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 A biosecurity is the policies and measures taken to protect from biological harm. It encompasses the prevention and mitigation from diseases, pests, and bioterrorism, of the following area:

  • economy
  • environment
  • public health

which includes food and water supply, agricultural resources and production, pollution management, blood and blood product supplies [1], [2]. Biosecurity warrantly attempts to ensure that ecologies sustaining either people or animals are maintained. This may include natural habitats as well as shelter, productive enterprises and services, and deals with threats such as biological warfare or epidemics. This is related to the more passive concept of biosafety.

Political guarantees of health for persons or animals are necessarily controversial. Such guarantees can form part of almost any organisational means of survival, including of political and economic systems, military doctrine and insurance schemes. Challenges include the proliferation of biological threats, the difficulty of tracking contamination (especially if carried by the natural internal processes of an ecoregion), and numerous political barriers.


Community impact assessment protocols

Differing concepts of biosecurity are evolving in many professions. So far the field has focused on attempts to establish uniform standards of risk referencing - see the biodiversity debate and health security. Nevertheless, many professional groups believe that their internal professional ethics and professional standards are sufficient to contain all relevant risks (which may be medical, agricultural and so on).

This fact emphasises the difficulty in agreeing common standards - definitions and requirements depend on, among other things, national, ecological, military, diplomatic and professional concerns. Consensus holds that biosecurity is a government responsibility, but beyond that, mandates of various government agencies include:

the development of guidelines on equitable and fair access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources, the ethical implications of biotechnology, international governance of biotechnology and biosafety, including rule making under the World Trade Organization and other regimes

In 2006, the International Futures Program of the OECD launched the website. This site, available in English, French and a limited Japanese version, is dedicated to providing an active resource of global information on oversight mechanisms - particularly codes-of-conduct for the biosciences research community – to help advance these efforts and promote responsible oversight of the biosciences. The site contains key information, categorized geographically, on governmental, institutional, academic, and private sector biosecurity actors along with worldwide biosecurity legislation, events, terminology, and background materials.

A sampling of current (2002) national and professional mandates include commitments of

  • NZ agriculture and forestry "to protect New Zealand's unique biodiversity and facilitate exports by managing risks to plant and animal health and animal welfare" as one of several agencies in the Biocouncil "managing exotic pests (or recent incursions)". Critics, including the NZ Greens, argue that these measures are insufficient to protect even against normal crop risks.
  • USDA and pork producers to protect food "animal health" via "cleansing and disinfecting", "personal protective equipment", "carcass disposal", "nutrient management" and monitoring of "reportable diseases". Medical emergency response measures, especially in the military, emphasize the same concerns - but with respect to humans.
  • US scientific societies to redefine biosecurity largely in terms of "countering terrorism", and not in terms of addressing unintentional man-made threats.

Clearly, no single set of guarantees can be said to represent biosecurity - just as no such set of guarantees clearly characterizes national security or any other form of security.

Historically, as with other public safety, fairness, and closure concerns, a nation-state attempted to assure biosecurity by tax, trade, tariff and active biodefense measures. More recently there has been a trend towards more sustainable measures such as safe trade rules for biosafety, an example of which is the Biosafety Protocol.

These are claimed to minimize the exposure of people and natural ecologies to alien organisms via trade or warfare.

Post 9/11 challenges

The destruction of the World Trade Center in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 by terrorists, and subsequent wave of anthrax attacks on U.S. media and government outlets (both real and hoax), led to increased attention on the risk of bioterror attacks in the United States. Proposals for serious structural reforms, national and/or regional border controls, and a single co-ordinated system of biohazard response abounded.

US Corporate investment in all forms of physical security has expanded steadily in recent decades on news of hijackings, hostage crises, bombings, office shootings, kidnappings and employee lawsuits. Ira A. Lipman, founder and president of Guardsmark Inc said: People are very concerned about their security needs and think they're in a war-like environment. People are going to spend the money because they don't want the problem... People are not going to have this kind of loss of life.

Some anticipate that this will lead to a much more rigorous biosecurity standards, building on NORAD, NAFTA, OAS, and an improved biosafety protocol as corporations attempt to shift costs to government. Such measures may well prove necessary in the light of the ever-larger number of individuals and organisations with the ability to construct weapons of biological warfare.

Unlike biosafety precautions, biosecurity tends to be active; countermeasures include monitoring statistics for patterns which suggest emerging epidemics, ensuring sufficient stockpiles of the appropriate vaccines or other medicines required to contain an outbreak, public health education and alertness, widespread use of sophisticated pathogen detectors.

Some seek to minimize risk or expenses by political measures such as unified homeland defense or by extending agricultural isolation zones into Bioregional democracies - forcing political borders to conform to natural ecologies - but this may be at odds with traditional national and cultural borders.

So far, such measures have met with little success.

Some say active preventive measures are unlikely to be acceptable to the general population in peacetime. There could be general vaccination against biological warfare agents, but the public is unlikely to accept potentially harmful vaccines for such agents. States do not currently routinely vaccinate against likely biowarfare agents - partly because the risk associated with most vaccinations is greater than the perceived risk from biological warfare.

