Dutch Government Rule Export Permit Required To Publish Controversial Bird Flu Study

Ron Fouchier of Erasmus Medical Center, “[t]he Dutch scientist at the center of the controversy over recent bird flu experiments, says that his team applied for government permission today to submit a paper describing their research to a science journal,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports, adding, “The Dutch government has asserted that the studies, which describe how to make bird flu virus more contagious, fall under regulations that control the export of weapons technology.” According to the news service, “He feels the government’s actions amount to censorship and has previously has said he did not want to apply for an export permit, because it would set a precedent” (Greenfieldboyce, 4/24). “Fouchier says that by conceding to the government’s request while continuing to contest the need for an export permit, he hopes to have found an acceptable compromise,” Nature writes.

“Fouchier had told Nature last week that he intended to defy the government and submit the work to Science without seeking the export permit that the Dutch government says is required,” the magazine notes, adding, “A government official had told Nature that such an action could incur penalties including up to six years’ imprisonment.” The magazine writes, “Some observers had hoped that the Dutch government might lift the export-control requirement following a closed meeting on 23 April in The Hague,” but “the meeting was intended only to help ‘inform the Netherlands government position and policy stance,’ and not to reach any formal conclusions, says Cindy Heijdra, a spokeswoman for international trade at the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation” (Butler, 4/24).