Friday, May 11, 2007


On Thursday night (May 10, 2007), Dr. Drew Richardson (Augusta County resident and a former FBI Special Agent) made a presentation to about 25 interested citizens (made up largely, but not entirely, by the Augusta County Democratic Committee). Drew is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker and the topic is one that is especially interesting in a community with so much agriculture and agribusiness, since food supply is one of the potential targets biological terrorism or criminal activity.

We talk a lot these days about “Islamic Terrorism” as if the two words naturally go together. That’s an attitude that is based, in my view, on a combination of racism, ignorance and Christian arrogance. Yes, we face a serious threat from terrorists who claim an Islamic motivation, but the vast majority of Moslems don’t support these terrorists, and the real stimulus for the terrorist attacks is our own imperialism and exploitation. That doesn’t excuse terrorism, but it isn’t hard—if you stop and think, which reactionaries, by definition, don’t—to understand why terrorists seize upon their faith as a justification to fight back against oppressors. But it is fascinating to listen to someone talk about the history of bioterrorism in the West, and realize that Moslems aren’t the only terrorists running around, and we need to be on guard against radical extremists of all kinds.

The details about the types of biological agents that could be a problem were fascinating, although not something I can recite completely. We learned about anthrax and ricin and sarin and various other toxins, and how they might pose a risk. The bottom line, Dr. Richardson said, was that there are a few things the country could do to protect the food supply—not really to prevent an attack, but to limit an attack’s potential impact, and it’s mostly about diversification. First, increasingly our food supply is in the hands of large agribusinesses, but we should protect smaller farms which would be less vulnerable. Second, currently cattle production is concentrated in a handful of states, poultry in another handful of states, and if it were more widely spread it would be less vulnerable. Third, genetic diversity (in varieties of beef cattle, for example) would make the animal population less vulnerable. [The whole discussion made me want to plant my own vegetable garden—just in case.]

That all makes sense. Thanks Dr. Richardson for enlightening us!

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