December 3, 2001

Canadian Minister's Visit Targets Bio-Security

Print More

Since Sept. 11, emphasis has been placed on Americans helping Americans, with flags placed everywhere from store windows to car antennas. Many have overlooked the work put in by non-Americans — including Canadians — in the attempt to maintain a safe living environment in the U.S.

As part of a forum on agroterrorism and bio-security, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honorable Lyle W. Vanclief, spoke on the importance of cooperation between the U.S. and Canada in battling possible agroterrorism attacks in the future.

“We see with more importance [the issues of] animal health in the last few weeks,” Vanclief said, referring to the recent anthrax outbreak. He stressed the fact that regardless of whether or not animal diseases occur accidentally, countries must take “adequate and appropriate” measures to eradicate the diseases, or at least stop them from spreading.

As head of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Vanclief makes sure that all food products that enter Canada are recorded in detail, including their countries of origin and ports of entry. Once in Canada, these products continue to be monitored carefully. In this way, the CFIA can insure that the food system remains safe.

“Agroterrorism is a criminal act,” Vanclief said, “[and] has an immediate impact on victims.”

Not only does agroterrorism cause damage on a country’s citizens and food products, but it also has a “devastating economic impact over [the] medium and long-term,” he said.

An agricultural crisis would lead to a negative economic impact on both sides of the trading system. Vanclief pointed out that Canada is the United States’ largest commerce of fruits and vegetables; thus, in order to allow for a “smooth trade flow” between the U.S. and Canada, both countries must address all possible threats on their agricultural and food systems.

Two weeks ago, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) raised awareness at Cornell on the subject of food safety. She spoke of a need for more food inspectors, especially at the ports where potentially contaminated products arrive from other countries. Vanclief agreed with Clinton and proposed a system of track and trace; through this system, imported products that are contaminated would be traced back to their port of trade, and then the region would quickly be closed.

This would be the most effective way of controlling an outbreak, Vanclief said.

Vanclief emphasized the importance of implementing emergency response plans as a way of taking further safety measures in the food system. One such plan is to conduct simulated exercises to test the effectiveness of vaccines in the case of Foot-and-Mouth Disease.

Already taking steps towards this type of preventative measure, Vanclief warned that though inspectors are trained to “recognize the first signs of outbreak,” the U.S. should also be careful “not to harm trade that is good for U.S. consumerism.”

Emphasizing the need for cooperation, Vanclief stated, “Our willingness to improve our emergency response plans requires a partnership [between the U.S. and Canada].”

The address was presented with confidence that agricultural safety threats can be overcome with appropriate preventative measures, especially if both countries work together in the battle against terrorism. “[These measures] will be expensive, but we can protect our safety,” Vanclief explained.

Caroline Lafferty vet ’04 found the address to be “very general, nothing specific,” while others found it encouraging that Canada was taking such an active part in helping protect the U.S. food system. “[It is] encouraging that there is international cooperation and forward thinking,” said Paul Jennette, a member of the staff at the College of Veterinary Science. Jennette was impressed that Canada did not “make distinctions” in borderlines, and added, “The fact that respective borders were all working together I had no idea.”

Beverly Livesay, a community member and former member of the County Board of Representatives, agreed, saying, “The thing I thought was interesting was the need to deal comprehensively rather than in little sections.” She believed that the U.S. and Canada must work together and share ideas on food safety. Livesay explained logically, “If it’s working there, it must be a pretty good idea.”

Archived article by Jenna Cho