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Problems of Biological Security in Agriculture

Georgy A. Safonov and Vladimir A. Gavrilov*

Pokrov Biological Preparations Plant


First of all, we would like to say a few words about the Pokrov Biological Preparations Plant. The plant was built in 1978 for two main purposes: (1) producing diagnostic and prophylactic preparations used against especially dangerous diseases, including exotic varieties (all types of foot-and-mouth disease, cattle plague [rinderpest], classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, avian influenza, and others); and (2) stockpiling necessary reserves of biological preparations for use in emergency measures to combat disease. The plant was part of the special system of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture intended for organizing and carrying out efforts to respond to emergency situations arising in the agricultural sphere during outbreaks of especially dangerous diseases. Leading specialists at the plant include scientists working on matters related to eliminating the consequences of unforeseen situations, including biological terrorism.

Over the past decade, the world has seen the exacerbation of the situation between individual countries and groups divided by their various political, territorial, and religious views regarding coexistence: Israel-Palestine, Yugoslavia, Chechnya in Russia. Existing contradictions grew into military confrontations with unpredictable consequences with regard to the methods and means of action used. In fact, we have already seen a case in which the religious sect Aum Shinrikyo carried out a terrorist act using chemical weapons and attempted to initiate production of biological weapons.

In many countries, the public has been concerned about the possible consequences of terrorist acts in our high-tech society, and attempts are being made to develop effective methods of combating these phenomena. A number of sources

*

Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins.



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Problems of Biological Security in Agriculture Georgy A. Safonov and Vladimir A. Gavrilov* Pokrov Biological Preparations Plant First of all, we would like to say a few words about the Pokrov Biological Preparations Plant. The plant was built in 1978 for two main purposes: (1) producing diagnostic and prophylactic preparations used against especially dan- gerous diseases, including exotic varieties (all types of foot-and-mouth disease, cattle plague [rinderpest], classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, avian influ- enza, and others); and (2) stockpiling necessary reserves of biological prepara- tions for use in emergency measures to combat disease. The plant was part of the special system of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture intended for organizing and carrying out efforts to respond to emergency situations arising in the agricultural sphere during outbreaks of especially dangerous diseases. Leading specialists at the plant include scientists working on matters related to eliminating the conse- quences of unforeseen situations, including biological terrorism. Over the past decade, the world has seen the exacerbation of the situation between individual countries and groups divided by their various political, terri- torial, and religious views regarding coexistence: Israel-Palestine, Yugoslavia, Chechnya in Russia. Existing contradictions grew into military confrontations with unpredictable consequences with regard to the methods and means of action used. In fact, we have already seen a case in which the religious sect Aum Shinrikyo carried out a terrorist act using chemical weapons and attempted to initiate production of biological weapons. In many countries, the public has been concerned about the possible conse- quences of terrorist acts in our high-tech society, and attempts are being made to develop effective methods of combating these phenomena. A number of sources * Translated from the Russian by Kelly Robbins. 1

