A new report released Monday says the federal government has seriously underestimated the risk that a new federal lab in Manhattan, Kan., could accidentally release dangerous pathogens like foot-and-mouth disease, according to KansasCity.com.
The report warns that without stringent prevention measures, pathogens could escape from the National Bio- and Agro-Defense facility planned for construction near Manhattan, Kan. and devastate the agricultural economy. The facility is slated for completion in 2018 and will replace the nation’s aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center located off the New York coast.
The National Research Council study concludes that there is a 70 percent chance that foot-and-mouth disease will escape from the lab and cause an outbreak within 50 years. It estimates the economic loss caused by such an outbreak at $9 billion to $50 billion, and cites “several major shortcomings” in an earlier risk assessment by the Department of Homeland Security.
But the lab’s supporters in defended the project, noting that the NRC report ignored several safety protocols already planned. They’ll include state-of-the-art systems to make the lab as secure as any in the nation, according to Tom Thornton, president of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
According to a joint statement made by Thornton and Ron Trewyn, Kansas State University’s vice president for research, the NRC report is “not only misleading and without precedent, it exaggerates risk to an extreme, nonsensical level that would call into question the entire American biocontainment research enterprise, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”