Breeding Bio Insecurity How U.S. Biodefense Is Exporting Fear, Globalizing Risk, and Making Us All Less Secure
by Lynn C. Klotz and Edward J. Sylvester
University of Chicago Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-226-44405-5 | Electronic: 978-0-226-44407-9
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

In the years since the 9/11 attacks—and the subsequent lethal anthrax letters—the United States has spent billions of dollars on measures to defend the population against the threat of biological weapons. But as Lynn C. Klotz and Edward J. Sylvester argue forcefully in Breeding Bio Insecurity, all that money and effort hasn’t made us any safer—in fact, it has made us more vulnerable.

Breeding Bio Insecurity reveals the mistakes made to this point and lays out the necessary steps to set us on the path toward true biosecurity. The fundamental problem with the current approach, according to the authors, is the danger caused by the sheer size and secrecy of our biodefense effort. Thousands of scientists spread throughout hundreds of locations are now working with lethal bioweapons agents—but their inability to make their work public causes suspicion among our enemies and allies alike, even as the enormous number of laboratories greatly multiplies the inherent risk of deadly accidents or theft. Meanwhile, vital public health needs go unmet because of this new biodefense focus. True biosecurity, the authors argue, will require a multipronged effort based in an understanding of the complexity of the issue, guided by scientific ethics, and watched over by a vigilant citizenry attentive to the difference between fear mongering and true analysis of risk.

An impassioned warning that never loses sight of political and scientific reality, Breeding Bio Insecurity is a crucial first step toward meeting the evolving threats of the twenty-first century.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Lynn C. Klotz is senior science fellow with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Edward J. Sylvester is a science journalist and the author of three books on cutting-edge medical research, as well as the highly acclaimed The Gene Age, in which he and Lynn Klotz introduced lay audiences to the emerging biotechnology revolution.

REVIEWS

“Forceful and provocative, Breeding Bio Insecurity contends that U.S. biodefense policies generate more risk than the threat they are supposed to be addressing. By carefully spelling out their rationales, the book’s authors place the burden of justification on the defenders of massive biodefense budgets. Replete with deft arguments and imaginative scenarios, this book should be read by scientists, policy makers, and, indeed, all concerned citizens.”
— Leonard Cole, author of Terror: How Israel Has Coped and What America Can Learn

Breeding Bio Insecurity is indispensible to a full understanding of how, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, public dread of foreign bioterrorism was exploited to create an extravagant, unregulated, and destabilizing U.S. biodefense program. The appropriation of existing biomedical resources, the building of new and largely unnecessary high-containment laboratories, and the recruitment of thousands of scientists to conduct experiments on dangerous pathogens took place with most Americans—including political leaders—unaware of the increased risks these initiatives generated. Klotz and Sylvester's account of what went wrong and how to fix it is civic education at its best.”

— Jeanne Guillemin, Security Studies Program, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Lynn Klotz and Edward Sylvester make a compelling case for a radical and immediate change in America's biosecurity policy."
— Thomas Jones, London Review of Books

"Klotz and Sylvester spotlight the huge sums of money invested by the U.S. government in biodefense research. Here, they claim, secrecy is having corrosive effects. They also argue that the money pouring into biodefense research is out of proportion to the level of threat. In addition, they contend, this massive investment has backfired to create more risk because now more scientists are working with dangerous pathogens, thus increasing the chances of accident, theft, and deliberate misuse. Their argument deserves serious attention."—Science— Science

"The authors make a plausible and disturbing case, arguing for a reduction in the number of laboratories that are allowed to handle the most dangerous organisms, far more oversight and transparency, and greater international cooperation."— Foreign Affairs

