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A NOVEL STRATEGY FOR THE PREVENTION OF STAPHYLOCOCCUS AUREUS-INDUCED MASTITIS IN DAIRY COWS
Staphylococcus aureus-induced mastitis
Effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of mastitis caused by S. aureus remain elusive. Vaccines to prevent the establishment of intramammary infection by this pathogen have been around for decades, however, their efficacy has been limited. Their limited effectiveness may be due, in part, to improper immunization schedules, ineffective adjuvant formulation, and their inability to cross-protect against various strains. Since multiple strains can be present within any one herd or even within an individual cow3, vaccines or other strategies with less restrictive strain specificity will be required to decrease the incidence of mastitis caused by S. aureus.
Once established, S. aureus infections are difficult to treat. These bacteria are able to reside intracellularly and are shed periodically into the milk. Their residence inside of the cells within the gland and the formation of abscesses around foci of infection restrict their contact with administered antibiotics. The percentage of S. aureus-infected animals that can be cured during lactation with currently approved antibiotics is only between 10 30%. In a recent study of the efficacy of pirlimycin, a common antibiotic used in the treatment of these infections, only 13% of S. aureus intramammary infections were cured following the recommended two-day therapy4. Extending the therapy to five consecutive days increased the cure rate to only 31%, a level that is below the break-even point at which costs incurred through treatment are balanced by increased production and the premium pay associated with milk containing lower numbers of milk somatic cells2. Thus, treatment options for lactating cows infected with S. aureus remain suboptimal.
Lysostaphin treatment of S. aureus intramammary infections
The efficacy of lysostaphin for the treatment of S. aureus-induced mastitis has also been evaluated in a variety of animal models, including mice, goats, and cows. Infusion of lysostaphin into the S. aureus-infected glands of mice was shown to significantly reduce the number of viable bacteria8. Lysostaphin has also been demonstrated to have a cure rate of ~20% when used to treat S. aureus intramammary infections in lactating cows9. Although this rate is comparable to commonly used antibiotics, lysostaphin's targeted specificity and low toxicity may make its use more advantageous. Further studies evaluating formulation, dosing, and treatment durations will be needed to determine whether its efficacy as an intramammary infusate can be enhanced.
A novel strategy for prevention of S. aureus-induced mastitis
In the first study of its kind to explore the potential of genetic engineering to enhance disease resistance in cattle, researchers from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service developed transgenic cattle that expressed lysostaphin in the mammary gland11. Using a system that restricted expression to the mammary secretory epithelium, the scientists were able to develop cows that secreted lysostaphin directly into the milk of the gland. Milk levels of lysostaphin varied between the transgenic animals and ranged from 0.9 to 14 μg/ml. Of the mammary glands of three transgenic cows that were infused with S. aureus, only 14% became infected. In comparison, 71% of the quarters challenged in the control animals became infected. Even the transgenic cow expressing the least amount of lysostaphin (i.e., 0.9 μg/ml) had an infection rate of only 33%. The highest expressing cow of the three transgenic cows infused with S. aureus, who expressed 11 μg/ml of lysostaphin in her milk, was completely resistant to infection. The concentration of lysostaphin in the milk of the transgenic cows remained fairly consistent throughout lactation. The consistent level of expression conferred resistance throughout lactation as the highest expressing cow maintained complete resistance to multiple challenges throughout this period.
The data presented by these researchers suggest that lysostaphin expression in the gland prevents the establishment of infection. The authors monitored cows for both a febrile response and for the induction of acute phase protein synthesis, the latter of which is a sensitive marker of infection. In addition to these systemic indicators, individual quarters were monitored for changes in milk somatic cell counts, which during mastitis are primarily composed of white blood cells that play a role in combating infection. As expected, control cows that developed established S. aureus infections had increased body temperatures, elevated levels of circulating acute phase proteins, and increased milk somatic cells counts. In contrast, the transgenic animals demonstrated none of these signs of inflammation. These data suggest that lysostaphin prevents infection through its bactericidal properties and, thus, prevents the onset of inflammation.
Transgenic expression of antibiotic appears to have great promise when compared with traditional antibiotic therapy or intramammary infusion of lysostaphin. The key difference between these approaches is that one prevents the establishment of infection, whereas, the other is used to cure already established infections. It may be that once an S. aureus infection becomes established, it may be too late to intervene. Thus, prevention of infection, perhaps using a transgenic approach as demonstrated by these researchers, may be the more effective way to address this mastitis problem.
