We had a field trip today. Several colleagues and I visited with officials at the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the NC Division of Emergency Management. Some impressions:
The Agriculture folks are well aware of the issues of food purity and contamination in the growing, transportation, and processing of food for consumers. Paradoxically, the movement for organic farming sometimes introduces contaminants into food because producers are not big enough to screen for these substances. At times these issues can cause bacteria to persist on fresh items--those healthy, green leafy things--that would be eliminated if cooked. (As my mother said, "Wash that lettuce, you don't know where the dog has been.")
Emergency Management takes great pains to show that they know how to handle any issue. They discussed the variety of disasters they have faced in the experience of the folks who talked to us--we are talking decades. They handled hurricanes, fires, and floods. Very impressive. I was glad that I live here because our emergency services are well prepared. Nevertheless, I wondered about the threats that we have not seen. Whether natural or human-induced, we unfortunately will face a variety of new types of threats in the coming years as we alter the environment and change our own habitat. How will we detect them? How can we be ready for the threat we cannot yet imagine?