Saturday, February 24, 2007
There have been stories in the media lately about a mysterious disease of honeybees causing something called colony collapse disorder, in which entire hives of bees are wiped out. Scientists don't know the cause.
Honeybees are essential to the health of America's agriculture industry, especially tree crops like nuts, apples, oranges and cherries. Only the bees are able to pollinate the flowers, which is necessary for the production of fruit. A shortage of honeybees means lower crop yields, higher prices, and all kinds of economic ripples.
Suppose someone like al-Qaeda or Iran has developed a bioweapon that affects honeybees? It would be unlikely to cause immediate alarm at DHS because it doesn't affect humans directly, and being infectious, it would spread all over the country once introduced. Heck, it wouldn't even have to be brought into the US, merely released in Mexico or someplace further south and over time infected bees would migrate from there to here (See any story on the spread of "killer bees.")
Suppose, further, that the foregoing is true and whatever evil genius invented the cause of colony collapse disorder is working on similar under-the-radar plant and animal diseases. (Think, e.g., mad cow disease, or any of the various diseases that attack maize.) Imagine the havoc it would cause to America's economy over the long term, at least until the brains at various universities and government agencies figure out how to stop the infection(s). The maize angle would be particularly pernicious, because it is food for both humans and animals, and now the government is pushing ethanol as an alternative fuel.
One big problem with bioweapons is, once unleashed they cannot easily be controlled or stopped, and they have the potential to infect the entire world. But there's nothing that I've noticed in the activities of al-Qaeda and their ilk to date that suggests they're big on environmentalism. Frankly, I don't think they care if they destroy the Earth, because they are convinced of their heavenly reward, be it virgins or raisins.
Once again, if I can think up something like this, then so can the bad guys, and I sincerely hope that the people who are assessing threats to the US (who are undoubtedly smarter than I) are also thinking about it, and about what to do to meet the threat.