- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
United States lacks the technology to adequately defend its food supply
if attacked by biological warfare, government officials told a Senate Armed
Services subcommittee on Wednesday.
- "There is tremendous potential for surprise here
and it's entirely possible that a biological event could occur without
us knowing it because we don't really have the tools in place to detect
(bioterrorism)," said U.S. Department of Agriculture administrator
- In more than a dozen countries, including Russia, Iraq
and North Korea, the intelligence community has discovered that scientists
have made it possible to use as weapons a range of agricultural biological
warfare agents including crop and livestock diseases such as wheat stem
rust, rice blast, rinderpest and anthrax.
- At least 10 biological warfare agents that could be used
against agriculture have been identified by federal agencies.
- "I am concerned that Russian scientists, many of
whom are unemployed or have not been paid regularly, may be recruited by
states such as Iran and Iraq or individuals who are trying to establish
their own BW programs," said Senator Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican
and chairman of the subcommittee.
- As recently as this week, seed companies and researchers
at universities and the Agriculture Department braced for possible attacks
after receiving anonymous threats.
- "In terms of a foreign terrorist threat, there is
significant information ... suggesting an attempt to attack agriculture
at some point in time," Horn said. "But, we do not have any strong
evidence of such an attack at the moment."
- U.S. armed forces have special forces trained for biological
warfare, such as Chemical Biological Incident Response Force of the Marine
Corps and the U.S. Army's Technical Escort Unit.
- However, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Robert Newberry
said these forces are trained primarily for biological threats to humans
and not agriculture.
- Representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency,
Defense Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation also testified
in front of the subcommittee in a closed-door session.