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Dutch Government Grants Export License Allowing Publication Of Controversial H5N1 Study

“The Dutch government has agreed to grant an export license to allow Ron Fouchier, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical University in Rotterdam, to publish his work on H5N1 avian influenza in Science,” Nature’s “News Blog” reports (Owens, 4/27). “Fouchier had to get permission first from the Dutch Department of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation — in line with E.U. regulations — because a risk existed that the H5N1 virus, as well as its research, ‘could be used for the wrong purposes,’ the Dutch department said in a statement,” according to Agence France-Presse (4/28).

“The decision by Henk Bleker, minister for agriculture and foreign trade, was announced [Friday] in a press release (Dutch) posted on the ministry’s Web site … four days after a closed meeting in The Hague, where government officials discussed the risks and benefits of the research with an international group of scientists and security experts,” ScienceInsider writes (Enserink, 4/27). The approval comes after the U.S. National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity last month announced Fouchier’s paper and another on H5N1 could be published in journals, “reversing an earlier decision to withhold key details” from the studies, AFP notes (4/28).