Why you cannot compare the National Bio Agro Defense Facility with the Center for Disease Control (CDC)

The NCC NBAF consortium recently ran a full page ad in the Butner-Creedmoor News stating that “citizens deserve accurate information on the NBAF”. I agree, citizens do deserve accurate information, moreover, citizens deserve complete and factual information that give them the ability to make an informed decision. However, material manipulated by public relation firms and media groups while accurate in context is not very forthcoming in content.

For instance, despite regional variances such as demographics, area specific statistical data, economics,  workforce, income, housing, facility location, consumer expenditures, taxes, etc., each state reports the same financial benefit to the surrounding communites if the facility is sited in the respective state. Additionally, every single state is claiming the same economic impact over the subsequent 20 years after the facility is operational. Just dumb luck? I don’t think so. Public perception appears to be the target of the consortia concerns thus the rationale behind their informational campaign (or in my opinion, the lack there of).

Consortia sanitized talking points do not address:

  • According to statements made by DHS, the NBAF will house approximately 100 large animals, ie., cattle, hogs.
  • BioSafety Level Four (BSL-4) is required for research with select agents. “These are dangerous and exotic zoonotic agents that ” pose high individual risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease, which may be transmitted via the aerosol route, and for which there is no available vaccine, or treatment”. 18 of those select agents are deadly to humans that is “with no known cure or vaccine”.
  • From the USDA & the CDC, BSL-3Ag facilities are specifically designed to protect the environment by including almost all of the features ordinarily used for BSL-4 facilities as enhancements. Pathogens are studied both invitro and in vivo. All BSL-3Ag containment spaces must be designed, constructed and certified as primary containment barriers, capable of housing and maintaining large animals, the CDC specimens are housed in small individual containers suitable for mice or rats.
  • Two viruses have been discovered that are lethal for agricultural species and for humans (Nipah and Hendra viruses) for which there are no vaccines. Both of these viruses will be studied at the NBAF and yet we are being told, diseases of study at the NBAF do not pose a public health threat.
  • ABSL-4 categorization – These biosafety level is recommended by the American Biological Safety Association. These “enhancements are provided specifically to protect the environment, and include but not limited to HEPA filtration of supply and exhaust air, decontamination of liquid effluent, decontamination of solid wastes, including carcass disposal, personnel exit showers, and facility integrity testing (pressure decay test). All requirements are to protect the external environment. U.S. CDC/NIH publication entitled “Bio safety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories” states, “Risk management strategies for work involving agriculture pathogens must focus on bio containment and environmental protection in addition to worker protection, since the primary concern is the potential economic impact of the morbidity and mortality on agricultural species, and the international trade implications of a disease outbreak”.
  • The pathogens with which the NBAF researchers will work have the highest economic consequence to the animal health status in the country.
  • Foot and mouth disease is unlike any pathogen currently worked with at the CDC. The virus can be carried in a person’s lungs, nostrils or other body parts, making the lab worker the vehicle for virus transmission thus exposing others they come in contact with specifically animals. 
  • DHS refused to provide necessary documents to the Government Accountability Office investigating the potential risk associated with the NBAF stating the reason for the refusal the information was “propriety” according to the opening statement of the  Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell.
  • This is not an open process as the state consortium has stated, as evidenced by the recent testimony give at Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing; Germs, Viruses, and Secrets:  Government Plans to Move Exotic Disease Research to the Mainland United States. DHS did not cooperate with the investigator’s or the subcommittee.
  • The GAO testified, risk assessments for the NBAF have not been performed yet we are being told the DEIS will address said assessments.
  • The cost of the facility is now estimated to be upwards of $600 – $ 750 million according to the GAO investigation and yet NC citizens (I can’t speak for the other sites) have not been informed of these increases as well as other  most recent issues related to the NBAF.

Bio-containment is classified by the “relative” danger to the surrounding environment. Currently only BSL-3 Ag facilities are in operation and there is no official nomenclature for a BSL-4 ag facility but by definition the NBAF will fit the criteria making the facility far more dangerous on a much broader scale. When you add the issue of foot and mouth disease the potential risk the lab represents morphs into a ticking time-bomb.

I also would like to point out what in my opinion is the most grossly understated talking point which is the comparison being made that the NBAF is similar to the Centers for Disease Control.  The NBAF will be the first BSL-4, Large animal agricultural research facility of its kind in the world as well as the largest BSL-4 lab in the world. The only similarity between the NBAF and the CDC is that they are both biolabs that engage in BSL-4 research.

Another notible difference between a traditional BioSafety lab and a BioSafety agricultural facility the consortia fail to mention is the size of the specimen and the amount of waste produced. Visualize for one moment a mouse and then a cow, because that is the difference between the animals of study at the CDC and the animals of study at the NBAF. Waste disposal at the CDC consist of small animals inside containers and the waste they produce, small carcasses and bedding.

Waste disposal at the NBAF will consist of waste from large animals weighing 1,300 to 1,900 lb each; generating 75 to 100 lbs of pathogenic contaminated feces per animal per day, excluding carcasses, using DHS’s numbers, that is 7500 LBS. to 10,000 LBS. of pathogenic contaminated waste per day for disposal either by incineration, landfill and wastewater treatment.

This facility will be a  huge environmental polluter and a financial burden to Granville County or any other state where sited, but will pay no county, state or federal taxes. The infrastructure and associated costs for this facility will be paid by the taxpayers, just ask Jimmy Crawford who is considering legislation for 25 million in NC. How and why will this facility protect agriculture or our food supply better than current operating facilities? Is that the concern really?

Recently, the Bush Administration (USDA) filed an appeal to stop meatpackers from testing all their animals for Mad Cow Disease. Their reason for the appeal “The agency argues that more widespread testing does not guarantee food safety and could result in a false positive that scares consumers”. Isn’t that what they are doing with the fear-mongering reasoning for the NBAF? The administration doesn’t support more testing of our current  food supply to make sure it is safe, NOW. But they support more research into pathogens we already know exist that MAY endanger us or our food supply.

Pandemics are real, avian flu and SARS are current threats. We do not need to fabricate bioterrorism for more taxpayer funded incompetence or provide grant money to do the government’s bioweapons research. Witnesses who testified at today’s hearing reaffirm the risk this lab poses  and how flawed DHS’s process  concerning the NBAF has been. Why are facts being withheld and manipulated from the communities affected by the proposed NBAF?  Demand answers!

       
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