- What the Americans Can Tell Us about Global Biosecurity
In April 2009, a new strain of the H1N1 flu virus appeared in Mexico and rapidly spread to other parts of the world. Security measures such as the quarantine of infected citizens, temperature screening in airports, etc. were put in place by several countries around the world in order to try to monitor and limit the spread of the virus. Despite these efforts, WHO announced in June 2009 that the new strain of H1N1 had reached the level of a pandemic flu. Luckily, the 2009 pandemic flu did not turn out to be as serious a threat to human health as first feared, but the rate at which it spread illustrates how complicated it can be to control in a global society where millions of people travel across and between borders every day. Global pandemics due to emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases are one of the major threats to be dealt with through national and global biosecurity. Monitoring of new strains of influenza, including surveillance and reporting systems on the national and international level (such as WHO's six-stage warning system), and coordination of healthcare and regulation, are crucial elements in biosecurity strategies aimed at ensuring early warning and preparedness in dealing with serious threats to human health and societies worldwide, thereby avoiding or limiting potential large-scale biodisasters.
Biosecurity is the focus of an edited collection Global Biosecurity — Threats and Responses, published by Routledge in 2010 in the series on Contemporary Security Studies. Biosecurity threats, such as emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases, can occur naturally accidentally through careless handling of biological materials in research laboratories or through theft and/or intentional development for use in bioterrorism attacks. The natural and deliberate threats are manifold and the challenges these pose to the global society are complex. In this book edited by Peter Katona, John P. Sullivan and Michael D. Intriligator, [End Page 305] a number of biological security issues that the global society is confronted with are explored. While not encyclopaedic, the book illustrates the broadness of issues that biosecurity encompasses, ranging from theft and handling of biological agents and bioterrorism, to pandemics, food and water safety as well as ecological security challenges posed by regional and global changes in the climate. The book is intended as a follow-up to a previous book by the same editors: Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Networked Approach (Routledge, 2006) and reflects the editors' view that tightly linked networks are essential components of global biosecurity and that to counter biosecurity threats such as terrorism, a worldwide multidisciplinary approach is necessary (Preface). The first section (Chapters 1-7) assesses the threats of particularly large-scale bioterrorism attacks, with some focus on ecological or natural threats to biosecurity in relation to agriculture and food production, including biosafety in order to avoid deliberate and accidental contamination of food during handling and transporting.
Chapter 7 ("A Catastrophic Climate: Conflict and Environmental Security Setting the Stage for Humanitarian Crises") by John P. Sullivan stands out among the contributions. Through a review of four major reports, the chapter examines the strategic consequences of global climate change. It also outlines how some regions in Africa and delta-areas and island states in Asia are particularly vulnerable to climate changes, and how such changes in climate are likely to contribute to a shortage of food and water resources in the long term. In light of this climate change is an ecological threat that is likely to contribute to natural disasters which requires preparedness and responsiveness to avoid humanitarian disasters. Furthermore, climate change is outlined as a potential problem multiplier. Rising sea levels and a shortage of food and water supplies in some regions due to climate change may cause people to migrate to other regions. It is also likely to contribute to further social inequality between rich and poor populations. This widening inequality may contribute...