The research project receives funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement n° 261752


The term "biosecurity" refers to protection from harm caused by biological agents. It covers food safety, zoonoses, the introduction of animal and plant diseases and pests, the introduction and release of living modified organisms (LMOs) and their products (e.g. genetically modified organisms or GMOs), and the introduction and management of invasive alien species. Biosecurity thus encompasses food safety, animal life and health, and plant life and health, including associated environmental risks. Interest in biosecurity has risen considerably over the last decade in parallel with the increasing trade in food and plant and animal products.

Bioterrorism: a real threat to human health and to economic, social and political systems

Agricultural bioterrorism, or agroterrorism, is a specific type of bioterrorism and is defined as the deliberate introduction of an animal or plant disease or pest with the goal of generating fear, causing economic losses, and/or undermining environmental, social and economic stability. The potential for terrorist attacks or other criminal actions against agricultural targets (i.e. agroterrorism) is increasingly recognised as a threat to international security, especially following the events of September 11, 2001. Agriculture and related sectors upstream and downstream are essential to the social, economic and political stability of all nations. The disruption of agricultural systems could have widespread and dramatic economic consequences in the food, feed and fibre sectors. Affected stakeholders could include farmers and input suppliers, processors, shippers, merchants, food retailers and the restaurant trade; upstream contributors such as the agrochemical industry; and even the tourism and transpor tation sectors. Specific losses could include the value of lost production, the cost of destroying diseased or potentially diseased products, the cost of disease containment and management, as well as lost revenue in the transpor tation and other support sectors.

A historical review

Natural outbreaks of disease demonstrate the destructive potential of an agroterrorist attack. In 1996, the fungal disease Karnal bunt was discovered in wheat seeds in Arizona. As a consequence, more than fifty trading par tners adopted phytosanitary trade restrictions against the United States. These trade restrictions resulted in USD 250 million in expor t losses, with the US wheat export market valued at USD 6 billion. In addition, control and clean-up costs are estimated to have reached USD 45 million. The E. coli O104:H4 outbreak in Germany in 2011 highlighted the urgent need for rapid and reliable analytical methods. The total economic losses resulting from the incident have been estimated at between USD 0.5 and 3.5 billion. These losses were caused not only by the consequences of the pathogen being found, but also by misinformation about the source, the delay in determining the source pathogen and its hosts and in reporting cases, and subsequent trade bans that were not always appropriate.