Mapping the multiplicities of biosecurity

Bingham, Nick and Hinchliffe, Stephen (2008). Mapping the multiplicities of biosecurity. In: Lakoff, Andrew and Collier, Stephen J. eds. Biosecurity Interventions. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 173–193.



Biosecurity has become a familiar term in policymaking circles over the past few years. Its meanings, problems, and practices however have varied significantly. In Europe, for example, biosecurity has emerged primarily in relation to attempts to manage the movement of agricultural pests and diseases. The focus has been on individual farm-based practices, including emergency measures to contain outbreaks and techniques to prevent infection of livestock. In contrast, in Australasia and other places — mainly islands — where the effects of ecological colonization (the importation, often from Europe, of farming systems and species) have been most pronounced, biosecurity has figured mainly with reference to efforts to reduce the effects of so-called invasive species on “indigenous” flora and fauna. Characteristic practices here have included border controls in the form of restrictions on the importation of living (or not-long-since dead) tissues, and the attempted eradication of established but ecologically damaging “pest” species. Finally, in the United States, biosecurity has come to represent a governmental concern with the — either purposeful or inadvertent — spreading of biological agents into the human population, with particular attention given to laboratories that handle potentially hazardous organisms; possible use of pathogens in bioterrorism; and the prospect of animal-borne diseases crossing to humans (zoonoses). This has prompted various high-expenditure, technology-intensive programs (such as Project Bioshield) as well as other practices, such as anticipatory research in molecular sciences, the stockpiling of antiviral drugs, heightened regulation of laboratories, the development of real-time and near–real-time surveillance technologies, scenario planning, and the construction of information and processing centers designed to serve as command and control centers in the event of a positively identified disease event.

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