segunda-feira, 6 de fevereiro de 2012

Terrorists have or could develop the capability of using biological agents to attack crops and livestock; biological agents include viruses such as the highly contagious FMD and rinderpest, which kill or weaken cattle, sheep, pigs, and other livestock. Anti-plant agents include fungi such as rice blast and stem rust that attack rice, wheat, and other important crops. Many of these diseases are endemic in various parts of the world, particularly in countries without well-developed procedures to monitor crop and animal health.

Early detection is necessary to cull infected animals and destroy infected crops to keep diseases from spreading. Many of the diseases that terrorists are most likely to use occur naturally, thus a terrorist team could travel to the scene of an outbreak to obtain infectious material from a sick animal or crop. At the attack site, the pathogen could be administered clandestinely — any resulting sickness would appear to be the result of natural causes. One expert has said, "If I wanted to spread foot-and-mouth disease, I would just get a saliva smear from a sick cow and then rub it on the noses of some healthy cows in the country I wanted to attack."

The development of biological agents explicitly for use against animals and crops has a long history. Germany used anthrax and glanders against pack and food animals in World War I. Germany and Japan conducted active research during World War II to develop anticrop and antianimal weapons. They rarely used them, however, probably because they feared retaliation in kind from the United States and its allies, which were engaged in similar research. Some nations may have refrained from using biological agents only because they feared the prospect of having the diseases spread to their own homelands.

The United States ended its bioweapon program in 1969 and has honored its commitment to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972 (BWC); this agreement outlawed offensive bioweapon research and development and required signatories to destroy their stockpiles. In the 1990s, citizens of the Soviet Union and Iraq reported that their countries continued clandestine research programs. Some of those bioweapons may still exist in stockpile sites or laboratories, and in any case the knowledge needed to cultivate these organisms is widespread and relatively easy to acquire.

Encyclopedia of Terrorism,
Harvey W. Kushner,
Sage Publications, 2003.