Since the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001 and the anthrax letters sent shortly thereafter, biosecurity has become an increasingly important issue. The risk that biological agents will be manufactured and used as weapons is taken seriously. At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Academy has therefore drawn up a Code of Conduct for Biosecurity for the Netherlands.

The purpose of the code is to prevent education and research in the life sciences from contributing to the misuse of biological organisms.

Writing the Code

The workgroup (chaired by Lous van Vloten-Doting) surveyed the existing rules and regulations pertaining to biotechnological and microbiological research, both in the Netherlands and abroad. The Code of Conduct for Biosecurity is based on this information and on continuous communication with the target group.

Applying the Code

The Code of Conduct for Biosecurity was presented and discussed during meetings and other events organised at various research organisations, laboratories and educational institutions in the life sciences. Guidance was also provided during its implementation. References to the code have now been included in educational and training material at secondary vocational, higher professional, and university levels. Funding bodies NWO and ZonMW also require applicants in the life sciences to undertake to uphold the Code of Conduct for Biosecurity.

Request for advice on dual-use research in the life sciences

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has been asked by the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to issue an advisory report on how to deal with dual-use research in the life sciences. The report will be issued at the end of 2013. The request was prompted in part by the debate that arose following the H5N1 study carried out by Prof. Ron Fouchier’s research group.

The report will also consider whether the 2007 Biosecurity Code requires updating. The Academy Board has installed a Biosecurity Committee to prepare the advisory report. The Committee will be chaired by Prof. Lous van Vloten-Doting, who also chaired the workgroup that drafted the Biosecurity Code.

Resolution inaugurating the Biosecurity Committee (pdf)