Magazine article National Defense

Senators May Seek Life Science Lab Security Regulations

Magazine article National Defense

Senators May Seek Life Science Lab Security Regulations

Article excerpt

* "The commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013."

That is the opening paragraph of a Senate commissioned study, "World at Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism."

And if this alarming scenario comes to pass, it is more likely than not to be a biological weapon, said the authors at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.

While the report delved into the possibility that terrorists would obtain a nuclear weapon and use it biological weapons would be much easier for them to develop, said former Sen. Bob Graham, D-FIa, commission chairman.

Life science laboratories, and similar facilities are proliferating throughout the world. Security is lax at many of them - including the United States. Background checks for those working in the labs are spotty.

The nuclear industry recognized from its very beginnings that it was dealing with dangerous material and that safety and security had to be paramount But that was not the case with bio-labs, which have never had a strong security culture, the report pointed out

This lax security will soon converge with a global revolution in the life sciences where lab workers can synthesize strands of DNA, piece them together and assemble infectious viruses.

"The only way to rule out the harmful use of advances in biotechnology would be to stifle their beneficial applications as well - and that is not a realistic option," Graham said in a prepared statement. …

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