Institute to counter agricultural terrorism formalized

December 13, 2001

COLLEGE STATION, December 13 - Texas A&M University has established an institute aimed at protecting the nation's food and water supply against terrorism.

Regents approved the Institute for Countermeasures against Agricultural Bioterrorism on Dec. 7, nearly two years after its conception.

Regent Anne Armstrong credited the foresight of Neville Clarke, the institute's director, for the timely implementation of the new center. "A lot of planning had been going into the work of an institute to counter agricultural terrorism long before the attacks of Sept. 11," she said. "Dr. Clarke had put us well ahead on this issue."

The institute already has received about $400,000 in fiscal 2002 funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service to get the institute going, said Ed Hiler, Texas A&M vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences.

"This issue is of utmost importance to Texas and the entire United States," Hiler noted. "Our food, agriculture and water are at risk, and we need to be prepared. We want to formalize this institute to solidify our role in developing the research to prevent and counter terrorist attacks."

Hiler added that Experiment Station scientists have been researching ways to counter terrorism for decades.

Clarke, a career Air Force officer and former director of the Experiment Station, said the events of Sept. 11 only heighten the importance of protecting agricultural production and the food supply from attacks.

"The system has been adequate in the past for prevention and response," he said, "but it sorely needs new vision to be able to respond to these new types of attacks."

Part of that "new vision" includes the use of surveillance networking, satellite imaging, field and laboratory diagnostics using biotechnology, and computerized information systems. "There's the whole area of biotechnology, infomatics, genomics and information technology that would let us create the next generation of systems to help prevent bioterrorism and to deal with it should it occur," Clarke said.

The institute also will organize ongoing activities, foster interdisciplinary relationships, make better use of total resources and offer broad-based ongoing input to officials charged with homeland security, he said.

"It's quite important in my view to start now to develop the entire spectrum of tools that we need both those for the immediate future and those that will be real problem solvers and breakthroughs in the future," Clarke said.

Texas A&M has been involved generally with countermeasures against weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and Clarke said that plus the university's border-state location, successful history in agriculture and engineering, and statewide network of extension agents all help make Texas A&M a prime location for such an institute.
-end-
Writer: Kathleen Phillips, (979) 845-2872,ka-phillips@tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Ed Hiler, (979) 862-4384,e-hiler@tamu.edu
                Dr. Neville Clarke, (979) 845-2855, n-clarke@tamu.edu

Texas A&M University

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