To the Editor:
Unquestionably, the nightmarish events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the outlook of all of America. That day taught us that our priorities could no longer be set in an atmosphere of complacency. As a nation, we are now well focused on establishing an effective domestic security structure, and one of the most important components of that structure is maintaining a safe and wholesome food supply.
Recently you may have heard or read news items warning consumers that our food supply is vulnerable to terrorist attack. While these warnings urge us to be cautious, they should not frighten the citizens of America into believing that our food system is beyond protection. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Throughout Colorado, there is a profound commitment among those who grow, process and sell food to assure the safety of our food supply.
Recently, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Colorado State University College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension and Agriculture Experiment Station met with the leadership of the state’s entire food and agriculture industry to assure confidence in the safety of the food you buy. We learned what measures are under way by law enforcement agencies to respond to the current situation, and we asked the growers and food industry leaders what steps CSU and CDA could take to help enhance security measures the industry believes will compliment its efforts.
One outcome of the discussion established a new electronic communication network among producer organizations and trade associations, up and down the food system, to provide a better and almost instantaneous communication network. This network will enable the state’s food community to share the most up-to-date information on security issues within the industry. It will also provide a means for law enforcement and emergency preparedness agencies to distribute information directly to those who can immediately implement if necessary any emergency protection measures. In addition, the network will help provide accurate and timely information for consumers in the event of unwarranted or inaccurate food safety scares.
There is another important aspect to the food industry’s contribution to national security. For some time, the industry has understood how important it is to prevent the misuse of the tools of modern agriculture, such as pesticides and fertilizers. Along the main streets of rural Colorado communities, citizens and business people understand the need for logical but important safety and security measures. Farm supply businesses are working with insurance providers and agricultural retail trade associations, to double-check locks and security lighting, carefully note inventory, and to be are ready to notify authorities of anything or anyone out of the ordinary.
These measures will contribute to a safe homeland as well as an even safer food supply for America. Are they enough? In a word, no. As we have so painfully learned, complacency leads to vulnerability, and that is as true when it comes to safe food as it is in airport security.
The food industry of Colorado will not relent in its responsibility to bring consumers the safest food in America and to do its part to assure a secure lifestyle for us all.
Dr. James Heird
Colorado State University
Interim Vice Provost for Agriculture
Colorado Department of Agriculture
Interim Dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences