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This term has been around for several years (the earliest examples I can find are from 1999), but has mostly been used by specialists up till now. It has gained a higher profile in the past year or so and has been in the news because the first International Symposium on Agroterrorism was held earlier this month. Agroterrorism is the deliberate introduction of a plant or animal disease that disrupts agriculture and so causes widespread economic loss along with fear and instability. The risk is potentially high in the USA, which is a major agricultural country with huge exports, so that the effect of a terrorist attack might be felt well beyond its own borders. As yet, no successful attack by agroterrorists anywhere in the world is known to have happened. Threats in New Zealand to spread foot-and-mouth disease have been blackmail by individuals, not terrorism. Known cases of food contamination in various countries, or of threats to contaminate food, have also proved to be the work of would-be blackmailers or disgruntled employees.

Agroterrorism is a largely hypothetical problem ... The United States has never experienced an agroterror attack, but some of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were known to have been interested in agriculture and crop dusting.

Aberdeen News, South Dakota, 2 May 2005

Inspections of imported food at the nation’s entry ports have declined since the Department of Homeland Security took over the job in 2003, a new government report says. The drop means the government is reducing its first chance to discover a foreign disease or an act of “agroterrorism” before the food is distributed nationwide.

USA Today, 9 May 2005

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 4 June 2005.