Clive Beddall Sir Don Curry's Commission on the Future of Farming and Food will be urged to recommend strengthening Britain's food production base amid fears of terrorist attacks disrupting supplies along the international food chain. The move follows informal private talks among retailers, manufacturers and MPs during this week's Labour Party conference in Brighton where worries about the sector becoming a target for terrorists were voiced. The possibility of food chain sabotage, with major disruptions to supplies, has also been the subject of several private industry meetings since the World Trade Centre attack on September 11. British Veterinary Association chief David Tyson has urged tighter controls on meat imports to thwart a biological attack using food. He warned that if terrorists take advantage of weak import controls, a human catastrophe could occur. "Terrorism could strike at people through food supplies as well as buildings," he added. Leading food industry figures are concerned that the UK should build a more solid domestic supply base as an insurance against supply challenges caused by terrorism. Industry executives The Grocer talked to in Brighton stressed that they were not being "alarmist or apocalyptic, just sensible". As one put it: "We are, after all, an island and a global terrorism threat to supplies is now very real." However, communication links between government and the food industry have become closer since last year's fuel tax blockades when food distribution arrangements were within 24 hours of total paralysis. That led to then agriculture minister Nick Brown calling on IGD for a detailed assessment of operational issues during the crisis. This week a DEFRA spokesman said the department had discussed the dangers with the NFU and veterinary organisations. He stressed the government was maintaining close communications with stakeholders in the food chain. He added: "There are contingency plans against terrorism and to ensure the safety of food and water supplies." Meanwhile, in the US, the Washington Food and Drug Administration has met food industry groups in an effort to ensure that the nation's food supply is protected from bioterrorist attacks. Among the areas discussed were the screening of employees and protecting supply and distribution chains. In addition, the agency asked what the government should do to increase the security of the food supply. l See Opinion, page 20. {{NEWS }}