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0001
[biosecurity, threats, biodefense program, bioweapons, bioterrorism, biodefense activities]
This chapter provides an overview of the dangerous future posed by the threats in the name of biosecurity, which is very complex because there are no simple solutions for it, but there are only realistic strategies that can reduce the threats. In the years following 9/11, the United States has poured out billions of dollars for massive expansion of high-biosecurity labs. Perhaps a quarter of the nearly $50 billion in the U.S. biodefense program goes to research and developing bioweapons countermeasures such as antibiotics, antivirals, antidotes, and vaccines, in a rush to protect the nation from bioterrorism. These federal biodefense activities in the name of security in fact are putting everyone at ever-greater risk. Thus, informed citizens must distinguish between policy proposals that build protection against genuine public health threats and those that use fear and alarmist tactics to lead away from biosecurity while claiming to protect. (pages 1 - 16)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0002
[molecular biology, human complexity, systems biology, drug discovery, bioweaponry, Human Genome Project, medicine]
Discoveries in molecular biology are changing the understanding of human complexity and unraveling these newfound complexities requires emerging disciplines such as systems biology. Some strategies of basic research and drug discovery and development could easily be turned toward bioweaponry with the technology already available. The Human Genome Project set one of the most ambitious goals in the history of science, to understand the “book” of instructions that makes human, and the books for other living things ranging from the ubiquitous bacterium E. coli and brewers yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to the deadly smallpox virus, Variola major. The nature of science itself, always seeks the simplest possible explanation for all the critical evidence found in unraveling any conundrum, but which has a way of finding ever new mind-numbing complications. The enormous complexity of the living world that hinders advance in medicine also hinders the fearful aspects of biological warfare and now is the time to develop biology for our benefit and not our destruction. (pages 17 - 38)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0003
[chemical weapons, warfare, Geneva protocol, bioweapons, biological weapons, potent weapon, nuclear weapons]
The use of biological and chemical weapons in warfare theoretically ended with the 1925 Geneva protocol, but only for those who had ratified it. In the face of such dangers, President Richard Nixon radically changed his mind about continuing to develop, produce, and stockpile biological weapons, ending an extensive decades-long program. Matthew Meselson was about to play a pivotal role in U.S. bioweapons policy in warning that the weapons could become far cheaper and easier to produce than nuclear weapons, thereby placing great mass destructive power within reach of nations not now possessing it. During World War II, Japan stood alone as the only documented large-scale user of biological weapons. The Geneva Protocol convinced Ishii that disease must be a potent weapon or biological weapons would not have been banned. (pages 39 - 58)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0004
[bacterial toxin, botulinum, botulism, botulin, anthrax spores, cholera, Q fever]
A team of scientists zealously toiled to weaponize the world's deadliest bacterial toxin to deploy against its own civilian population. The killer to be delivered was botulinum toxin, the cause of botulism, which has the ominous distinction of being the most known poisonous substance. Botulin was not the only murder weapon they worked on; that same month, the cult released anthrax spores from its midrise Tokyo office building, which housed its laboratory. In addition to botulin, cult scientists experimented with anthrax, cholera, and Q fever, another barnyard bacteria, which caused illness that is rarely fatal in humans. In their native form, the bacteria and viruses discussed as death agents are virtually no public health threat in developed nations. But if some of these agents can somehow be weaponized as aerosols they could cause a large number of casualties. (pages 59 - 80)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0005
[U.S. biodefense program, paranoia, permissiveness, terror, BioShield 2004, bioweapons, biosafety]
The U.S. biodefense program has been going along a dangerous path for two overarching reasons of paranoia and permissiveness that make strange relations. When each of them is taken alone, they can lead to dire consequences and when taken together they can lead to worse endings. Paranoia is the keystone in government's political policy of instilling fear to maintain a strong image in the war on terror. BioShield 2004 was the first act passed by Congress to provide billions in funding directed to countermeasures for bioweapons agents, but its rules and related federal agency strategy prevented the development of countermeasures. U.S. scientists are working in force on countermeasures for real and imagined bioweapons. As the number of researchers in biosafety laboratories increases, access to biological weapons agents and training in their skilled use increases. This markedly increases the risk of politically disaffected or mentally unstable lab workers exploiting these agents for hostile purposes. (pages 81 - 108)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0006
[bioweapons, BSL-3 category, BSL-4 category, pathogens, bioactivities, molecular biology, institutional biosafety committees]
The easiest way for terrorists to cause massive panic and death with bioweapons would be to place one graduate student in one of the hundreds of university labs in the BSL-3 or BSL-4 category to replicate on a larger scale what someone has already created. The Council for Responsible Genetics counted more than seventy accidents relating to work with dangerous pathogens from 2002 into 2007. The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has identified more than a dozen bioactivities that are dangerous; some activities are justified and some are not. Only scientists expert in the molecular biology of pathogens are in a position to have a meaningful discussion of the particulars of a specific experiment. One should have mandatory intensive oversight of dangerous lab activities before they begin. Thus, decisions cannot be left to the scientists conducting the research and their institutional biosafety committees alone. (pages 109 - 132)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0007
[institutional biosafety committees, IBCs, National Institutes of Health, NIH, National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, NSABB, dual-use research, safe, compliance]
Usually everybody trusts the research institutions' legally mandated institutional biosafety committees (IBCs) to safeguard neighborhoods from harm at the local level by providing expert oversight under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 and the Select Agent Rules mandate a series of oversight procedures that seem reasonable for those handling the eighty or so agents on the list. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) offers a false sense of security, applying only to dual-use research and virtually ignoring other dangerous experiments, and leaving all responsibility in the hands of researchers and IBCs. Finally, even if a government committee could provide adequate oversight compliance with guidelines or regulations, this applies only within the United States. Hence, no one country can be safe unless oversight protections apply internationally. (pages 133 - 150)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0008
[bioweapons, threats, risk assessment, risk, Safety Clinical Trial Rapid Response Network, safety trials, public threat, biosecurity]
The government assesses the relative likelihood and consequences of bioweapons, pandemic flu, and annual infectious disease threats in three different “boxes” so the yearly threats never get compared to bioweapons; only a combined risk assessment makes sense for the determination of a health hazard's true impact. The term “risk” is used as an indicator of the seriousness of a threat, arrived at by multiplying the consequences of the threat by the probability of occurrence. The problems raised due to untested drugs might be solved by a “Safety Clinical Trial Rapid Response Network,” which would be set to begin drug safety trials and the new drug would move quickly through a series of safety trials. Addressing real public health threats and improving international transparency and cooperation must be the focus of the efforts, marking an enlightened approach to biosecurity. (pages 151 - 174)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0009
[bioterrorist-crafted weapons, sickness, pandemic, Roxbury, Boston, Magic Bullet, scientists, ethically aware]
Federal officials have frightened everybody over bioterrorist-crafted weapons much less likely to cause massive sickness and death than the next pandemic; and that pandemic may be one of own devising in a bustling urban neighborhood like Roxbury in a sophisticated, high-tech city like Boston, where biotechnology contributes much to the economy and future. In response to the many local concerns, the Boston Public Health Commission adopted the Biological Laboratory Regulations, to strengthen safety oversight of biological research labs across the city. Unlike the Roxbury conflict, the Magic Bullet dilemma can be resolved only by scientists for the prospects of hostile exploitation and dangerous experimentation in the new biology. Ethically aware scientists may be the most important defense against hostile exploitation and ill advised dangerous experiments in the new biology. (pages 175 - 192)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0010
[Biological Weapons Convention, BWC, Chemical Weapons Convention, CWC, global support, globally, biosecurity]
The confidence-building measures by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) included information on defensive programs, high-biocontainment laboratories, vaccine manufacturing plants, and infectious disease outbreaks. A major detractors' argument is that bioweapons agents can be destroyed in a short time, unlike hundreds of drums of chemicals agents. So, it is asserted that the BWC is unverifiable even with the added protocol, and no parallel can be drawn with verification under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Global support is a must for the strongest interpretations of both the BWC and the CWC and it becomes necessary to embrace the biosecurity trinity. If thinking globally does not lead to acting globally, a future as dangerous as the paranoia has conjured might be faced on a global level. (pages 193 - 212)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Lynn C. Klotz, Edward J. Sylvester
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226444079.003.0011
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Notes

Index