Yenra : Biotechnology : Biotech Threats : Rapid biotechnology development brings dangers

The speed of biotechnology development is outpacing the ability of nations to legislate against it, a leading US bioterrorism expert will tell the AusBiotech 2003 conference, which starts in Adelaide, South Australia, on August 17.

AusBiotech 2003, one of the world's most significant biotechnology conferences, will this year address the role of the industry in safeguarding the world against abuse of biotechnology, whether through accident or deliberate acts of terror.

Michael Moodie -- co-founder and President of the US Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, based in Washington D.C. -- will tell over 1,200 Conference participants representing the most powerful bio companies in the world, that international regulation has not kept pace with biotechnology developments that threaten individual safety.

"International effort to deal with biological threats has not engaged private industry," Moodie believes. "The speed of developments in biotechnology are largely outpacing national and international attempts at legal and regulatory action to prevent such abuse.

"This situation will lead to a lack of effectiveness and ultimate downfall."

Attacks by air on the World Trade Center, the sarin gas released on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Shinrikyo, and the Sari Club bombing in Indonesia have focused attention on the growing threat of terrorist use of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons.

The public health system would be especially stressed by a bioterrorist attack.

"Yet, that same public health system is the crucial factor in an effective response," Moodie said. "It will be the public health system that will be called on to mitigate and ameliorate the consequences of a terrorist attack using biological weapons."

AusBiotech Executive Director Dr. Tony Coulepis said that the biotechnology industry was well aware of the potential threats.

"Biotechnology has made extraordinary advances in the areas of public health, the food industry, and agriculture and the environment," Coulepis said. "However, as biotechnology becomes a borderless industry, chances increase for accident or misuse.

"The biotechnology industry in Australia and the US have shown a great willingness to collaborate on this topic and bioterrorism is a major item on the AusBiotech 2003 agenda."

The Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute is a private, non-profit, non-partisan policy research organization established in 1993 to address the challenges posed by the complex interaction of security, science, and technology.

Before founding the institute, Moodie was Assistant Director for Multilateral Affairs at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), where he was involved in the negotiations concluding the Chemical Weapons Convention and was also head of the U.S. delegation to the 1991 Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference.