Biological Warfare Research under Fire

Science News, February 28, 1987 | Go to article overview

Biological Warfare Research under Fire


Biological warfare research under fire

The Department of Defense (DOD) andits growing efforts in biological-warfare research may have hit a snag last week, when the federal agency agreed to submit its collection of biological warfare research programs to far-reaching environmental impact studies. Agreement to conduct the studies, which are expected to take nearly two years to complete, settles a lawsuit brought against the agency last September by an environmental action group based in Washington, D.C.

The Foundation of Economic Trendsclaimed in its suit that the government was violating the National Environmental Policy Act by not assessing the biological warfare program's effect on the environment. The compromise accepted by both parties last week does not ascribe guilt to DOD; it also allows research to continue during the impact studies.

Nonetheless, foundation presidentJeremy Rifkin sees the decision-- sanctioned by a federal judge--as "one of the broadest victories in history' under the national policy act. "It means DOD is going to have to be held accountable to the public for its entire [biological warfare] program,' he said in an interview. In 1985, Rifkin's group used a similar lawsuit to halt construction of a high-containment laboratory in Utah that had been proposed by the Army (SN: 6/8/85, p. …

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