The cabinet is looking into the possibility of stopping the spread of information about a deadly form of the bird flu virus to the rest of the world by using an export ban, junior farm minister Henk Bleker told MPs on Thursday evening.
The new form of the virus – which allows it to spread from birds to mammals – was engineered by scientists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam on behalf of an American institute. However, official publication of the results was stopped because of fears terrorists would be able to replicate the experiments.
According to the Volkskrant, the research team has agreed to a 60-day moratorium on publishing their results while another solution is found. A large majority of MPs favour a total ban or only limited reporting of the results.
Bleker told MPs an export ban offers a way forward because the export of ‘sensitive knowledge’ requires a permit. Anyone publishing the results, including international publications such as Science or Nature, would be breaking the law, the Volkskrant quoted Bleker as saying.
According to the Daily Mail earlier this year, the World Health Organisation has said that research into the mutant form of the bird flu virus will be made public in full at some point.
Expert unease over deadly flu virus created in Dutch lab