The Sunshine Project, one of the nation's most outspoken watchdog organizations on biodefense research, has announced that, as of February 1, it will suspend its operations. According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the decision was largely based on a lack of funding. The article continues:
"One would have expected that with the billions of dollars being poured into biodefense research, there would be something of a better operating environment for NGO's like this," said Mr. Hammond.
The Sunshine Project was thought to be the only nongovernmental organization solely dedicated to monitoring biological-weapon research at a national and international level.
Richard H. Ebright, a professor of microbiology at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, said that the Sunshine Project has in some cases been reviewing biological-weapons research more aggressively than the federal government, and has accomplished much on a shoestring budget.
The biodefense industry has grown tremendously over the past few years in response to the anthrax attacks in 2001 and increased concerns about global epidemics and terrorism. This has resulted in a boom for government research labs, university research projects, and government partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.
Yet few have questioned the professed benefits or raised concerns about the potential dangers of this increased interest in biodefense. The Sunshine Project has played a critical role in this regard--providing information to the public on government biodefense projects and policies, on the resulting dangers of biological weapons proliferation, and on the implications for federal law and international treaties.
POGO would like to thank the Sunshine Project's Ed Hammond, Jan van Aken, and Susana Pimiento for all of their hard work to ensure government transparency and accountability. Their efforts will be sorely missed.
-- John Pruett