Brussels has launched a bid to tighten EU defences against the threat of terror attacks on the food supply chain.

In a green paper on "bio-preparedness", to prompt a debate on the issue, the European Commission said it wanted to enhance the EU's defences in case terrorists resorted to "non-coventional means such as biological weapons or materials [which could] destroy agriculture and infect animal populations and affect food and feed at any stage in the food supply chain."

The Commission said the biggest threat to the food supply chain was the introduction of a pathogen or contaminant, which could threaten public health and severely affect trade with countries outside the EU.

The procedures in place to deal with an attack were similar to those put in place if a natural animal disease outbreak occured, it said.

However, it added: "Our tools could be developed to face bio-terror attacks during which pathogens could be introduced in a number of different locations across the EU and to cope with outbreaks of diseases."

The Commission has invited member states to comment on whether more funding for research is needed in this area and whether existing surveillance and detection measures could be improved.