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Centre for Biosecurity Studies

What is biosecurity?

Optimized-NATURAL_DISASTER-edited_v2-(1).jpgBiosafety and biosecurity are both evolving fields that take into account national safety stemming from exposure to biological agents that have the potential to negatively affect masses of life forms in a short space of time. ‘Biosafety’, the earliest and most established of the two fields, often refers to methods taken to protect people, animals, plants and the environment from unintentional exposure to biological pathogens and toxins that can cause disease. On the other hand, ‘biosecurity’ which started to take prominence in the 1970s, often refers to the prevention of deliberate misuse of biological pathogens and toxins with the intention to harm people, animals, plants and the environment.

The Cave Hill Campus uses the term ‘biosecurity’ for the Centre for Biosecurity Studies to encompass both biosafety and biosecurity concepts for three (3) reasons. First, there is little difference between the types of pathogens and toxins classified in both biosafety and biosecurity. For example, the Ebola virus is dangerous if accidentally or intentionally discharged. Second, the EU suggests that the majority of measures under both concepts are more or less the same albeit, biosecurity measures usually include more safeguarding facilities1. Third, it can be difficult to know whether a disease epidemic was started, for example, as a result of hurricane destruction, inadvertent importation, or intentional misuse of micro-organisms. Based on these points, the Campus uses ‘biosecurity’ to refer to both concepts as it seeks to reduce any biological threat that could destabilize Caribbean societies.
The Cave Hill Campus recognizes that the biosecurity field is necessarily multidisciplinary and positions the Centre so that it receives expertise from a range of disciplines. Scientific fields make up the majority of technical disciplines while social science disciplines are important for governance. A review of organizations dedicated to biosecurity prevention reveals the scope of expertise required to build national biosecurity systems: such as anthropology, agriculture, biology, chemistry, disaster management, economics, environmental management, international development, international relations, medicine, legal profession, peace and conflict resolution, advocacy and policy development, public health, national defense, trade and veterinary science. In most nations, these experts are drawn together through a university centre, a government agency or local or international associations. At universities, these centres are housed in different faculties and schools depending on their area of focus: such as social sciences; medical sciences; business and management; public policy and international affairs, to name a few.

 1 EU Paper on Biosafety and Biosecurity, submitted at the BTWC 6th Review Conference 2006, Germany, 19th September 2006