2004: US Biolab Safety Standards in Collapse

The sunshine project was shut down because of repeated exposés like this, which is strongly suggestive that things are even worse now.   Dr. Strangelove is in charge of the henhouse.

From: The Sunshine Project <t…@sunshine-project.org>
Newsgroups: misc.activism.progressive
Subject: [Sunshine] US IBC Survey: Serious Problems Evident
Message-ID: <c5vqmt$2t7o$1@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Date: 19 Apr 2004 01:13:49 -0500

The Sunshine Project
News Release – 14 April 2004

US Transparency Survey: Serious Problems Evident

(Austin, TX) – The Sunshine Project has made additional information available on its website concerning its Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) Transparency Survey. The Project is making this early release of information because it is deeply concerned by the fact that the survey results demonstrate, prima facie, widespread noncompliance with federal biotechnology research rules. The rampant violations call into question the effectiveness of the United States’ guidelines-based laboratory biosafety system. Survey results to date strongly suggest that increased biodefense spending is triggering a collapse in the public accountability of biological research across the US.

While dozens of nearly 400 surveyed institutions have replied adequately, revealing that many work diligently to comply with federal research rules, it is equally clear that many others do not. According to the Sunshine Project’s Edward Hammond “Internationally, the US promotes its rules as a model for the rest of the world to follow; but this research indicates the opposite. The replies to date suggest that the US system is actually a house of cards.”

The 389 federally-registered biotechnology research institutions queried by the Sunshine Project have an unequivocal obligation to release the meeting minutes it requested, yet:

– Only two out of five (42.9%) IBCs have provided meeting minutes; – Almost half (44.5%) have failed to reply to the survey at all. – The remaining 12.6% have replied but have not provided minutes.

Institutions who have not replied include two of the nation’s maximum containment biosafety level four laboratories (a Centers for Disease Control lab and a San Antonio, TX facility), an operator of Department of Energy biodefense labs, a major genome sequencing institution, and some of the largest recipients of federal biotechnology and biodefense research funds in the country.

Among those IBCs that have replied (with or without minutes), serious problems are evident. These include:

– major research centers, including institutions handling potential biological weapons agents and that conduct federally-funded biotechnology research, who do not maintain records of their IBC meetings and/or approve risky experiments without committee review;

– numerous IBCs punching holes in the national system by asserting the primacy of state law over the federal laboratory safety rules;

– widespread and arbitrary removal of information from public records;

– adoption of policies and procedures deliberately designed to evade public accountability.

In addition, analysis of US National Institutes of Health IBC data reveals that a significant number of biotechnology labs, particularly private sector labs and private non-profit labs, are not even registered under the federal laboratory safety system.

The survey, which began in late January, is assessing the quality of public disclosure by Institutional Biosafety Committees across the United States. IBCs are established under the US National Institutes of Health Guidelines on Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules (“the NIH Guidelines”), which exist to safeguard against the health and environmental dangers of biotechnology research.

The final report of the survey will make recommendations for how to raise the public accountability of biodefense research.

A summary of responses to the survey is available in the biodefense section of the Sunshine Project website, or by clicking on the link below:



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