Our Safe Food Supply - Case Study 4 "In the Shadows"

A  WebQuest for Grades 8 - 12, WebQuest Agricultural Series by Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri State University

This WebQuest is intended to accompany the DVD, "Agro-Security - Safeguarding the American Food Supply."



We Americans enjoy an abundant food supply. Most, do not even think about all the steps necessary to make sure that the food, farms, production companies and other agricultural products remains safe all the way to our dinner tables. This WebQuest is intended to lead you to think about some of the vulnerabilities to our food supply, as food items move from the farm to your table.

Here is a CASE STUDY for you to read and consider. The study shows what can happen when an agricultural employee becomes suspicious of a customer.


The following story was part of a presentation given by Robert. S. Mueller, III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the International Symposium on Agro-terrorism held in 2005.

“One year ago, police arrested a man for possession of home-made ricin, a deadly poison. He had placed a large order for castor seeds – the material used to make ricin – from a seed company in New York. An employee of the seed company became suspicious and called the FBI Field Office in New York. When FBI agents searched the man’s home, they found clear jars labeled ‘Caution – ricin poison.’ ‘They also found larger amounts of castor seeds, chemicals used during different stages of ricin production, and equipment commonly used in the “underground” manufacturing of the poison. We found the ricin before it could harm anyone based on the tip from the seed company employee. The employee’s suspicions might have amounted to nothing. Instead, they resulted in the man’s conviction for possession of a biological toxin.”

The point of this case study is that anyone involved in agriculture can play a role in preventing terrorism. We might observe something that seems out of the ordinary, just like the employee from the seed company in this story. If that were to happen, tell someone. Perhaps its nothing, but what if it is.

In this WebQuest, you will use your knowledge and the knowledge of others about agricultural production to learn about vulnerabilities that there might be from terrorist acts. Your task is to interview five different people in various occupations. The results of your interviews will be compiled to respond to the following scenario.

Step 1: Be sure to view the "Agro-Security - Safeguarding the American Food Supply" that is provided.

Step 2: Read the following:


You and your friends are driving home from a school dance one Friday night. As you pass the local fertilizer company, you see someone move suspiciously between buildings. You know that the local police periodically drive by the company after hours to keep an eye on things, especially since the company had been burglarized the previous month. You also know that there isn't supposed to be anyone on the gated and fenced property after company hours. Your friends are late meeting their curfew and want to quietly return home. They don't want to get involved because they are afraid their parents will "ground" them and they won't get to go to the football game Saturday night.

Step 3: The teacher will divide the class into groups of three or four students. Each group will defend an assigned position. Your group will either defend a "pro" position which allows you to report the suspicious action or a "con" position which allows you to ignore the suspicious activity.

Step 4: Each group will conduct a total of five interviews with other students in different classes or grades, using the pre approved questions. Collect the answers to all questions.

Step 5: For the five interviews, your group will need to ask a set of six pre approved questions. You want to know what each person's reaction would be if they were taking part in the scenario above. The questions you need answered should cover the who, what, why, when, where and how of the scenario above.

Step 6: As a group, compile the results of the interviews. Use the results to write a one page group response to the above scenario. Defend your position "pro" or "con" -- did your group agree with the results compiled from the interviews? Why or why not?

Step 7 - Assignment 2: Agencies that protect us

There are many federal, state and local agencies working together to make sure our food supply remains safe. These are discussed in Chapter 3 of the DVD. Here is a worksheet. It lists the names of the various federal agencies that have roles in prevention agroterrorism. View chapter 3 of the DVD and complete the worksheet, giving the name of the organization and briefly explain its role in preventing terrorist activities.

As a result of this case study, the interviews, and your response, you have gained an understanding of the vulnerabilities that our abundant food supply faces on a daily basis.


Grading Rubric


7 pts.

5 pts.

2 pts.

0 pts.

6 Questions Questions demonstrate strong understanding of the problem. Questions demonstrate some understanding of the problem Incomplete. Questions demonstrate little understanding of the problem Complete lack of understanding.
Interviews All sources properly cited and answers complete. All sources properly cited but answers incomplete. Most sources cited but not all and answers incomplete. Complete lack of citation answers.
Group Response to Interviews Answers compiled and response demonstrated complete understanding. Able to compile most answers and response demonstrates understanding. Tried to answer questions and the response demonstrates some understanding. Were not able to compile answers or demonstrate understanding.
Worksheet Correctly explained the role of each agency Correctly explained the role of most agencies Attempt made but incomplete. Little indication of attempt made.


This page was developed by Lyndon and the late Barbara Irwin and is maintained by Missouri Farm Bureau.

Please address questions to Diane Olson at Missouri Farm Bureau.