Others point out that a vaccination program, even if imperfect, could reduce the risk of biological warfare by making the agent addressed less attractive as a weapon, and that in many cases government policy denies the public the choice of being vacccinated.


Currently in North America, three complementary strategies exist:

  • biodefense measures assuming the most threats are local and short-lived.
  • biosafety measures heightening the scrutiny on people or goods at borders, and making pessimistic assumptions as per precautionary principle.
  • health security measures ensuring early warning and universal insurance by guaranteeing that the most vulnerable populations are regularly monitored.

UNU/IAS Research into Biosecurity & Biosafety emphasizes "long-term consequences of the development and use of biotechnology" and need for "an honest broker to create avenues and forums to unlock the impasses."

Conferences and related events - A detailed list of past and future Biosecurity events dating from 1928. Brought to you by the International Futures Program of the OECD. The site is available in English and French with a limited Japanese version.

MOP3 (Third Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety) 13 - 17 March / Curitiba - Brazil


The biosecurity concerns facing industrial agriculture can be illustrated by:

  • the threat to poultry and humans from H5N1; possibly caused by use of animal vaccines
  • the threat to cattle and humans from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE); possibly caused by the unnatural feeding of cattle to cattle to minimize costs
  • and the threat to industry profits from diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and citrus canker which increasing globalization makes harder to contain.[3]

Avian influenza

See also: Social effects of H5N1 and Fujian flu

Use of animal vaccines can create new viruses that kill people and cause flu pandemic threats. H5N1 is an example of where this might have already occurred. According to the CDC article H5N1 Outbreaks and Enzootic Influenza by Robert G. Webster et al.:"Transmission of highly pathogenic H5N1 from domestic poultry back to migratory waterfowl in western China has increased the geographic spread. The spread of H5N1 and its likely reintroduction to domestic poultry increase the need for good agricultural vaccines. In fact, the root cause of the continuing H5N1 pandemic threat may be the way the pathogenicity of H5N1 viruses is masked by co-circulating influenza viruses or bad agricultural vaccines."[4] Dr. Robert Webster explains: "If you use a good vaccine you can prevent the transmission within poultry and to humans. But if they have been using vaccines now [in China] for several years, why is there so much bird flu? There is bad vaccine that stops the disease in the bird but the bird goes on pooping out virus and maintaining it and changing it. And I think this is what is going on in China. It has to be. Either there is not enough vaccine being used or there is substandard vaccine being used. Probably both. It’s not just China. We can’t blame China for substandard vaccines. I think there are substandard vaccines for influenza in poultry all over the world."[5] In response to the same concerns, Reuters reports Hong Kong infectious disease expert Lo Wing-lok saying, "The issue of vaccines has to take top priority," and Julie Hall, in charge of the WHO's outbreak response in China, saying China's vaccinations might be masking the virus."[6] The BBC reported that Dr Wendy Barclay, a virologist at the University of Reading, UK said: "The Chinese have made a vaccine based on reverse genetics made with H5N1 antigens, and they have been using it. There has been a lot of criticism of what they have done, because they have protected their chickens against death from this virus but the chickens still get infected; and then you get drift - the virus mutates in response to the antibodies - and now we have a situation where we have five or six 'flavours' of H5N1 out there."[7]

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as "mad cow disease", is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease of cattle, which infects by a mechanism that surprised biologists upon its discovery in the late 20th century. In the UK, the country worst affected, 179,000 cattle were infected and 4.4 million killed as a precaution.[8]

The disease can be transmitted to human beings who eat or inhale material from infected carcasses.[citation needed] In humans, it is known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD or nvCJD), and by June 2007, it had killed 165 people in Britain, and six elsewhere[9] with the number expected to rise because of the disease's long incubation period. Between 460,000 and 482,000 BSE-infected animals had entered the human food chain before controls on high-risk offal were introduced in 1989.[10]

A British inquiry into BSE concluded that the epidemic was caused by feeding cattle, who are normally herbivores, the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread.[11][12] The origin of the disease itself remains unknown. The current scientific view is that infectious proteins called prions developed through spontaneous mutation, probably in the 1970s, and there is a possibility that the use of organophosphorus pesticides increased the susceptibility of cattle to the disease.[13] The infectious agent is distinctive for the high temperatures it is able to survive; this contributed to the spread of the disease in Britain, which had reduced the temperatures used during its rendering process.[11] Another contributory factor was the feeding of infected protein supplements to very young calves instead of milk from their mothers.[11][14]

Foot-and-mouth disease

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal viral disease of cattle and pigs. It can also infect deer, goats, sheep, and other bovids with cloven hooves, as well as elephants, rats, and hedgehogs. Humans are affected only very rarely.

FMD occurs throughout much of the world, and while some countries have been free of FMD for some time, its wide host range and rapid spread represent cause for international concern. In 1996, endemic areas included Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have been free of FMD for many years. Most European countries have been recognized as free, and countries belonging to the European Union have stopped FMD vaccination.

