Agro Terrorism refers to disease/pest outbreaks in the agrarian sector, which are deliberately brought about by malafide intentions.
The goal of agro-terrorism is not to kill cows or plants. These are the means to the end of causing economic damage, social unrest, and loss of confidence in government. Human health could be at risk if contaminated food reaches the table or if an animal pathogen is transmissible to humans (zoonotic).
Agro terrorists could release damaging insects, viruses, bacteria, fungi or other microbes as bioweapons that are mainly aimed at wiping out crops or farm animals. They also could attempt to poison processed foods also.
The incidences of agro terrorism in Colorado during WW II, attacks on Cuban crops, the citrus tanker disease in Florida and deliberate attacks in Sri Lanka are some of the cited examples.
Dangers from exotic pests:
In the case of crops, the important diseases include bunchy top in banana, potato wart, downy mildew in sunflower, chickpea blight, San Jose scale in apple, coffee berry borer, the invasive weed Lantana Camara and more recently the biotype 'B' of whitefly Bemisiatabaci (most efficient vector of the tomato leaf curl virus).
Diseases that have the potential to be used as bio-weapons by agro terrorists are listed below:
1. Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens
(a) Fire blight in apple and pear.
(b) Black pod in cocoa.
(c) Powdery rust in coffee.
(d) Sudden death in oak.
2. Virus, Viroid and Phytoplasma
(a) Barley stripe virus.
(b) Coconut cadang-cadang.
(c) Palm lethal yellowing.
3. Plant Parasitic Nematodes
(a) Pine wood nematode.
(b) Red ring nematode in coconut.
4. Insect Pests
(a) Mediterranean fruit fly.
(b) Cotton boll weevil.
(c) Russian wheat aphid.
Integrated Pest Surveillance System
To deal with the agro-terrorism an organised system dedicated to carry out pest risk analysis against identified quarantine pests need to be established which will
a) Perform field inspection and pest survey activities for the detection, delimitation or monitoring of established pests.
b) Detect new pests.
c) Establish specific systems for identification, establishment and maintenance of -pest-free areas according to international standards.
Prevention and early detection:
a) Proper education and awareness programmes for the Villages to ward off intentional attacks by suspected agro terrorists on their crops/ animals/livestock .
b) Equip them with the emergency curative measures to be taken in such a situation.
c) DDMAsshould ensure that there is enough stock of disinfectants and vaccines for animals and chemicals, biopesticides and biocontrol agents to save crops from any suspected attack.
d) For imports, the quarantine network need to be be strengthened especially at land frontiers of the country through which agro terrorists can easily bring in exotic pests.