US: Fight to bring new biolab to KSU
Posted: July 28th, 2009 - 9:54pm
Source: Wichita Eagle
With all due respect to the pros at the Government Accountability Office, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, according to this editorial, belongs in Kansas. This isn't a case of a hunger for federal pork blinding Kansans to the risks. Kansans just know that if the pros at Kansas State University can't be trusted to handle the responsibility associated with such a lab, no one can.
A new GAO draft report finds fault with the Department of Homeland Security's January decision to build the $500 million lab in Manhattan. The report argues that it was not "scientifically defensible" for DHS to conclude that dangerous animal pathogens such as foot-and-mouth disease could be handled safely in Kansas. A House subcommittee plans a hearing Thursday on the report; the Kansas delegation is fighting to secure $36 million in funding and begin construction next year.
One contention in the report is the same one Texas tried in legally challenging the DHS decision — the threat of tornadoes. An attorney for the Texas consortium that sought the lab for San Antonio jumped on the GAO report, calling the siting process "politics at its very worst" and declaring, "they call it 'Tornado Alley' for a reason."
But Kansas Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt pointed out in a statement Monday that the Texas county proposed for NBAF historically has had more tornadoes than Kansas' Riley County. Plus, Texas as a whole leads the nation in tornadoes — and comes in second to Florida for hurricanes.
Maybe there could be more debate over whether such research is best conducted off the mainland, such as at the current facility in Plum Island, N.Y. But the site selection took six years; surely that risk assessment should have been done and redone by now.
And as the Kansas lawmakers pointed out: "Level 4 biosecurity research on human pathogens is already conducted in several other locations in the continental United States."
If the Centers for Disease Control can operate safely in Atlanta, a center for animal disease research ought to be able to operate safely in Kansas, which already is home to the Biosecurity Research Institute.