Plant pathologists to discuss anti-crop bioterrorism and food security, August 1999

July 21, 1999

St. Paul, MN -- You've heard of the Irish potato famine and other plant diseases that have wiped out a country's staple crop. Throughout history, there have been many famines and epidemics as a result of disease. What if they were caused deliberately? Many people are aware of the threat of biological weapons directed towards people, but few realize the potential dire effects of crop bioterrorism, the use of pathogens to cause a food crop epidemic or contamination of our food supply.

According to Norm Schaad, USDA-ARS Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit and member of the American Phytopathological Society, "Our current agriculture infrastructure is susceptible to disease outbreaks resulting from bioterrorism. As members of the plant science community we are aware of the risk and feel it's important to interact with other scientists and agencies in a cooperative effort to review the issues."

A symposium to bring together plant pathologists, military intelligence and criminal experts to discuss anti-crop bioterrorism will be held during the joint American Phytopathological Society (APS) and Canadian Phytopathogical Society (CPS) Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada. This session will feature speakers from federal agencies, universities and the private sector convened by Anne Vidaver, University of Nebraska. "This is the first international symposium being held to create an awareness among individuals with expertise in the agricultural scientific community to develop measures against crop bioterrorism," says Schaad.

Jan Leach, Kansas State University, will discuss proposed strategies to minimize potential threats to the U.S. food supply. "Proactive development of crops with novel and broad spectrum resistances to plant disease may hinder the success of altered organisms," says Leach. "This is an active area of research by plant pathologists today."

"More funding for and emphasis on pathogen identification as well as a formal national procedure for surveying and reporting new plant diseases could reduce the destructive effects of deliberate pathogen releases," says Bob Forster, University of Idaho Research and Extension Center.

Forster, Leach and Schaad as well as Thomas Frazier, GenCon; Wallace Deen, private consultant; David Huxsoll, Louisiana State University; Larry Madden, Ohio State University; Robert Hickson, USAF Academy and D.E. Wilson, FBI Laboratory will present their views on ways of approaching anti-crop bioterrorism during this symposium.

The symposium on plant pathology's role in combating anti-crop bioterrorism and promoting food security, will be held at the APS/CPS Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada on Tuesday, August 10 at 2 p.m. Complimentary registration is available for reporters and science writers, please contact Kathleen Koegler, APS, at 1-651-454-7250 or
The American Phytopathological Society (APS) is an international professional scientific organization dedicated to the study and control of plant disease with 5,000 members worldwide. For more information on APS, visit the website at or contact APS Headquarters at 1-651-454-7250,

American Phytopathological Society

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