International Cooperation to Defend the Food Supply Chain: Nations Are Talking; Next Step - Action

Article excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS

   I.  INTRODUCTION
  II.  THE THREAT: IS IT REAL?
 III.  IS TERRORISM TARGETING FOOD A CRIME?
  IV.  INTERNATIONAL ACTION HAS BEEN SLOW TO
       DEVELOP
   V.  REGIONAL EFFORTS TO PROTECT FOOD AND
       AGRICULTURE ARE GROWING
  VI.  BILATERAL INITIATIVES HAVE GAINED SOME
       MOMENTUM
 VII.  EFFORTS BY THE UNITED STATES PROVIDE
       SUBSTANTIVE PROGRESS
VIII.  HOW DO WE MOVE FROM RHETORIC TO
       INTERNATIONAL ACTION?
  IX.  GLOBAL FOOD CHAIN DEFENSE PROSPECTS
       ARE POOR UNLESS THERE IS ACTION ON THE PART
       OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

I. INTRODUCTION

Global Food System Defense is an area where, so far, we have not yet obtained real traction in this post-September 11, 200] world of international terrorism. Cooperative international efforts to defend and protect the global food supply system may well be crucial to the security of every developed nation in the coming years. Affordable energy--currently fossil fuels--and food are at the heart of the security and prosperity of every nation. Yet the food protection efforts that have been historically supported by the international community have focused on traditional "food security," defined as access to sufficient calories and nutrition to sustain the population--usually meant as poor, underfed populations. (1) For the purposes of this Article, this is not the same as food defense. As Dr. Marc Ostfield, Senior Advisor for Bioterrorism, Biodefense, and Health Security, U.S. Department of State, pointed out in his recent remarks to the European Institute, "[m]any have used these terms interchangeably and, I would argue, erroneously, creating confusion during both national and international policy discussions." (2) Of course, in countries and regions of the world where food security is a significant concern itself, food defense is a relatively low priority compared to the basics of a sustainable supply of safe and wholesome foods. Unfortunately, however, the global nature of our food system means that primary production or ingredient sourcing from such regions flows directly into countries where food defense has ascended above the base level of the Maslow hierarchy of needs, from physiological to safety needs. Of the few defensive steps designed to protect food supply chains that are in place, these are usually centered on protecting food stocks from theft or misappropriation by both local government and insurgent groups. (3) The concept of a large-scale effort to defend the global food supply chain from adulteration or destruction that might target an entire population is relatively new.

II THE THREAT: IS IT REAL?

Malnutrition and food shortages in many areas of the world already contribute to social and civil unrest. Efforts to fight regional malnutrition can be undermined if the food itself is suspect. With the increase in international terrorism and the clear evidence that terrorist groups, such as radical extremists and those associated with Al Qaeda, have considered targeting food, it is time for more aggressive action to defend the world's fragile food supply system against potential acts by fanatical groups. (4) History reflects numerous instances where food has been targeted by both nation states, as components of military strategy, and by insurgent or terrorist groups. (5) The United States has suffered from several domestic terrorist acts against food. For example, in an Al Qaeda training manual found in Manchester, UK, there is a section on how to employ contaminated food as a weapon. (6) In September 1984, the Rajneeshee cult contaminated salad bars in restaurants in Wasco County, Oregon, with Salmonella typhimurium in an effort to influence a local election. (7) In 2002, U.S. Armed Forces discovered documents (8) in an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan that indicated that this group had considered the use of biological and chemical weapons to target agriculture and food supplies. …