10/17 – Kansas – The New Bio Battleground

10/17 – Kansas – The New Bio Battleground

Posted On: October 17, 2009
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Kansas – The New Bio Battleground


grass roots: pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)

1. People or society at a local level rather than at the center of major political activity. Often used with the.
2. The groundwork or source of something


They call it “The Little Apple”—Manhattan, Kansas– a prairie town of 58,000 people deep in the ‘fly-over heartland” of America. It is GOP country, home to Kansas State University, a football-crazy campus with a distinguished veterinary and agricultural faculty, and a place where personnel from the nearby U.S. Army’s Ft. Riley come to shop and play. And if the town’s Chamber of Commerce, local and state reps, and the Kansas congressional delegation have their way, the ‘Little Apple” will also be the site of the nation’s new National Biological and Agricultural Facility (NBAF)—the successor to the very controversial NBAF facility in Plum Island, NY—which local residents say is the genesis of dangerous air-borne diseases such as Lyme’s Disease and West Nile Fever—among the factors which makes the place a most dangerous facility for our public health.

The new NBAF facility is a cornerstone of the national “bio-defense” boom launched in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks in which the U.S. government has contracted out $60 billion for a host of new Bio-Safety level 3 and BSL 4 laboratories designed to handle the most deadly pathogens known to humankind. Some observers point out that this “defensive” work is in fact spurring a de facto “germ war arms race” internationally, and they warn that we may be on the road to catastrophe as this spending increases with scarce public debate and a failure to meet federal safety guidelines, causing accidents to proliferate at these sites.

Manhattan–KS was among a handful of finalists vying for the commerce and jobs promised by the NBAF facility. And while local citizen groups/counter-cultural journalists in San Antonio, Texas and Butner, North Carolina successfully moved forward campaigns critical of the proposed facility, Manhattan was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security as its ”winner ”, in part, due to what seemed to bea lack of effective local grass-roots opposition.

Yet ,as the project steam-rolled to ‘victory” and the K-U’s NBAF official website exalted its benefits and safety, a handful of dedicated local activists from the “Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice” spearheaded by stalwart Christopher Renner, and the yellow- T-shirted clan of “No NBAF”—stood up and delivered.


No NBAF in Kansas started a grass roots opposition to the the development of the massive complex of top-secret bio-labs and asked us to come to Kansas and screen/discuss “Anthrax War” to stir up public conversation on this crucial issue.

So, last month, we showed the film at the public library and at the student union at Kansas University to more than 250 people. The crowd was receptive but in follow-up Q and A’s, folks appeared genuinely depressed about the future of their community vis a vis this issue.

“What can we do? The fix is in”, was the general sentiment.

Eric Nadler, co-director/co-producer of ANTHRAX WAR suggested that there was indeed an organizing strategy that could be put in place.

He urged the crowd to reach out to officials in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Frederick, Maryland who have drafted stringent local laws—national models for communities forced to deal with deadly pathogens– introduced locally by these new federal efforts.

The screenings and discussions may have made a bit of a difference:

Nadler received extensive coverage on “K-MAN’ talk radio in Manhattan environs.. and in the local paper.

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Listen to Eric Nadler’s interview with Community Bridge Radio:

MP3 file