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2 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM in the literature provide rather complete coverage of various aspects of the use of pathogens to cause economic, moral, and physical harm to a healthy population. 1 It is generally known that for the majority of countries, agriculture serves as the main source of foodstuffs and raw materials. A sharp reduction in food resources is always accompanied by demoralization and the worsening of demo- graphic indicators regarding the health of the population. The economic costs involved in fighting epizootic diseases are practically always enormous, not to mention the costs of protecting health and preventing financial damages associated with quarantine measures and reduced labor pro- ductivity. One must also consider the additional costs of maintaining personnel to monitor the appearance of infection foci, diagnose animal diseases, quarantine infected individuals, restrict the transport of animals, test the quality of meat and milk, and certify these and other livestock-related products as unfit for sale if necessary. This is a far from complete list of the economic costs borne by the state and counted on by the terrorists. It does not take into account the psycho- logical trauma suffered by farmers and the population as a whole. Broad-scale movements of people and migrations of animals could serve as the basis for widespread contacts with contaminated food, feed, and water. The population is becoming increasingly mobile (due to tourism and searches for work and new places of residence), while international shipments of animals and livestock-related products are also on the rise. Often, the appropriate safety mea- sures are not taken. Refugees, victims of natural disasters, participants in mas- sive pilgrimages and other religious observances, and individuals temporarily living in crowded conditions represent a favorable target for acts of bioterrorism, especially those involving animal-borne pathogens. In such situations, control and monitoring of animals is usually weakened or completely lacking; therefore, animals in such circumstances can represent a likely source for the transmission of zoonoses. The destruction of food supplies could be the consequence not only of cli- matic anomalies, but also of the inadvertent or intentional spread of diseases among animals or plants. For example, practically all the cattle in the Philippines died as a result of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 1917-1927. Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in England (2001) and classical swine fever in Denmark and Holland (1998-1999) not only caused enormous economic losses of more than 3 billion U.S. dollars, but also completely paralyzed economic life in these countries. An outbreak of African swine fever in Cuba (1976) was no less griev- ous. Another example is the epidemic of Rift Valley fever in Egypt (1977), in which by the most conservative estimates more than 500 people died and another 18,000 became ill in just one year, not to mention the cases suffered by animals. 2 The spatial (territorial) or varietal rotation of pathogens always inflicts the heaviest consequences. This can occur not only by means of evolution, but also as a result of the accidental or intentional spread of an active agent. In recent years, the world community has become increasingly concerned

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 HIGH IMPACT TERRORISM over the possible use of biological agents in the commission of terrorist acts. History provides no small number of examples in which human corpses, animal carcasses, or infected clothing were used to create micro-outbreaks with the aim of producing major foci of infections. Today, the overwhelming majority of states and their leaders actively oppose the use of pathogens as a means for the mass destruction of people, plants, and animals. Thanks to the activism of many politicians advocating controls over work with especially dangerous pathogens, you will not hear any strategists of warfare or terrorist acts saying that biological weapons are not only the most economi- cally accessible, but also the most humane of weapons from the standpoint of preserving material valuables or the environment. The world is still divided into hostile opposing groups based on religious, racial, political, economic, or merely moral-ethical views on coexistence. It should always be kept in mind that the use of biological agents such as foot-and-mouth disease, cattle plague, African or classical swine fever, avian influenza, or anthrax could initially go unnoticed—and furthermore unprovable— or be explained away as a result of spontaneous external transmission, as has happened on more than one occasion. For example, explanations for the foot- and-mouth disease outbreak in England postulate that it occurred because a res- taurant was supplied with infected pork. But how can one differentiate between happenstance and intention—a ter- rorist act? This is practically impossible to do. The very fact of an unprovable accusation being made would be an intentional insult to individuals and even states. The concept of terrorism relative to agriculture seems at first glance to have little applicability, because it is aimed not directly at the physical destruction of people, but only at human food sources. At the same time, we are well aware of the fact that a country left without agricultural resources finds itself in extreme conditions that could lead not only to the removal of a government or change of political course, but also to mass deaths of people due to starvation. The Chechen conflict has already led to a clearly expressed terrorist action, namely, the bombing of apartment buildings used by the civilian population and subsequent heavy human casualties. The world would not be surprised if tomor- row it heard the news that pathogens had been used in one of the above-men- tioned states to destroy not only people, but also animals and crops. However, in this case we would be dealing with an organized action affecting primarily the psyches of the population and government with the aim of changing opinions on a specific issue—territory or independence, for example. In such a case we are fully justified in calling such an action terroristic. The situation that arose in England with regard to the foot-and-mouth dis- ease outbreak is another matter. At first glance, we see no connection with ter- rorism. On the other hand, England and surrounding countries have long been free of foot-and-mouth disease. The question is, How and from where did the