Infection with foot-and-mouth disease tends to occur locally, that is, the virus is passed on to susceptible animals through direct contact with infected animals or with contaminated pens or vehicles used to transport livestock. The clothes and skin of animal handlers such as farmers, standing water, and uncooked food scraps and feed supplements containing infected animal products can harbor the virus as well. Cows can also catch FMD from the semen of infected bulls. Control measures include quarantine and destruction of infected livestock, and export bans for meat and other animal products to countries not infected with the disease.

Because FMD rarely infects humans but spreads rapidly among animals, it is a much greater threat to the agriculture industry than to human health. Farmers around the world can lose huge amounts of money during a foot-and-mouth epidemic, when large numbers of animals are destroyed and revenues from milk and meat production go down.

One of the difficulties in vaccinating against FMD is the huge variation between and even within serotypes. There is no cross-protection between serotypes (meaning that a vaccine for one serotype won't protect against any others) and in addition, two strains within a given serotype may have nucleotide sequences that differ by as much as 30% for a given gene. This means that FMD vaccines must be highly specific to the strain involved. Vaccination only provides temporary immunity that lasts from months to years.

Citrus canker

Main article: Citrus canker

Citrus canker is a disease affecting citrus species that is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas axonopodis. Infection causes lesions on the leaves, stems, and fruit of citrus trees, including lime, oranges, and grapefruit. While not harmful to humans, canker significantly affects the vitality of citrus trees, causing leaves and fruit to drop prematurely; a fruit infected with canker is safe to eat but too unsightly to be sold.

The disease, which is believed to have originated in South East Asia, is extremely persistent when it becomes established in an area, making it necessary for all citrus orchards to be destroyed for successful eradication of the disease. Australia, Brazil and the United States are currently suffering from canker outbreaks.

The disease can be detected in orchards and on fruit by the appearance of lesions. Early detection is critical in quarantine situations. Bacteria are tested for pathogenicity by inoculating multiple citrus species with the bacterium. Simultaneously, other diagnostic tests (antibody detection, fatty-acid profiling, and genetic procedures using PCR) are conducted to identify the particular canker strain.

Citrus canker outbreaks are prevented and managed in a number of ways. In countries that do not have canker, the disease is prevented from entering the country by quarantine measures. In countries with new outbreaks, eradication programs that are started soon after the disease has been discovered have been successful; such programs rely on destruction of affected orchards. When eradication has been unsuccessful and the disease has become established, management options include replacing susceptible citrus cultivars with resistant cultivars, applying preventive sprays of copper-based bactericides, and destroying infected trees and all surrounding trees within an appropriate radius.

The citrus industry is the largest fresh-fruit exporting industry in Australia.[15] Australia has had three outbreaks of citrus canker; two were successfully eradicated and one is ongoing. The disease was found twice during the 1900s in the Northern Territory and was eradicated each time. During the first outbreak in 1912, every citrus tree north of latitude 19° South was destroyed, taking 11 years to eradicate the disease.[16] In 2004, Asiatic citrus canker was detected in an orchard in Emerald, Queensland, and was thought to have occurred from the illegal import of infected citrus plants. The state and federal governments have ordered that all commercial orchards, all non-commercial citrus tress, and all native lime trees (C. glauca) in the vicinity of Emerald be destroyed rather than trying to isolate infected trees.

Sources and notes

  1. ^ Microsoft Encarta Dictionary. Biosecurity - definition . Retrieved on 15 August, 2007.
  2. ^ Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. How to speak "farmerese" . Retrieved on 15 August, 2007.
  3. ^ Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics article Agricultural Economies of Australia and New Zealand
  4. ^ (CDC H5N1 Outbreaks and Enzootic Influenza by Robert G. Webster et al.)
  5. ^ (MSNBC quoting Reuters quoting Robert G. Webster)
  6. ^ (Reuters)
  7. ^ (BBC Bird flu vaccine no silver bullet 22 February 2006)
  8. ^ Brown, David. "The 'recipe for disaster' that killed 80 and left a £5bn bill", The Daily Telegraph, June 19, 2001.
  9. ^ "Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, June 2007", The National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit, Edinburgh University. The number of dead in the UK from Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease had reached 1,206 by June 4, 2007.
  10. ^ "CJD deaths 'may have peaked'", BBC News, November 13, 2001.
  11. ^ a b c "BSE: Disease control & eradication - Causes of BSE", Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, March 2007.
  12. ^ "The BSE Inquiry", led by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, report published October 2000.
  13. ^ "Volume 1: Findings and Conclusions. Executive Summary of the Report of the Inquiry. 3. The cause of BSE", Phillips Inquiry, October 2000.
  14. ^ Harden, Blaine. "Supplements used in factory farming can spread disease", The Washington Post, December 28, 2003.
  15. ^ Australian Citrus Growers Inc.
  16. ^ Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Exotic plant pests - citrus canker

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Biosecurity". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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