Clearly there are public concerns regarding the use of transgenic animals for food production. However, the approach demonstrated by the authors had little effect on milk composition. Further, others have demonstrated that lysostaphin has a low immunogenicity, thus, it remains unlikely to generate an allergic response if consumed12. Finally, in an age of considerable concern regarding the development of antibiotic resistance, alternatives that can minimize their use in food-borne animals, such as in the treatment of mastitis, require further investigation.
2. Sears PM & McCarthy KK (2003) Management and treatment of Staphylococcal mastitis. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 19, 171-185, vii
3. Kerro Dego O, van Dijk JE & Nederbragt H (2002) Factors involved in the early pathogenesis of bovine Staphylococcus aureus mastitis with emphasis on bacterial adhesion and invasion. A review. Vet Q 24, 181-198
4. Gillespie BE, Moorehead H, Lunn P, Dowlen HH, Johnson DL, Lamar KC, Lewis MJ, Ivey SJ, Hallberg JW, Chester ST & Oliver SP (2002) Efficacy of extended pirlimycin hydrochloride therapy for treatment of environmental Streptococcus spp and Staphylococcus aureus intramammary infections in lactating dairy cows. Vet Ther 3, 373-380
5. Climo MW, Patron RL, Goldstein BP & Archer GL (1998) Lysostaphin treatment of experimental methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus aortic valve endocarditis. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 42, 1355-1360
6. Dajcs JJ, Thibodeaux BA, Hume EB, Zheng X, Sloop GD & O'Callaghan RJ (2001) Lysostaphin is effective in treating methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus endophthalmitis in the rabbit. Curr Eye Res 22, 451-457
7. Huber MM & Huber TW (1989) Susceptibility of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus to lysostaphin. J Clin Microbiol 27, 1122-1124
8. Bramley AJ & Foster R (1990) Effects of lysostaphin on Staphylococcus aureus infections of the mouse mammary gland. Res Vet Sci 49, 120-121
9. Oldham ER & Daley MJ (1991) Lysostaphin: Use of a recombinant bactericidal enzyme as a mastitis therapeutic. J Dairy Sci 74, 4175-4182
10. Kerr DE, Plaut K, Bramley AJ, Williamson CM, Lax AJ, Moore K, Wells KD & Wall RJ (2001) Lysostaphin expression in mammary glands confers protection against Staphylococcal infection in transgenic mice. Nat Biotechnol 19, 66-70
11. Wall RJ, Powell AM, Paape MJ, Kerr DE, Bannerman DD, Pursel VG, Wells KD, Talbot N & Hawk HW (2005) Genetically enhanced cows resist intramammary Staphylococcus aureus infection. Nat Biotechnol 23, 445-451
12. Daley MJ & Oldham ER (1992) Lysostaphin: Immunogenicity of locally administered recombinant protein used in mastitis therapy. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 31, 301-312
Douglas D. Bannerman1 and Robert J. Wall2
ADVANCES AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVES IN FRUIT TREE TRANSFORMATION
Conventional breeding of temperate fruit trees is constrained by their extensive reproductive cycle with long juvenile periods, complex reproductive biology, and high degree of heterozygosity. As the commercial production of transgenic annual crops becomes a reality in many parts of the world, the question remains whether genetically engineering fruit trees will find commercial application.
Gene transfer for fruit tree improvement has several inherent advantages. Once a useful transformant is isolated, vegetative propagation, which is the normal method of multiplying fruit trees, provides unlimited production of the desired transgenic line. Fixation through the sexual cycle is unnecessary and inconvenient if commercially-accepted cultivars are transformed. Since production of most fruit tree species is based on a few cultivars, the impact of transforming one of them would be significant. Currently, however, the only transgenic fruit tree commercially produced is papaya (Carica papaya L.) resistant to PRSV (papaya ringspot virus). (Further information on commercialized transgenic crops can be found at http://www.agbios.com/).
o Fire blight and scab resistant apples and pears have been produced by integration of different genes, and plant growth has been modified by introducing the rol B gene in apple rootstocks. Additionally, transgenic apple releases to test possible resistance to pathogenic fungi and bacteria (B/NL/02/03/ and B/DE/03/140) or the effect of cDNA from apple self-(in)compatibility alleles on pollen-pistil incompatibility (B/BE/03/V1) are included in the European Commission data base (http://gmoinfo.jrc.it).
