chicken plant the same as a one-man brewery butchery, that's when these laws get completely out of control. What is a small farm doing writing a Food Defense Plan? That is not going to save the nation from some terrible disease.

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