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Because agricultural inspection has been folded, along with most other domestic inspection services, into Homeland Security, there is now a shortage of inspectors, leading to the very real threat of the spread of disease that can destroy crops, contaminate livestock, and kill people:
The government has reduced the number of soldiers in the nation’s long-running battle against dangerous pests and food-borne diseases, as it focuses on stopping terrorists.
Recent discoveries demonstrate the unremitting threats: European cherries infested with insect eggs; fertilizer from Canada with ground-up cattle parts; grapevines hidden in a false-bottom suitcase; raw chicken parts arriving from a country inflicted with avian influenza; plants bagged with dirt containing unknown organisms; and even whole legs of cattle stuffed into a huge suitcase.
The problem in the Department of Homeland Security is both numbers and attitude, inspectors say. With fewer trained eyes, more pests and diseases are bound to enter via passengers and cargo.
Customs and immigration officers taking up the slack in screening are law enforcement officers, not biologists. They’re trained to intercept suspicious people and drugs, not suspicious bugs, and many of them view the agriculture specialists and their mission with disdain.
The number of people killed by terrorists annually is estimated to be about 600 people. The World Health Organization states that two million children die because of food and water contamination yearly. It also states that one out of three people suffer some form of foodborne disease annually.
Recently, uninspected seeds were released into the United States that could have contained disease that may have wiped out our corn crops. We lucked out and the recovered seed has not been so contaminated.
However, one container of the seed was never inspected.
Well, I feel safer thanks to the Department of Homeland Security. Don’t you?