o Introduction of genes of interest subsequent to transformation of apricot seeds and plum hypocotyls has produced plants with increased sharka virus resistance.
o Cherry rootstocks with improved rooting and Basta herbicide resistance were obtained after transforming shoots with A. rhizogenes, and peaches with increased branching and reduced rooting were engineered using a "shooty mutant," A. tumefaciens, strain.
o Different grape cultivars have been transformed with genes coding for: 1) chitinases to confer resistance to pathogenic fungi; 2) different virus coat proteins; and 3) peptides with antimicrobial activity. Grape cultivars have also been transformed with the gene DefH9-iaaM, which induces parthenocarpy in flowers of different species.
o Japanese persimmons and walnuts transformed with the cryIA(c) gene were more resistant to lepidopteran pests, and kiwifruit transformed with the rol A, B and C genes had an improved rooting ability.
o Major objectives of Citrus transformation have been resistance to citrus tristeza virus (CTV) mediated by pathogen-derived genes, resistance to Phytophthora citrophthora using antifungal proteins, and tolerance to salinity by introducing HAL2 yeast-derived genes. In addition, Arabidopsis floral genes, such as LEAFY (LFY) or APETALA1 (AP1), constitutively expressed in citrus seedlings from apomictic seeds, shortened the juvenile phase and promoted precocious flowering. Transgenic plants produced normal, fertile flowers that set fruits containing seeds. These traits were transmitted to the progeny, resulting in trees with a generation time of one year from seed to seed. Whereas LFY lines showed alterations in growth and development, AP1 plants were adult and fully normal. Citrus plants expressing bovine lysozyme and snowdrop lectin are being evaluated in the greenhouse and in the field for their resistance to citrus canker (Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citri) and insects, respectively.
Genotype is a major determinant for transformation, and procedures developed for one cultivar are often not suitable for other cultivars. This is the most serious hindrance to the application of gene transfer technologies to fruit crops. For species with cultivars that can be reliably transformed, the literature generally reveals that few genotypes of a particular species are being transformed and, in some cases, that these genotypes are not commercially important.
Meristem transformation may eliminate the need for regeneration in production of transgenic plants, allowing genetic manipulation of established cultivars. However, high explant mortality and difficulties controlling Agrobacterium growth have limited the development of this methodology. Recently, a reliable procedure for transformation of different grape cultivars has been developed4. The authors generated "meristematic bulk" (MB) tissue from in vitro shoots by mechanical (dissection of the apical dome) and chemical (progressive increase in cytokinin concentration) treatments that abolish shoot apical dominance and also promote basal meristem proliferation. The MB tissue is a large aggregate of meristematic tissue with high regenerative competence, which can be transformed efficiently by Agrobacterium given the large number of dividing cells. This system seems to be easily adapted to other fruit trees; for instance, MBs have been produced from three apricot cultivars with similar regeneration efficiencies, according to data obtained in our laboratory. We are presently conducting experiments to transform MB tissue and regenerate transgenic shoots from apricot.
Selection of transformed regenerants is a critical step in any transformation procedure. Most commonly in fruit trees, antibiotics have been used as selection agents after integration of genes that confer antibiotic resistance. Concentration of the selective agent and timing of application must be optimized for each plant species.
Selection of transformed shoots is often complicated by the inactivation of the selection agent by transformed cells and persistence of Agrobacterium in the explants, which permits regeneration of non-transformed shoots (escapes), sometimes at a high frequency.
Despite the economic importance of Prunus, transformation technology is not available for most Prunus species, which may be due to difficulties posed by adventitious regeneration and/or a high sensitivity to antibiotics. Whereas in Citrus, pear, walnut, or olive, selection is provided by 100 mg/L kanamycin, in Prunus inhibitory concentrations are frequently much lower (5 to 10 mg/L in almond, for instance), and specific selection strategies are often necessary.
