EINNEWS, November 19—Controversy is continuing to brew over a planned “National Bio and Agro-Defense” facility scheduled for construction in Manhattan, Kansas.

Local citizens were stunned recently by release of a U.S. government report that over the lifetime of the plant there would be a 70 percent chance for escape of deadly viruses.

The plant is estimated to cost up to $50 billion and would be a principal test facility for disease affecting cattle, particularly hoof and mouth disease. Funds to build the plant have been frozen since release of the Department of Homeland Security Report.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has weighed into the issue with forecasts that the risk of deadly release and costs could be significantly higher even than those suggested by the DHS.

“Our overall assessment is that the DHS’s risk assessment is incomplete, and is not entirely adequate or valid,” says Ron Atlas of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, who chaired the NAS report panel.

The report says that the DHS underestimated the potential for the virus to escape on particles of dust, from staff and from huge rooms housing large live animals for experimentation. This is an arrangement for which there is no precedent, and so for which there is no data on risks of release, it says.

“Every day, with animals exhaling the virus, it’s a much higher bio-burden to deal with than a simple spillage,” says panel member Jack Roth of Iowa State University in Ames.

The NAS says another weakness of the DHS’s analysis was an inadequate assessment of the risks associated with the fact that 10 per cent of the country’s cattle are grazed within 300 kilometers of the site.

“If the virus that causes FMD escaped, it’s likely it would reach distances far away before we knew it had escaped,” says Roth.

For more agriculture news, visit Agriculture Industry Today (http://agriculture.einnews.com), a agriculture media monitoring service from EIN News.