Common Sense

Some well meaning proponents of the NABF accuse the opponents of fear mongering. They need to be reminded that the National Bio-Agro Defense Facility was proposed as a direct result of this decade’s bio-terror fixation. The definition “defensive” puts the lab under the national-security realm of The Department of Homeland Security. Supporters also should keep in mind that defensive and offensive research is often indistinguishable. Thus the NABF is a product of the same scare tactics which propelled us into the current war in Iraq. So opposing such a bio-terror lab, that has the potential of costing this nation billions in agricultural losses and even threatens human lives, is more a matter of common sense than fear.

While searching for vaccines and cures is a worthy endeavor, where is the logic in locating such a facility in a warm moist climate conducive to the spread of the world’s most lethal, contagious, and incurable diseases? Scientists, like biology professor Walter Dodd of Kansas State University, (Kansas hopes to win the germ jackpot) states, “Putting the facility near a city or agricultural production strips one level of protection away.” Even a former director of Plum Island, Roger Breeze (1987-1995) said, “Moving the lab to any state with a sizeable livestock industry would be the worst place for it because of the risks to the animals there.” Thus, as a matter of common sense, the highest degree of isolation for the world’s most dangerous organisms should be the primary concern in locating such a facility. The proponents’ argument against this logic is the availability of a bio-tech workforce as a need for the laboratory. But common sense says it could be located anywhere, with today’s communication technology, conference calls, e-mails, faxes, etc. Plus the experts will go wherever it is built, as they did to the remote area of Los Almos.

Supporters harp on the economic benefits from the NABF. Reason asks what benefits? Most of the high-paying jobs will go to Plum Island researchers who DHS says will have dibs. A large portion of the staff will probably live elsewhere such Cary or Treyburn, contributing nothing to the host county’s property taxes. As for the construction of the lab how many Granville County contractors can handle a half billion dollar job, hence most of the profits will go elsewhere probably out of state. Of course, there will some local labor jobs, but they will be only temporary. There will be added infrastructure in the form of roads, water and sewer expansion and the training and equipping the first responders. How much of that burden will fall upon the Granville taxpayers? Most of the one and half billion dollars will be in the form of government grants to research companies and universities, none of which are located in Granville County. The desire of economic gain seems to override all aspects of science and common sense.

Foot and mouth is a severe highly contagious viral disease of cattle, swine, sheep, goats and deer. It is one of the diseases to be studied at the NABF. It is so highly contagious and potentially devastating to our nation’s economy, that for decades wise federal legislatures had banned its research on mainland U.S.A. According to Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, there have been three documented escapes of foot and mouth, resulting in the slaughter of all the animals on the island. As a result of a root growing into a research lab’s drainpipe in England, the disease escaped and caused to destruction of millions of cattle and sheep just to halt its spread. If such an event happens here, it would paralyze our states’ livestock industry. Common sense begs the question if 1.6 billion dollars in benefits worth risking North Carolina’s 58 billion dollar cattle industry?

Many other states have already rejected this golden opportunity, including the dairy cattle state of Wisconsin and the horse state of Kentucky. The Texas Cattle Feeders Association, with thousands of members in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma also opposes it. What common sense led these livestock producers to object to such a beneficial facility?
Those who favor NABF toot the safety records of known labs, but that is like the guy who said “so far so good” when he passed the 50th floor after jumping off the Empire State Building. It is just a matter of time. There have been 75 documented lab accidents, such as infection or exposure to personnel, lost samples, and environmental releases. Although most of those resulted in small consequences, it is just a matter of time before results produces disaster. Common sense dictates, building more and larger ones only increase the potential.
As people weigh the pros and cons of the NBAF, they are discovering more cons, hence the rise of the opposition as evident in the thousands of signatures on petitions and the growing number of anti lab signs. So, are the real fear mongers those who use bio terrorism as an excuse to bring lethal foreign pathogens to our state or those who, with reason and common sense, seek to protect the lives and livelihoods of our fellow citizens?

Terry Turner
Butner, NC