Issue Date: November 16, 2009
Senate Panel Approves Biosecurity Measure
The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee has approved legislation designed to enhance security at the nation's biological research laboratories. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention & Preparedness Act (S. 1649) would require the Department of Homeland Security to identify the most dangerous pathogens and then prepare regulations to strengthen security at the labs that use them. A panel of experts has warned that a terrorist attack using a weapon of mass destruction is likely to occur somewhere in the world by 2013 and that a biological attack is more likely than a nuclear strike (C&EN, Dec. 8, 2008, page 6). "This is an urgently needed bill, and I am pleased the committee has moved it forward," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), the committee chairman. Scientific organizations have expressed concerns about the bill, saying strict new security measures could be confusing and cumbersome for research labs and could also slow the development of countermeasures against pathogens. No companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
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