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Report Identifies Threat of Virus Research Lab

24 June 2008

US - A report that was released by the US Homeland Security Department on Friday has revealed that the impact of a livestock disease will be considerably greater if the decision to move the Bio and Agro-Defense Facility goes ahead.

The administration is studying the safest place to move its research on such dangerous pathogens from Plum Island to the U.S. mainland near herds of livestock, raising concerns about a catastrophic outbreak. A final choice is expected by late fall.


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"We protect not only our nation’s security, but also the vibrancy of our agriculture system."
Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay Cohen.

“The proposed NBAF would enable us to meet the challenges posed by the intentional or unintentional introduction of a foreign animal or zoonotic disease that could threaten the U.S. livestock industry, food supply and public health,” said Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science and Technology Jay Cohen. “By expanding and modernizing our ability to develop advanced test and evaluation capabilities and vaccine countermeasures for these types of diseases, we protect not only our nation’s security, but also the vibrancy of our agriculture system.”

The proposed NBAF is a joint effort with the Department of Agriculture that would establish a state-of the-art, high-security laboratory facility to study both foreign animal and zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans).

The NBAF would be designed to replace the existing facilities at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in New York. PIADC is currently the only facility in the U.S. that studies the live virus that causes Foot-and-Mouth disease. The current facility is too small to meet new research needs and has an outdated physical structure that makes it unsuitable for zoonotic disease research that must be conducted at the highest level of biosafety, BSL-4. There is no laboratory facility in the U.S. for BSL-4 research on livestock.

No decision has been made yet on where, or even if, the facility would be built. The Science and Technology Directorate is undergoing this extensive review process to thoroughly evaluate each option, with the feedback of all interested parties, before any decision is made.

The Draft EIS analyzes the proposal to design, construct and operate the NBAF, including risk assessments, for each of the six proposed NBAF locations: Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.; Madison County, Miss.; Granville County, N.C.; San Antonio, Texas and Plum Island, N.Y. The Draft EIS also analyzes a no-action alternative, in which a new facility is not built.

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