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 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM foot-and-mouth disease agent arrive in England? It is supposed to have arrived in infected meat, but how did infected meat reach the market? Why was it not discovered by veterinary services in the country of export? And how did it end up in England? The effectiveness of the international system for monitoring especially dan- gerous infections largely depends on the responsible attitudes of national veteri- nary services and governments of UN member countries. The system for providing notifications of cases of zoonotic disease and quarantine infections is presented in some detail in the reports of an FAO-WHO (Food and Agriculture Organization-World Health Organization) joint expert committee on veterinary sanitation.3 However, in certain cases this system is ignored for reasons of economic constraints, which usually follow after the issu- ance of official FAO notifications on the presence of quarantine infections in a country. This creates a precedent for the wide-scale spread of especially danger- ous infections. We propose viewing such situations of concealment of quaran- tine disease as a latent form of terrorist action on the part of a state. A state that has not instituted the appropriate quarantine (intentionally or not, which is another question), not notified other countries in a timely manner, and not taken active measures to recall infected products for heat treatment or other decontamination processing should bear the corresponding responsibility for any consequences. Bioterrorism can be painstakingly planned and carried out by individuals aware of the consequences of their actions with regard to the chosen target. In a number of cases, where states in which quarantine infections are present take a passive attitude with regard to preventing the spread of the infectious agent beyond their borders, this should also be viewed as a special form of terrorism that can be termed “latent.” Like intentional terrorism, it can lead to the deaths of people and losses of crops and animals on a massive scale. In this case, such a state—we shall call it a “passive terrorist”—is guilty of spreading pathogens to other territories and is obligated to bear the economic and moral responsibility for the damage caused to the other country, for example, England. In cases of aggressive terrorism, the question must be viewed as a criminal matter in accordance with the existing laws of the country affected. If in the course of analyzing the causes of an infectious outbreak it can be established and proven that an individual or group is to blame for spreading the pathogen by means of infected food or feed products to another country or to a firm located on the territory of another country, then charges of latent terrorism should be addressed in an international court of law. As for punishment, a deci- sion could be rendered to include not only payment of damages, but also a temporary economic embargo (full or partial) with regard to the guilty country. The proposed approach and measures for punishment of those to blame for spreading pathogens should reduce the potential threat that such situations will arise.

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 HIGH IMPACT TERRORISM In addressing possible situations involving the spread of pathogens, we first of all wish to attract attention to the discussion of bioterrorism-related questions by the maximum possible number of scientists and specialists working in the legal field so that in the end, there will be a clear-cut definition of various situations associated with the spread of pathogens. At a minimum, the following four aspects of the biological threat should be kept in mind: 1. The spread of an agent beyond the borders of states where a particular disease or pathogen is present; 2. The unintentional release of a pathogen from scientific-research or pro- duction facilities; 3. The spread of infection by products from infected livestock; and 4. The intentional spread of infection aimed at causing economic pressure or changing the political course of a country. We have seen dozens of examples in which agents from so-called natural foci infections appeared far beyond the borders of the areas in which they are traditionally found: African swine fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, and others. The territorial rotation of pathogens always causes significant difficulties in the areas where the pathogens have newly arrived. The unexpected appearance of African swine fever in Portugal (1957) and Spain (1957) caused well-founded alarm in many European states. To this day, Portugal and Spain have been un- able to rid themselves completely of this uninvited guest. There are a number of examples of the release of pathogens from institu- tions or enterprises working with them. For example, during testing of a new foot-and-mouth disease vaccine in 1965, the foot-and-mouth disease virus es- caped from the Kursk Biological Plant, causing one of the most severe epizootic outbreaks in the European part of the USSR. It took years to eliminate this outbreak, and the country’s economy suffered significant damage. We are well aware of the fact that industrial or research work with patho- gens also requires special safety equipment and technical conditions, depending on their individual properties.4 Today in Russia, not only technologies, but also pathogen strains used in production are being sold off. In a number of instances, industrial strains of pathogens differ little from field strains. For example, the majority of technolo- gies for the production of killed vaccines are generally based on field strains of pathogens (foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza, rabbit hemorrhagic disease, etc.). Furthermore, it seems to us that this technology in no way differs from that used in the production of raw materials for biological weapons. We are certain that one might find no small number of businessmen who, for a relatively small