2. Miki B & McHugh S (2004) Selectable marker genes in transgenic plants: applications, alternatives and biosafety, J Biotechnol 107, 193-232
3. Petri C & Burgos L (2005) Transformation of fruit trees. Useful breeding tool or continued future prospect? Transgenic Res 14, 15-26
4. Mezzetti B, Pandolfini T, Navacchi O & Landi L (2002) Genetic transformation of Vitis vinifera via organogenesis. BMC Biotechnology 2, 18
César Petri and Lorenzo Burgos
TRANSGENIC BASMATI RICE
Genetic engineering of crop plants has emerged as a powerful tool for creating and preserving genetic diversity, which can then be exploited through conventional methods of plant breeding. Many important traits incorporated through genetic engineering techniques, including herbicide resistance, drought and salt tolerance, improved colors in fiber and flower crops, resistance to water logging, nutritional benefits, and longer shelf lives, result from symbiotic relationships between biotechnologists and plant breeders. These relationships have contributed to the successful incorporation of insect resistance in a number of plant species. An important source of insect resistance genes is a gram-positive soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, encoding insecticidal crystal proteins toxic to a selective range of insects. A number of genetically modified insect resistant crop species have been tested under natural conditions and many are enjoying commercial status. The global area under transgenic crop cultivation for the year 2003 was 44.2 million hectares, and the main transgenic crops were soybean, corn, cotton, and canola1.
Transgenic crops should be extensively studied and field trials conducted to assess possible risks posed by these plants. When conducting risk assessment trials, one should consider the biology of the crop, the introduced trait, the receiving environment, and the interactions among these aspects. Other considerations include the source of the insect resistant gene and the method by which it is introduced into the plant. Target insects characteristics should be studied to help prevent the emergence of pest resistance. The choice of experimental design, considerations about resistant management strategies, and biosafety measures are also important to consider when conducting field trials.
We report the first field trial of two transgenic lines of Indica Basmati rice (B-370) expressing either the cry1Ac or cry2A genes. We grew the transgenic lines under field conditions for two consecutive years, using either a randomized complete block design (RCBD) or a split plot design (2000-2001). Additional lines, simultaneously expressing the two Bt cry1Ac and cry2A genes, were also sown under field conditions using the RCBD (2001), and at two different locations (2002) using the split plot design. A strategy that combines a refugia strategy with the use of transgenic lines containing a high dose of Cry proteins expressed simultaneously from two unique Bt genes is effective in the delay of resistance against Bt toxins2.
Biosafety precautions were taken during all field trials. Sixty neonate larvae of the yellow stem borer (YSB, Scirpophaga incertulas) were artificially introduced onto each plant in three installments (2000 and 2001), while during the second year, plants were infested with three freshly hatched egg masses. Data were collected on dead hearts/leaf damage and whiteheads at the vegetative and flowering stages, respectively. The transgenic Indica rice lines were significantly resistant to the applied target insects (p<0.01). Natural infestations of rice skipper (2000) and rice leaf folder (RLF, Cnaphalochrocus medinalis; 2001 and 2002) were also observed during these trials, and the transgenic rice was statistically superior to the untransformed counterparts in resisting damage by these insects. Transgenic lines displayed up to 100 and 98% resistance against YSB at the vegetative and flowering stages (Fig. 1), respectively, with 98% additional resistance against RLF as compared with the untransformed control.
Figure 1. Basmati and control rice showing resistance to Yellow Stem Borer
The presence of cry genes was confirmed using Dot blot, PCR, and Southern blot analysis, while ELISA and Western bolt analysis confirmed the expression of Cry proteins. All lines expressed higher levels of Cry proteins when compared with commercially released cultivars of Bt cotton, maize, and potato.
Variation in some morphological characteristics, e.g., the average number of tillers, plant height, and maturity, were observed. Lines expressing two genes were superior for average number of tillers, plant height, days to maturity, and resistance to lodging as compared to the lines expressing one gene and the untransformed control. Transgenic lines produced up to 59% more grains than control plants under artificially augmented conditions, while up to an 8% increase was recorded under natural infestation conditions alone.
All transgenic Basmati rice lines expressed a high level of Cry proteins, and although toxin titer substantially decreased with increasing age of the plants, it remained well within the range to kill target insects effectively. Gene expression was constitutive, as toxins were quantified in different parts of the plants, specifically leaves, stem, roots, panicle, seeds, and kernel. Although the promoters were not tissue specific, significant variation was recorded for Bt insecticidal protein quantified in different parts of the plants, perhaps due to a difference in water and protein contents. Some variation in cry expression in different parts of the plants has been reported3,4. In this study, the expression of cry2A was significantly less than cry1Ac, which may be due to the fact that cry2A was under the control of the CaMV 35S promoterthe ubiquitin promoter is reported to be more active than CaMV 35S in transgenic rice plants5.
The transgenic lines had no effect on the presence of non-target insects (insects belonging to orders other than diptera and lepidoptera) nor on the germination of three local varieties of wheat. A 0.18% level of cross pollination was calculated in experimental lines. It was also observed that the transgenic lines released Bt toxins from roots into Murashige and Skoog (MS) basal medium (1.5 ng/ml of medium), hydroponic cultures (1.6 ng/ml of solution) and into the soil in trace amounts, which could be detected through sandwich ELISA.
