An editorial in the latest Nature critiques the expansion biosafety programs under the Bush Administration...
Five years ago, in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, anthrax was found in the mail in several locations in the United States. The discovery heightened fears that the country was vulnerable to bioterrorist attack. Subsequently, the federal government has, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington DC, spent a staggering $36 billion on biosafety-related activities.
Criticism of this approach was muted back in 2001, but five years on it is surging in the communities designated to host biosafety labs. Despite protests, however, the government is accelerating its investment in the biodefence complex that is now taking shape.
These objections have concentrated on local questions, but the proliferation of such labs begs the broader question of how much biodefence is too much. In the febrile climate of 2001, the Bush administration wasn't pressed sufficiently to explain why such proliferation of knowledge is in the national interest. Five years on, the time has come for it to do so..
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