Laboratory safety specialists and a microbiology professional group are questioning the science underlying a draft rule that identifies poisons and dangerous microbes subject to strict federal security regulation at labs nationwide.

The proposed 'select agents' list, product of an interagency group convened by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is under revision in order to implement the Public Health Safety and Bioterrorism Preparedness Response Act of 2002. Laboratories working with pathogens or toxins on the list must observe tight security under the new law, which aims to keep dangerous substances out of the hands of terrorists. Scientists who have reviewed the rule, however, say it threatens to hamper research without protecting the public.

The proposed select agent rule ignores standard accepted scientific guidelines for determining when a compound or microbe is dangerous, according to experts from Stanford University and a consortium convened at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) last spring....

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