Questions about the origins of Covid-19 raise concerns about the safety of U.S. biolabs.
The Bayer corporation has made it clear that the creation of a biological research facility on its waterfront property in Berkeley, California, will not have any significant impact on birds, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, traffic, or noise levels. But while the company’s application to the Berkeley City Council to extend the 30-year development plan for its 46-acre campus is filled with meticulous details, down to the vibration levels of the various pieces of construction equipment that may build it and the degree to which sunlight will reflect off the new buildings, the company has provided area residents with far less clarity on the research that will go on inside its newly expanded complex and how it might affect them.
“What are they going to do there? What kind of microorganisms are they going to be working with?” asked Marcy Darnovsky. “They say they’re going to follow all the rules. Well, is there any oversight?” Darnovsky, a resident of the area and executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, which advocates for the responsible use of biotechnology, is asking questions that have become more pointed and urgent with the growing body of evidence that the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic may have escaped from a biolab in China.