Source: Global Security NewsWire

Two veteran U.S. lawmakers have reintroduced legislation aimed at increasing the safety and security of facilities that handle materials that could be used in acts of bioterrorism, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) announced yesterday (see GSN, Aug. 22, 2008).

If passed, the Select Agent Program and Biosafety Improvement Act of 2009 would assess federal oversight of high-security biological research laboratories, heighten training at the sites and create a system for reporting safety or security lapses. The bill would also reauthorize funding for the U.S. Select Agent Program, which sets rules governing the movement and use of potential biological-weapon agents. Similar legislation lapsed in the Senate last year.

“We must support scientific research while also making sure select agents are kept out of the hands of terrorists and are used safely and securely in our laboratories,” Burr, who co-sponsored the bill with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), said in a statement. “Reauthorizing the Select Agent Program is vital to ensuring our nation’s safety and security, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to reauthorize and improve the program.”

“Our ability to protect Americans against modern-day dangers depends on robust scientific research to counter biological threats. The bill that we introduce today helps protect Americans from biological threats, while also protecting scientific freedom and integrity,” Kennedy added in the release.

A comparable bill sponsored by Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.) is being considered in the House (U.S. Senator Richard Burr release, Feb. 26).