Food security is focal point of international conference
Chris Brunner, December 18, 2017
Advancing the safety and security of the food chain in Sweden and the U.S. was a top priority for representatives from government agencies, universities, and the private sector during a 4-day civil defense conference at UC Davis. Strategies for collaboration to safeguard agriculture and the food supply include increasing preparedness for hostile activities, and developing the knowledge and skills of actors responsible for food safety and security. The actors include government agencies, university faculty, private sector companies, and consumers.
Hostile activities may include introduction of highly infectious agents such as foot and mouth virus into livestock operations, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus into poultry operations, or botulism toxin into livestock feeds, etc. These agents can lead to huge economic losses to livestock and poultry producers; and even threaten food security because of the loss of sufficient food for consumers. Contaminants of concern for plant agriculture include wheat rust and rice rust which can lead to severe disruption in the production of these grains which are principle staples of large populations throughout the world. Human populations can be harmed by toxins such as botulism, ricin and melamine or infectious agents including Norovirus and antibiotic resistant salmonellas.
Globalization of food and feed supplies has left us more vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Products are raised in open spaces that are difficult to secure. Most food and feed products move through many hands or transport systems putting these products at risk for accidental or intentional contamination. Improper education and training for all members of the food supply system leaves food and feed products vulnerable to hostile activities.
Hosted by WIFSS, October 10-13, the conference, “Societal Security and Civil Defense with the Agricultural and the Food Chain Sector,” included representatives from the Swedish Defense University, Swedish Institute for National Defense and Security Policy Studies, Swedish Board on Agriculture, National Food Agency, National Veterinary Institute, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Faculty from the University of California, Davis, and representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and California’s Office of Emergency Services, and Department of Food & Agriculture were also in attendance.
Breakout sessions and table top discussions led to recommendations for the next steps forward in developing collaborative working relations. An important action moving forward will be to provide education through outreach to rural communities.
The conference set the stage for developing an agreement of cooperation between UC Davis and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and initiated planning for working agreements between UC Davis and the Swedish institutions.