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 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM payment, would sell active raw material without even thinking of the possible consequences of such a deal. It is commonly known that within Russia, not only are individual people being killed, but entire apartment buildings full of completely innocent people are also being blown up. The Chechnya crisis has not yet passed, and no one can predict the future turn it will take or when it will end. Furthermore, the entire agricultural sector (including the raising of both livestock and crops) is practically unprotected from terrorism. Foot-and-mouth disease, African and classical swine fever, avian influenza, and anthrax are obvi- ously the most likely and most accessible biological agents for local application against animals. Highly infectious material can be produced in quantities sufficient for the commission of terrorist acts even in the most primitive conditions—barns, caves, or even animal pens. Doing this would require just 1-2 ml of a pathogen and a susceptible animal. The sick animal could be introduced unnoticed into a large herd, or one might wait for the infected animal to die and then extract highly concentrated material from it (spleen, liver, lungs, etc.), which could then be used to infect feed, pastures, or water supplies or else be sold to the population. On the territory of the Russian Federation, there are more than 10,000 sites where anthrax spores lie buried. The detonation of any one of these could be- come a nightmare for the population within a radius of 5-10 km or more. We would not like to go into detail regarding all possible ways of using biological agents as terrorist weapons, so that this work does not become a textbook for people who have lost their minds for whatever reason. We have already mentioned the transmission of foot-and-mouth disease from the territory of a biological plant in 1965. Even today, a repeat of such a situation cannot be ruled out, particularly in view of the fact that institutes working with especially dangerous infections are engaged in the production and sale of biolog- ical preparations. Furthermore, production discipline has deteriorated signifi- cantly during the recent years of economic restructuring. The stream of visitors has grown immeasurably, and protective alarm systems have aged or broken down entirely. At the same time, many countries are taking a responsible approach to the question of bioterrorism. For example, an international seminar on increasing the level of security for work with dangerous pathogens and other materials was held in October 2000 in the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Participants in the seminar included scientists and specialists from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Geor- gia. The seminar featured discussions of new approaches to the physical protec- tion of institutions working with potentially dangerous materials. Questions re- garding the storage, accountability, control, and transport of biologically hazardous materials represented a significant focus of discussion. Personnel- related work was addressed in detail, including the hiring of personnel for re-

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 HIGH IMPACT TERRORISM sponsible positions, reliability, professional skill, and readiness to work in emer- gency situations. Several potential situations that might arise at facilities were reviewed: • The theft of biomaterials for the purpose of committing acts of terrorism or blackmail; • Terrorist acts aimed at disrupting the functions of production facilities or premises housing security personnel; and • Incursion onto the territory of a facility in the aim of committing illegal acts and other situations. Illegal actions could be committed not only by terrorists or criminals, but also by disgruntled or bribed employees or even representatives of animal rights groups. In this regard, any system for protecting dangerous facilities must fea- ture multiple levels of security: a reinforced concrete wall with two alarmed perimeters and video surveillance. Each critical building, floor, material storage room, and container of biomaterials must be equipped with an alarm system. In conclusion, we feel it is necessary to discuss the most important problem from our point of view, that of the bioprotection of agriculture. First, legislative limits must be placed on the number of scientific institutes and biological enter- prises that are authorized to work with especially dangerous pathogens and with infectious materials in general. The international community must develop meth- ods for monitoring the safe operation of biological enterprises regardless of their ownership. State agencies must bear responsibility for ensuring compliance with international safety standards for the operation of biological enterprises. They bear this responsibility not only to their own countries, but to the world commu- nity in general. Of course, the most complex aspect of this problem involves the effective- ness of control, especially internationally or bilaterally. In this regard, concrete steps are already being taken in Geneva to create an agreement on a mechanism for such control. We believe that resolving the question of effective control over biosecurity will be possible only after normal partner relations are established between countries, peoples, and first of all, state structures. The difficulties of biocontrol can be overcome only as a result of procedur- ally unrestricted exchange visits and contacts between scientists and production personnel and their colleagues abroad. One should not follow the thesis that private firms cannot be controlled by international agencies. In visiting other countries, we have always been surprised by such a convenient method of limit- ing access to this or that firm. Our colleagues also probably find it hard to understand when they are restricted from visiting facilities. How can we speak of any sort of trust here? Fear over so-called industrial secrets cannot be the reason for refusing access. Citizens of any country must be subject to the laws of their own country, as well as to international laws. If not, neither mutual trust nor

