Source: Marty Vanier, director of operations for K-State's National
Agricultural Biosecurity Center, 785-532-3929, firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: http://www.nabc.k-state.edu
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
OP-ED: K-STATE'S FOCUS ON SAFE AND SECURE FOOD IS LONG-STANDING
In Kansas, agriculture isn't only a part of our heritage, it's a significant economic driver.
Kansas farmers produce more wheat and grain sorghum than any state in the nation, nearly a quarter of all beef originates from Kansas beef processing facilities and we rank among the top for corn and soybeans. One in five Kansans is employed in agriculture or food production.
Agricultural disease, whether intentionally or accidentally introduced, would have a devastating impact on the people of Kansas and the state's economy.
This reality is why it's a priority at Kansas State University to find ways to fight agricultural disease and protect the nation's food supply.
That commitment was articulated in early 1999, when officials launched the Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program. That plan summed up the university's historical commitment to the best in animal and agricultural health, and then took K-State's vision to the next level.
The plan called for several things, including the construction of a new biocontainment research facility. Today, K-State's BRI -- Biosecurity Research Institute -- is the only biosafety level-3 biocontainment research and training facility in the U.S. that can accommodate high-consequence pathogen research on food animals, food crops and food processing under one roof. This significant piece of infrastructure is a testament to K-State's expertise and vision, and serves as a resounding reminder of the university's commitment to addressing high-consequence agricultural disease.
K-State's high-profile commitment to solving agricultural disease problems is also why the university has been selected as a potential host for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility. Researchers at this top federal animal disease research lab will be charged with much the same mission as the BRI -- that is, developing countermeasures against exotic animal diseases.
Some have raised concerns that studying diseases affecting farm animals in an agricultural area is not only unwise, but dangerous. Biocontainment labs are built, engineered and equipped specifically to contain the diseases being studied. And, over the years, this technology has continued to improve. In addition, scientists undergo rigorous biosafety training to ensure they know how to not only conduct safe research, but protect themselves. When technologically advanced facilities and rigorous training are combined, you greatly reduce any potential risk – an approach that has been proven reliable in places like Atlanta, Ga., where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study highly-infectious human diseases without incident in the heart of the metroplex. Should the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility come to Manhattan, animal disease also will be safely studied here in the heartland.
The American public will clearly benefit from the research slated for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, and the reality is that some foreign agricultural disease agent will come to the U.S. That's why K-State has chosen to be proactive and research solutions before it gets here.
The case for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility in Kansas is about a secure food supply and keeping the public safe – expertise that K-State has consistently demonstrated.