The insect resistant Basmati rice displayed short plant height and early maturity characteristics. Its nutritional value was comparable to the parent lines. However, transgenic Basmati rise is not currently in a variety development program, likely due to a negative public perception of transgenic organisms. The advantages of developing insect resistant rice include greater yields with less input, avoidance of excess chemical spray, and superior performance during insect pest epidemics. These studies also provide additional data on the biosafety of transgenic crops, acquired insect resistance to Cry proteins, and the fate of transgenes in the soil.
2. Cohen MB, Gould F, Bentur JS. (2000) Bt rice: Practical steps to sustainable use. IRRN (25)2, 4-10
3. Husnain T, Jan A, Maqbool SB, Datta SK, Riazuddin S. (2002) Variability in expression of insecticidal Cry1Ab gene in Indica Basmati rice. Euphytica 128, 121-128
4. Bashir K et al. (2004) Field evaluation and risk assessment of transgenic Indica Basmati rice. Mol. Breeding 13, 301-312
5. Koziel MG et al. (1993) Field performance of elite transgenic maize plants expressing an insecticidal protein derived from Bacillus thuringiensis. Bio/technology 11, 194-200
TRACKING PLANT TRANSGENES IN SOIL - WHERE DO THEY GO?
The fate of DNA in soil
The body of research examining transgenic DNA in the food supply and in the ecosystem has grown substantially in recent years. In the environment, transgene escape through intra- and interspecific hybridization during all stages of field production has been observed2. Although we are beginning to understand the extent of transgenic DNA above the soil surface, very little is known about the fate of transgenic plant DNA in the soil ecosystem. Technical challenges of working in the soil environment, including high spatial variability and difficulties of extracting DNA without co-extraction of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) inhibitors, have been significant limitations to this area of research. However, recent advances in DNA extraction methodology and molecular techniques allow for the development of routine high-throughput techniques to examine comprehensively the fate of plant DNA in the soil environment.
Recently, Lerat et al.3 developed molecular tools for the detection of plant DNA in soil for glyphosate tolerant (Roundup Ready®) corn and soybean. In these crops, the CP4 EPSPS gene (5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase), which confers resistance to glyphosate, is identical, while other elements of the inserted gene cassettes of RR corn (event NK603)4 and RR soybean (event 40-3-2)5 are similar.
The challenge lies in DNA recovery
2. Marvier & Van Acker (2005) Can crop transgenes be kept on a leash? Front. Ecol. Environ. 3, 99-106
3. Lerat et al. (2005) Real-time polymerase chain reaction quantification of the transgenes for Roundup Ready corn and Roundup Ready soybean in soil samples. J. Agric. Food. Chem. 53, 1337-13424. See http://www.agbios.com/docroot/decdocs/02-269-007.pdf
Robert Gulden* (corresponding author)
GAO SEES DEFICIENCIES IN EFFORTS TO GUARD AGRICULTURE FROM TERRORISM
In October 1999, Dr. Floyd P. Horn, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, warned a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the vulnerability of American agriculture to a terrorist attack. Other experts have also emphasized the susceptibility of agriculture to a deliberate introduction of animal and plant pathogens at the farm level. Natural barriers that could slow pathogenic dissemination have been thwarted by the concentrated and intensive nature of modern farming practices with highly genetically homogeneous livestock and crops.
Livestock offer an especially attractive target. Terrorists can pick an economically valuable livestock, match the target against a published list of diseases, and select the most accessible pathogen. Many of these organisms are endemic outside the United States and can be isolated from common materials with very little training. And unlike the weapons of bioterrorism, lethal and highly contagious biological agents that affect animals usually do not harm humans.
In fact, experts suggest that the economy, not human health, would experience the greatest impact of an agroterrorism attack. An assault on agriculture would cause direct losses from containment measures and eradication of diseased animals, compensation paid to farmers for destruction of agricultural commodities, and a decrease in international trade as export partners impose protective embargoes.
Following years of warning punctuated by the September 11 terrorist attacks, the federal government has attempted to secure U.S. agriculture. Yet in its March 2005 report, the Government Accountability Office finds that these efforts fall short.
Reshaping Government Agencies to Protect Against Agroterrorism
The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 expanded the duties of the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services for ensuring agriculture security. The departments gained responsibility for requiring companies, laboratories, and other entities to register materials that could pose a threat to agriculture and human health. The Act also required the USDA and HHS to develop an inventory of potentially dangerous agents and toxins that cause animal, plant, or human diseases. Individuals who possess or use these materials must register with the Secretary of Agriculture or HHS and submit to a background check performed by the U.S. Attorney General.
The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 further authorized the USDA to conduct and support research into the development of an agricultural bioterrorism early warning system. Such a network would enhance coordination between state veterinary diagnostic laboratories, federal and state agricultural research facilities, and public health agencies. To support these efforts, the USDA has the authority to coordinate with the intelligence community for evaluating information about potential threats to U.S. agriculture.
The President issued four directives that further define agencies' responsibilities in protecting agriculture. The directive most relevant to agriculture, Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-9, establishes a national policy for defending the country's agriculture and food system against terrorist attacks and major disasters. Under the Directive, DHS serves as the lead agency responsible for ensuring the adequacy of federal, state, and local authorities in responding quickly to a terrorist attack. HSPD-9 also commands the DHS to oversee a national biological surveillance system that will help to differentiate between natural and intentional outbreaks. The Directive tasks the USDA and HHS with developing secure laboratories to enhance diagnostic capabilities for foreign animal and zoonotic diseases. If an agroterrorism attack should occur, then the DHS, USDA, HHS, and Environmental Protection Agency share responsibility for decontamination and stabilization of agricultural production.
Federal agencies have responded to this surge of responsibility and shifting authority. The FDA and USDA have been conducting vulnerability assessments to identify agricultural products most susceptible to terrorist attacks. The USDA and HHS have been forming laboratory networks to enhance diagnostic and monitoring capability. The USDA has established a committee to guide the development of a National Veterinary Stockpile. And the USDA created sixteen Area and Regional Emergency Coordinator positions to help states develop individual emergency response plans.
The GAO found serious shortcomings in these efforts.
Glitches in the System
The GAO also expressed concern that the USDA uses diagnostic tests to characterize an outbreak at selected laboratories, not at the site of the outbreak. Experts consider on-site testing critical for speeding diagnosis, containing the disease, and minimizing the number of animals that must be slaughtered.
HSPD-9 requires federal and state agencies to develop a National Veterinary Stockpile that contains sufficient amounts of animal vaccines and other therapeutic products for responding to the most damaging animal diseases affecting human health and the economy. And the Directive demands that these therapeutics should be available within 24 hours of an outbreak. Yet the GAO found that vaccine supplies are limited; the USDA usually prefers to immediately slaughter diseased animals rather than vaccinate. The agency maintains vaccines for only one foreign animal infection: foot and mouth disease. Even these vaccines cannot be rapidly deployed, because they would first need to be sent to the United Kingdom for bottling and testing.
The GAO also uncovered several management problems that reduce the effectiveness of routine efforts to protect against agroterrorism. Following the transfer of most USDA agricultural inspectors to DHS, agricultural inspections at ports of entry decreased, even though imports increased. DHS points to a large number of unfilled vacancies for agricultural inspectors, and plans to hire more than 500 inspectors by fiscal year 2006. Others have noted difficulties faced by former APHIS inspectors in the culture of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, as well as a lack of clarity about responsibilities shared by the USDA and Customs at U.S. ports.
The GAO's report suggests many changes that federal agencies could implement to address its concerns. However, the organization highlights two recommendations: the USDA should examine the costs and benefits of developing stockpiles of ready-to-use vaccines, and the DHS and the USDA should investigate the reasons for declining agricultural inspections.
Reinvention, not Reshaping
In 2004, Peter Chalk of the Rand Corporation advised that safety measures should be standardized and streamlined within the framework of an integrated strategy that cuts across the responsibilities and capabilities of federal, state, and local agencies. "Integration of agriculture and food safety measures," he wrote, "would also serve to reduce jurisdictional conflicts and eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort."
Edmonson RG (2005) What's bugging ag inspectors. Journal of Commerce, page 44 (February 14, 2005)
GAO (2005) Homeland security: Much is being done to protect agriculture from a terrorist attack, but important challenges remain. March 8, 2005. Available at: http://www.gao.gov
Segarra AE (2002) Agroterrorism: Options in Congress. Congressional Research Service. July 17, 2002. Available at: http://www.ncseonline.org/NLE/
Phillip B. C. Jones, PhD., J.D.
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