N-BAF Report Cuts Risk of Pathogen Exposure

Apr 6, 2012

The risk of a pathogen release at the controversial National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility being built in Manhattan, Kan., is much less than originally calculated, according to a new, much-anticipated report from the Department of Homeland Security.

Ron Trewyn, vice president for research at Kansas State University, said the updated assessment puts the risk of a pathogen release at less than 1 percent . Leaving out the threat of tornados or earthquakes, the risk drops to .008 percent, he said.

That compares to the National Academy of Sciences’ assessment last year that the original DHS plan allowed for a 70 percent chance of a Foot and Mouth Disease release over the 50-year life of the facility. The economic cost of such an outbreak was estimated at $9 billion to 50 billion. And that’s why Congress required DHS to revise its risk assessment before it would issue any more funding for the lab.

NAS will review the new findings and issue an updated evaluation in June.

Trewyn said the way the risk was calculated in the previous report inflated the possibilities of a pathogen release.  He called the new version much more accurate.

“One is never going have zero as the risk for anything, so these numbers are very, very low,” Trewyn said.

The news comes not a moment too soon for supporters of the facility who have been in hyper-defense mode since the White House cut funding for the high-security animal research lab in in next year’s federal budget.

Still, opposition to the lab is growing, particularly among cattle groups, community members, and lawmakers. The NBAF is supposed to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, off the coast of Long Island.  Some believe Plum Island could be restored.