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Outbreaks and Safety Concerns in Biodefense
An Interview with Kyle Loring
Kyle Loring is a legal fellow at Alternatives
for Community and Environment (ACE) in Roxbury, Massachusetts fighting
development plans for high-level biocontainment labs at Boston University.
He is a graduate from Boston College Law School, and completed his
undergraduate studies at Boudin College. He can be reached by email
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on ACE can be found at
What is your most significant fear/concern
about the government-proposed high level (BSL-3 and 4) labs?
We believe that it is inappropriate to have such a program in a
densely populated urban area like Boston, where there are 30,000
people per square mile. Despite the specifications given by the
University and the government, there are no absolute guarantees
that there will not be any hazardous leak into the community and
cause a serious public health crisis.
The government states that such labs are necessary for preserving
our national security and maintaining emergency preparedness in
case of crises: Do you agree or disagree?
The labs will not necessarily increase or help preserve our national
security by a great degree. Instead, we believe that they will provide
terrorists with better access to harmful agents, whether they pose
as researchers or target the labs to hit.
The government claims that the labs are only for defensive measures.
Is it a valid fear that the activities and research in the labs
are also for offensive means to create weapons?
The issue of dual-use dilemma is a very serious matter and does
apply here. We believe that in order to be able to test the accuracy
of vaccines and therapeutic cures, they would also need to develop
and create dangerous biological agents to carry out the experiments.
Also, since there has been a significant lack of transparency available
to the community, it makes citizens worry about why the activities
are not being discussed if they are not harmful. Boston University
claims that it will not allow classified research, yet the University
is not willing to share any information as to exactly what will
take place inside the labs.
The University claims the labs will actually benefit the
community by providing jobs and revenue: do you agree or disagree?
Developments will not occur in a community that is potentially harmful
to its citizens. Boston already has many environmental problems
besides the high-level lab plans that we have been dealing with
for years, for instance with air pollution, which has made the area
less attractive for public health. We seriously doubt the claims
that it will provide the city with any benefits. We have asked the
University for a detailed list of the supposed jobs the lab will
create and the money it will give back to the city, however we have
not received an adequate explanation of numbers and figures to believe
In regards to the lab-related outbreaks of SARS and polio
earlier this year overseas, do such incidents justify your group's
beliefs on the safety and security of the labs?
Yes, those are very real possibilities. We so point to those as
examples of problems that can occur in high security labs and also
for instance the anthrax release from Fort Dedrick in Maryland,
and other lab breaches that show standards cannot stop human error.
If the lab were built despite your efforts, what could the government
and the hosting facility do to make the community feel less fearful
and reassure citizens of the purpose of the lab?
Even if it did come to take place, the community would continue
to oppose it. Although we have considered our plan of action in
that possible scenario, we are concentrating on our current efforts
to make sure our community will not be in danger. However, what
it would come down to is more transparency from the school and its
Does your group simply want to stop the building of the
lab in your community or completely? For instance, if the government
took its plans to the next city on its list of hosts, would you
help their community fight the developments?
If the plans moved to another location, we would provide information
to other activist groups and organizations, and collaborate on potential
by: Melody Parsa, 2004 intern