Kansas City, Missouri – A report released today from a committee of the National Academy of Sciences is sharply critical of the Department of Homeland Security and its plans for a biosecurity lab in Manhattan , Kansas.
The National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF, is a flagship project in the effort to make the region between Manhattan, Kansas City, and Columbia, Missouri a hub for animal science and food safety.
The DHS completed it's own risk assessment, but this report is an independent evaluation of that assessment. Congress required the evaluation after a federal watchdog - the GAO - found safety concerns aboaut the DHS plans. Congress said it would not appropriate future funds until an evaluation was done.
The risk, according to the NRC, is quite high.
Dr. Ron Atlas, Professor of Biology and Public Health at University of Louisville chaired the committee:
"The probability of an infection resulting from a lab release of FMD from NBAF in Manhattan approaches 70% over 50 years, with an economic impact of 9 to 50 billion dollars."
The president of K-State and other officials associated with The NBAF held a teleconference immediately following the release of the report. They said the methodology the committee used was problematic- having never been used in such a study. Also, they said the figures do not take into account the changes that will be integrated into the NBAF following evaluations like this one. They point out the desgign plan is just 35% complete. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012.