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K-State: Making America safer

 

Kansas State University was at the forefront of food safety research initiatives even before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This edition of Perspectives, K-State's Webzine, shares what K-State researchers are doing to keep America's food supply safe and secure.

Recognizing the vulnerability of American agriculture to attack, K-State launched a comprehensive "Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program" in March 1999. This food safety and security program aims to solve today's food crop, food animal and food safety problems, while preparing to meet and defeat emerging threats of the future.

In October 1999, K-State President Jon Wefald presented testimony to the U.S. Senate's Emerging Threats Subcommittee on the agricultural biological weapons threat. K-State's efforts have continued unabated since 1999. The relevance and importance of the food safety program were not widely recognized nationally until after 9/11 and the subsequent bioterrorist assault with anthrax in the U.S. mail.

Sen. Pat Roberts, in a May 3, 2004, Landon Lecture at K-State, called K-State "the leader in food safety research initiatives." Sen. Roberts and Sen. Sam Brownback, along with the Kansas Congressional delegation and the Kansas Board of Regents, have strongly supported K-State's food safety and security initiatives.

K-State established the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center to coordinate interdisciplinary activities protecting America's agricultural infrastructure and economy from endemic and emerging biological threats. The center received funding of $3 million from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to conduct three studies critical to America's agrosecurity: evaluate the means, hazards and obstacles involved in contaminated animal carcass disposal; assess agroterrorism exercises and their outcomes; and analyze pathways by which foreign plant and animal diseases might enter the country. The center has also received funding from the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and the Department of Justice. In addition, K-State has funding from USDA to manage the Great Plains Diagnostic Network – a nine-state regional hub – that provides county-by-county plant disease/pest surveillance and diagnostics. The Biosecurity Research Institute, scheduled to be completed this fall, gives scientists additional capabilities to research ways to reduce threats to the national food supply.

— Michelle Hall, Perspectives editor
and the staff of K-State media relations