Agroterrorism is a subset of bioterrorism. It's defined as deliberate introduction of an animal or plant disease with the goal of generating fear,
causing economic losses, and/or undermining social stability. Since September 11, 2001 it's the new predicted and feared terrorist attack. In fact, mounting studies show that it's not only easier to cause chaos on mass scale through food production disruption (magnitude), it's nearly just as fast (time frame), and its even more likely to occur (probable).
Foot and mouth disease
Terrorists would use foot and mouth disease to decimate food supplies, with two impacts, first economic woes, and immediate food shortage. "No major US city has more than a 7-day food storage." (Peters 2003) You might be wondering why foot and mouth disease? "More than 70 different strains of foot-and-mouth disease exist. It is the most infectious virus known, capable of spreading in wind-driven aerosol form more than 170 miles from its source. In Taiwan in March 1997, after the disease was confirmed in pigs there, it spread throughout the island within six weeks, forcing authorities to slaughter more than 8 million pigs and halt pork exports. The origin of the disease was reportedly traced to a single pig from Hong Kong, and China was suspected of deliberately introducing the disease into Taiwan." (Peters 2003)
The fact that the United States has not experienced a major agricultural or food-related disaster in recent memory is more a function of luck than design, says Peter Chalk. The good news is that most animal diseases are not pathogens that can be transmissible to humans (zoonotic). The bad news is that because of concentrated farming, the terrorists would only have to hit a limited number of farms to reach an enormous percentage of food supplies. "Even a limited outbreak affecting no more than 10 farms could have a $2 billion economic impact." (Peters 2003)
"Farming and food industries are highly vulnerable to both deliberate and accidental disruption for several reasons: The routine use of antibiotics and growth stimulants in animal diets has heightened the susceptibility of animals to disease; infectious animal diseases can spread rapidly across the country because of the highly concentrated nature of U.S. farming; and the huge number of food processing facilities - most of which have highly transient unscreened workforces, minimal security and inadequate procedures for recalling products - are ideal sites for the deliberate introduction of toxins into the food supply." (Peters 2003)
"There is limited appreciation for the economic and social importance of agriculture in the industrialized world. Abundant, affordable and safe food supplies are largely taken for granted. . . . It is hard for American citizens to imagine a world where the availability of food radically changes for the worse.
Yet it's not hard for terrorism analysts to imagine the impact of a major attack. RAND officials estimate that no major U.S. city has more than a seven-day supply of food. The consequences of a major attack on food sources, especially animals, would be felt almost immediately by consumers. Such an attack could easily spread fear and panic and quickly undermine public confidence in government." (Peters 2003)
No shock factor?
You might argue that terrorists want the all mighty shock and awe strategy. Fair enough, but I rebuttal that going hungry because of food contamination is far more shocking than watching on the news a couple of air planes landed into the World Trade Center. A direct impact to every individual, instead of limited portion. Even if they weren't going for the shock factor, they might just go for the ease of access. "Farms are geographically disbursed in unsecured environments. Livestock are frequently
concentrated in confined locations, and transported or commingled with other herds. Many agricultural diseases can be obtained, handled, and distributed easily." (Monke 2007)
Since 2001 "Food Defense" has tripled in terms of budget to over 800 million dollars annually. There are specific links to al-Qaeda planning agroterrorism, as an Afghanistan raid of a compound found highly descriptive agricultural information in 2002.
Peters 2003 (Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive, email@example.com June 10, 2003)
Monke 2007 (Jim Monke Analyst in Agricultural Policy Resources, Science, and Industry Division Agroterrorism: Threats and Preparedness)
Apollyon says re Agroterrorism: "Farms could be burned using timed incendiary devices in woods and fields. I think that this is a more likely terrorist attack as it wouldn't require the terrorist getting hold of rare biological toxins. A bomb I was taught how to make by the British military requires only about ten dollars of completely legal and readily findable equipment which would easily start a forest fire. As an added bonus to the terrorists the fires could spread to major towns and cities. I'm not sure if this would count as agroterrorism but this approach is probably the single greatest threat America faces from terrorism. Remember that on average incendiary devices caused more deaths in Japan than the nuclear bombs did."