NBAF: The reviews are done and it’s time to act

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Sen. Pat RobertsGeni WrenSen. Pat Roberts U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) makes no bones about it. The time is now to continue with funding and the construction of the and National Bio and Agrodefense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan.

Roberts, who was speaking to Kansas City Animal Health Corridor members this week in Kansas City, Mo., says a previous trip to Russia seeing what some of their potential biological weaponization capabilities are as well as his participation in a mock foot and mouth disease exercise in Kansas, demonstrated the urgent need for a biosafety level 4 laboratory to replace the aging Plum Island, N.Y., facility.

“I learned from that exercise which dealt with a hypothetical FMD outbreak through several states the devastation that can occur to the livestock industry, food production, food supply, etc.,” he said.

Roberts also took part in some agroterrorism conferences put on by the FBI and other agencies over the last several years in Kansas City that also discussed potential agroterrorism and agriculture emergency situations.  “I learned from that about mitigation efforts and the importance of law enforcement in this whole scheme. I’m proud to say all 105 counties in Kansas have an emergency plan in place.”

The NBAF has had its share of turmoil with lawsuits, funding issues and more. Budget cuts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been an issue. “We need DHS to walk the walk on funding,” Roberts said. “If we have a possible agroterrorism event that is regional or nationwide, we can’t afford not to build the NBAF.”

The NBAF is still undergoing review process, though Roberts says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is supportive of a level 4 lab and DHS Secretary of Janet Napolitano has also indicated support. “This lab at Kansas State would work with other universities as well,” Roberts said. “It’s a national lab for a national threat. The reviews are done and it’s time to act.” He said in the next few weeks more options surrounding funding of the NBAF will be discussed.

“It’s about the safety of the U.S. food supply,” Roberts said. “This is a bipartisan issue and I’m optimistic we’ll get it done.”

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Steve Pfister    
Manhattan KS  |  August, 24, 2012 at 03:26 PM

It might appear there are others who have already done this work? Vaccines : Foot and Mouth Disease, manufacturer—licensed countries Agrovet Russia Bayer Saúde Animal Brazil Biogénesis-Bago S.A. Argentina Biovet Private Limited India Botswana Vaccine Institute Botswana Brilliant Bio Pharma Ltd. India Centro Diagnóstico Veterinario Argentina Instituto de Sanidad Ganadera Argentina Empresa Colombiana de Productos Veterinarios S.A. (Vecol) Colombia FMD Center Thailand Indian Immunologicals Limited India (largest FMD manufacturer in the world) Intervac (PVT) Ltd. Pakistan Laboratorios Laverlam S.A. Colombia Limor de Colombia Colombia Merial Bresil Brazil Merial Philippines Philippines Merial SAS (France) Netherlands MSD Animal Health (Merck) Algeria, Netherlands, Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Afghanistan, Bhutan, India National Veterinary Institute Ethiopia Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute Iran Vallée SA Brazil Vetal Company Turkey Veterinary Serum and Vaccine Research Institute Egypt

NY  |  August, 25, 2012 at 06:54 PM

Another example of a congressman who has no clue what he is talking about. You don't need biosafety level 4 to work with FMD. And he's just now realizing the devastation a disease outbreak could have on his constituents? Why has he been elected?

Kansas  |  August, 27, 2012 at 07:44 AM

It is a border issue and lack of leadership shown again. We are a nation that doesn't have it and the others do so why do we want it? It is not something to get and Senator Roberts for another time in his life does not understand (or will he listen) the consequences if and when we get it. Talk to the several families in Europe who were involved in the suicides of their fathers as they burned their livestock and operations down. WE do not have it and we don't need it so keep it our of here. How did the environmental impact study for Manhattan get done in 4 months? Where do the jobs from Plum Island go? They are not going to pump gas in Washington after being a scientist..So this then could be a job elimination for those who support it. Google earth and look at the facility. It was put there for a reason and that is risk of spreading a disease, limited access and salt water surroundings. Plum Island already has a couple of vaccines for FMD and you miss the point if KSU is your answer. We need to be the ones who don't have it and then we will sell higher quality and safer beef/cattle at a higher price to those who can afford it (the very best market is right here). WE have a serious shortage of cattle in this country. Remember that once you vaccinate you always will vaccinate and the price you get for your losses (after the fact) will be another whole issue. Don't buy into the lies from another (never had a real job) congressman. Sen. Roberts is part of the problem with why we (USA) are in the mess we are in as a country. How many years has he been in "leadership"? I rest my case.

