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Blog posts tagged with 'biodefense'

BIOTERRORISM AND THE FUTURE OF OUR FOOD SUPPLY.

(Editor’s note re-printed from Homeland Security Newswire)

The state of public health and biodefense

Published 7 September 2009

There are two bookends to U.S. concern with bioterror attacks on the United States: the fall 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks, and the December 2007 report by a blue-ribbon commission, headed by former senators Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, asserting that of all the weapons of mass destruction, terrorists would likely use biological weapons against the United States because these weapons are easier to produce and deliver than nuclear weapons, and much deadlier than chemical weapons.

The Bush administration did not wait for the commission’s report to allocate $5 billion to its BioShield project, which distributes money to companies engaged in research and development of vaccines and treatments to counter bioterror attacks.

The interest in food safety is a more recent phenomenon, reflecting growing worries about the side effects of globalization. More and more food items – and ingredients used in food items — are imported into the United States. Trouble is, many of the countries from which these items are imported have much lower health and safety standards than the United States does – and often, even if health and safety measures are on the books, endemic corruption in many of these countries guarantees that these standards are not enforced.

What exacerbated the problem was the Bush administration’s cuts in the budget of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making the agency’s already difficult inspection task nearly impossible. These two conflicting trends – a steady increase in the importation of food and food ingredients into the United States, and a steady decline since 2001 in the budget and inspection personnel of the FDA – combined to create an explosion of food recalls in 2007 and 2008, prompting Congress to consider much tougher food inspection regime, but also prompting the industry and individual companies to formulate their own tougher policies of health and safety standards.

Just as the growing awareness of bioterrorism has been beneficial to many biotechnology companies – especially start ups – so has the awareness of the need for more effective food safety regime. Thus, according to BCC research, the U.S. food safety testing market value increased from $2.0 billion in 2006 to about $2.1 billion in 2007, and it should reach $2.8 billion by 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8 percent. The growth rate reflects demand for pathogen testing, where implementation of standard hygiene practices and a stringent regulatory environment has slowed the incidence of microbial infections.

The research form says that the potency of toxins should propel testing for contaminants from a $78 million market in 2007 to a $135 million market in 2012, a CAGR of 11.6 percent.

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Agra-Terror Could Be Just Around The Corner for US.

Terrorists may use insects in bio-attack

Published January 2009

A new book highlights the possibility of terrorist using insects to spread deadly diseases; the author says that “It would be a relatively easy and simple process … A few hundred dollars and a plane ticket and you could have a pretty good stab at it”

As if we did not have enough to worry about. Terrorists could easily contrive an “insect-based” weapon to import an exotic disease according to University of Wyoming Entomologist Jeffery lockwood. Wired‘s Nathan Hodge writes that Lockwood is now promoting his new book, Six-legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War. He told BBC Radio 4′s Today’s program that planning a bio-terror attack using insects would “probably be much easier” than developing nuclear or chemical weapons. Today does not post the transcript, but the U.K. Daily Telegraph quotes: “It would be a relatively easy and simple process … A few hundred dollars and a plane ticket and you could have a pretty good stab at it.”

There are those who are skeptical of such claims. Military historian Max Hastings was less-than-enthusiastic about Lockwood’s book in his review of it in this weekend Sunday Times. He did note, though:

The last section of Lockwood’s book is the most plausible and interesting, because it addresses the risks of biological terrorism in our own times. In particular, the author speculates about the consequences if terrorists were to broadcast Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the yellow fever virus. The consequences of a yellow fever epidemic in America, where scarcely anyone is inoculated against the disease, could be devastating.

Hodge notes that U.S. biodefense labs have soaked up massive amounts of funding in recent years to deal with precisely this kind of theoretical threat. As New York Times‘s Eric Lipton and Scott Shane point out, though, the real question remains whether the boom in biodefense technology has made the US safer.

Let’s face the fact that if our enemies are experimenting with y. Pestis (Plague) then everything is in play!

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