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July 01, 2004

I Beg to Differ: Biosafety

Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Biotechnology

The Science Times of the New York Times has an interesting new feature called "I Beg to Differ."  I assume that it is focusing on some perspective that is somehow out of the mainstream related to science or science policy.

In this week's column, William J. Broad profiles Dr. Richard H. Ebright of Rutgers's Waksman Institute.  Dr. Ebright's perspective can be gleaned from this excerpt:

"The government and many security experts say one crucial step is to build more high-security laboratories, where scientists can explore the threats posed not only by deadly natural germs, but also by designer pathogens - genetically modified superbugs that could outdo natural viruses and bacteria in their killing power. To this end, the Bush administration has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to erect such laboratories in Boston; Galveston, Tex.; and Frederick, Md., among other places, increasing eightfold the overall space devoted to the high-technology buildings.  Dr. Ebright, on the other hand, views the plans as a recipe for catastrophe. The laboratories, called biosafety level 4, or BSL-4, are costly, unnecessary and dangerous, he says.  "I'm concerned about them from the standpoint of science, safety, security, public health and economics," he added in an interview. "They lose on all counts."  Dr. Ebright has no illusions about the likelihood of biological warfare. "I think there's a very real threat of bioweapons use," he said."

The article does a nice job of laying out policy alternatives and why they matter.  Good for the Times for breaking some new ground in science policy journalism.  I am looking forward to future stories.

Posted on July 1, 2004 08:54 AM


Bill Broad is a great reporter. I've been an admirer of his for years, since he was at Science mag. He also writes books about the politics of science. His excellent bio of Edward Teller--father of both the H bomb and of Star Wars--came to mind in all of the Reagan hoopla.

Keep up the good work

Posted by: Duncan Brown at July 2, 2004 07:59 AM

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