Darrel Franson    
SW Missouri  |  August, 27, 2012 at 02:12 PM

Senator Roberts, (KS) is right about one thing. The Level 4 animal disease lab on Plumb Island needs to be updated or replaced. The risk of agroterrorismis a real one. Roberts' being "right" ends there. Why the issue is in the hands of DHS I'll never guess. Their incompetentcy as evidenced in other undertakings foretells of disaster "leaking" out of a Level 4 lab located smack dab in the middle of America's cattle belt. Prevailing winds would spread a leak of Foot and Mouth Disease pathogens throughout a dozen states in a short few days. The lab was located on an island off of the US mainland's eastern shore in the first place for good reason. Keep it there. Let Senator Roberts stick some other hog to find the PORK FOR HIS STATE. All in one week we heard of an 83 year old Nun breaking into our most secure nuclear storage facility and going undetected for several hours, sport-skydivers jumping onto our most secure US Naval submarine base, and a Russian submarine present in the Gulf of Mexico for a month without being detected. Don't try to tell me Murphy's Law doesn't exist in Level 4 labs. Plumb Island has had two major "leaks" of deadly pathogens in its years of operation. Thankfully, they drifted out to sea. Cattlemen, rise up and stop this lab from being built in Kansas!

Kansas  |  August, 27, 2012 at 03:17 PM

Darrel, if the risk of agroterrorism is real, then why hasn't anything happened since 9/11? It seems to me that the agroterrorists would want to attack when we're most vulnerable, before we're able to do the research to combat whatever it is that they're going to throw at us. Why would they wait until after we build BLS-4 lab to attack. Bottomline, the need for this lab was all hype and pork barrel politics. The NRC report indicated that existing facilities are under-utilized and with coordination the research proposed for NBAF could be done elsewhere.

Rob B    
Nebraska  |  August, 27, 2012 at 06:56 PM

Amen! There is no reasonable justification to build such a lab in the heart of cattle country at all. This is just pork pure and simple. Greed makes us blind and Senator Roberts is blinded by short term gain with an almost certain long term pain. After all he almost certainly won't be around when the manure hits the fan. I say revamp or rebuild Plum Island!

Joel G    
Ccentral MS  |  August, 27, 2012 at 08:36 PM

MS was in consideration for the placement of the lab. I opposed it here as well as anywhere on the US mainland due to the hazards posed by an accidental release due to earthquake, tornado, or other storm. The Plum Island facility needs to be updated, but it needs to remain on Plum Island for the continued protection of the US cattle and swine industries as well as the protection of the deer the hunting industry craves. Sen. Roberts is way off base and not looking out for the good of the people of the US much less the good of his constituency in KS.

Steve Pfister    
Manhattan KS  |  August, 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM

The NBAF will be the first facility of its kind in the U.S. to conduct critical studies on Nipah and Hendra and other emerging zoonotic viruses in large animal models (e.g., cattle and swine) in the highest containment level. (DHS Site Specific Report Feb, 2012 “Executive Summary”.) Nipah virus is important as a potential biological weapon (targeted to animals, humans, or both) for the following reasons: • Even a small outbreak in pigs could result in mass culling of affected herds, thereby causing substantial economic loss to the industry or to the national economy of the affected country. • Nipah virus can infect humans and the case-fatality rate may be as high as 50%. • There is no effective treatment or vaccine for the disease in either pigs or humans (although ribavirin may reduce mortality in humans with encephalitis). • Little is known about Nipah virus, so an outbreak in animals or humans could cause substantial fear and social disruption.

Steve Pfister    
Manhattan KS  |  August, 28, 2012 at 12:43 AM

The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1946. Only 100,000 people were killed. During the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918, 500 million people were infected with the virus and 130,000,000 people died. A simple pathogen release from a careless employee is serious business. Think risk to the nation, not just Kansas. The effort needs to be to control the production of bio-weapons, not to expand production and threaten other nations. Deadly viruses have no respect for borders or armed guards, nor do they have loyalties to any nation. Recent Senate hearings addressing “dual use” research may have some new advice on how we might better protect the security of our country. Bigger bombs haven’t made the world a more secure place, and it is doubtful that more potent germs will either.

Kansas  |  August, 29, 2012 at 07:26 AM

I would agree that in an open border policy that viruses have no boundaries, do your research on the increase of TB in Mexico cattle and humans. What are we doing to ensure that this doesn't become epidemic? NOTHING.. Who's cooking without any sort of testing? Border security is a start, it is not perfect but nothing is. The controls we need have to do with politicians on the take. As J.Dudley Butler recently stated: "Politicians are like diapers, they need to be changed often and for the same reason"! I hope you feel that protecting our industry starts without exposing it to any risk.. Don't buy it, go try and walk in on a confinement hog operation owned by the big pork to those hog house janitors who have no open and competitive market (or they would own the hogs). I rest my case.

Derner Angus Inc    
Bartlett Ne  |  September, 01, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Another paid off lieing congressman.

Larry Brack    
Leoti, Ks  |  September, 04, 2012 at 06:13 AM

We do not want or need NBAF in Kansas. Pat Roberts should be tarred and feathered. He is illierate concerning this and must be g etti0ng a kick back some how.This is the most dangerous thing that could happen to the beef industry. Keep it out of the heartland of the USA!!

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