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8 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM appropriately effective control will ever exist. Disagreements over issues con- cerning exchanges of visits could become a basis not only for mistrust, but also for political blackmail. It is also essential to strengthen the 1972 convention on the prohibition of biological weapons, first of all by creating an atmosphere of international trust. From the first years of its production activity, the Pokrov Biological Prepa- rations Plant of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture operated on a self-financing basis, requiring no budget support from the government. This was made possible not only by the plant’s large-scale production of vaccines against practically all viral infections existent in the Soviet Union, but also by centralized state orders for the production and stockpiling of reserves of vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease, cattle plague, classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, sheep pox, and avian pox. The plant is a potentially dangerous enterprise with regard to the livestock industry. The range of viral infectious agents with which the Pokrov Biological Preparations Plant worked, as well as the location of the plant in a region with many livestock farms and enterprises, determined the need for a special closed operating regime. Admission to the plant required showing a badge or pass, visits were restricted, and a security system was in place around the perimeter of the plant. Indeed, the size of the area occupied by the plant and the special construction characteristics of several earthquake-resistant buildings on the site attract heightened interest regarding the nature of work being carried out there. The plant produced more than 40 biological preparations, the lion’s share of which were unique, patented products. This made it possible for the plant to produce biological preparations worth 50 million dollars or more each year. The collapse of the Russian economy in the transitional period led to a significant reduction in livestock numbers and a sharp drop in demand for biological prepa- rations. Today the output volume at the plant totals 10 percent of capacity. The high energy demands of the production process have become a sort of Achilles’ heel with regard to the profitability of products manufactured in small volumes. In connection with this problem, the plant is experiencing a critical period. A significant portion of the employees have moved on to other jobs in private firms. The plant currently employs more than 700 people, 150 of whom are scientists or specialists with a higher education. In the aim of increasing the profitability of production and improving its financial position, the plant plans to carry out a substantial modernization and reconstruction project. This will involve reducing energy costs in the production shops by dismantling the centralized refrigeration and compressed air systems and replacing them with small localized units in each individual shop. More than 20 fermenters will be dismantled in order to retool the shops to manufacture pharmaceutical products. In the space freed up after removal of the fermenters, plans call for installing production lines for liniments, medicine tablets, and intravenous solutions.

