Hugh Pickens writes: "The Washington Post reports that Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate the $700 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas. A GAO report says that it is not "scientifically defensible" to conclude that lab can safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas. "They call it 'Tornado Alley' for a reason," says attorney Michael Guiffre. Such research has been conducted up to now on a remote island on the northern tip of Long Island, N.Y. "Drawing conclusions about relocating research with highly infectious exotic animal pathogens from questionable methodology could result in regrettable consequences," the GAO warned in its draft report. Critics of moving the operation to the mainland argue that a release could lead to widespread contamination that could kill livestock, devastate a farm economy and endanger humans. Along with the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease, NBAF researchers plan to study African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever and other viruses in the Biosafety Level (BSL) 3 and BSL-4 livestock laboratory capable of developing countermeasures for foreign animal diseases. GAO noted that the United Kingdom's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, resulted from an accidental release at a biological research laboratory south of London and six million sheep, cattle and pigs had to be slaughtered to stop the contamination. "This really boils down to politics at its very worst and public officials who are more concerned about erecting some gleaming new research building than thinking about what's best for the general public," says Guiffre."
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