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 HIGH IMPACT TERRORISM The production of veterinary probiotics and immunomodulators is also to be established in the buildings to be freed up after the renovations. Equipment for feed production and quality control will be installed in the decrepit older build- ings, along with a storage facility for animal embryos. With financial support from partners, plans will be carried out to establish a poultry farm processing and storage facility with a capacity of 2 million eggs per year. A number of research and implementation projects have recently been de- veloped in cooperation with the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Implementation of these projects will facilitate the reconstruction of the plant’s production capacities and the reduction of tensions regarding issues of mutual trust and site visits. Completion of the entire range of planned reconstruction projects at the plant will make it possible to convince the public of the peaceful nature of our production facility. The planned long-term strategic cooperation with a number of U.S. organizations will also promote an improved political atmosphere be- tween our countries. Moreover, the plant hopes to make a concrete contribution to the prevention of especially dangerous infections not only within Russia, but also in other countries. We are convinced that international cooperation on the issue of biological security will promote collaboration among scientists of vari- ous countries in preventing other types of terrorism. In accordance with the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) Pro- gram, the plant will be able to cooperate with the United States Industry Coali- tion (USIC) and the European Union programs INTAS, Tacis, and others. The financial support provided by ISTC in the form of grants makes it possible to host foreign colleagues at the plant and openly show our production capabilities, which will reduce concerns with regard to hidden or closed facilities. We have always taken a serious approach to critical comments from the international commission that visited the plant in 1993 regarding its concerns about the plant’s technical capabilities. We believe that international cooperation will enable us to remove these worries on the part of the public. Even today, a potential danger exists regarding the appearance and spread of panzootic outbreaks of such infections as monkeypox, Marburg disease, Ebola, prion encephalopathies, foot-and-mouth disease, African and classical swine fe- ver, and others. These infections have really appeared on the horizon of the twenty-first century in connection with the growth of international trade, tour- ism, ethnic conflicts, natural and technological catastrophes, and an ever-in- creasing number of militarized conflicts. Given the real threat of biocatastrophes, efforts must be stepped up to create international institutions that will focus their activities on rendering practical assistance to states in eliminating even small foci of especially dangerous exotic diseases. First of all, the WHO and FAO must resolve the problem of creating emergency stockpiles of preventive and curative medicines for dealing with wide- scale infectious outbreaks. Consideration must also be given to questions of

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0 RUSSIAN VIEWS ON COUNTERING TERRORISM strategy and tactics in combating such outbreaks, including universal slaughter, the destruction of infected animal carcasses, and comprehensive vaccination cam- paigns in the event that a localized outbreak becomes epizootic. Let us wish for all of us a strong sense of responsibility not only for the fate of our own peoples, but also for that of our beautiful planet Earth. Let us not forget the opinions of our cosmonauts—that Earth as a cosmic body is but an infinitely small speck of dust in the limitless ocean of the universe. The natural harmony of living nature on Earth has continued for many millions of years, but today life on Earth depends on the reason and will of mankind, including all of us here. NOTES 1. Rozbern, T., E. Kabat. 1955. Bacteriological War. Moscow: Voenizdat. Rotshild, D. 1966. Tomorrow’s Weapons. Moscow: Voenizdat. Sokolov, G.A. 1968. Thermonuclear, chemical, and biological weapons: means of mass destruction. Mendeleev Chemistry Journal. Timakov, V., F. Koroshkov. 1969. Protecting people from the threat of chemical and bacte- riological war. Medical Newspaper. Thant, U. 1970. Chemical and Bacteriological (Biological) Weapons and the Consequences of Their Use. Report of the UN Secretary General at the 25th Session of the UN General Assembly. Baroyan, O.V. 1971. The Fate of Conventional Diseases. Moscow: Meditsina. Georgievsky, A.S., O.K. Gavrilov. 1975. Social Hygiene Problems and Consequences of War. Moscow: Meditsina. FAO-WHO. 1975. The Veterinary Contribution to Public Health Practice. Technical Report Series No. 573. Geneva. 2. FAO-WHO. 1982. Bacterial and Viral Zoonoses. Technical Report Series No. 682. Geneva. 3. FAO-WHO. 1982. Bacterial and Viral Zoonoses. Technical Report Series No. 682. Geneva; WHO. 1985. Laboratory Biosafety Manual. Geneva. 4. WHO. 1985. Laboratory Biosafety Manual. Geneva; Drozdov, S.G., N.S. Garin, L.S. Dzhindonyan, V.M. Tarasenko. 1987. Fundamentals of Safety Equipment in Microbiological and Virological Laboratories. Moscow: Meditsina.