USDA will issue temporary permits to handle 'select agents'

Nov 11, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The federal government has moved to allow individuals and groups to continue working with certain hazardous biological agents beyond the Nov 12 deadline for complying with new registration rules while the government completes background checks on those groups.

The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it will issue provisional registration certificates for those who work with "select biological agents and toxins" and have submitted all necessary information by Nov 12. The temporary certificates will allow applicants to continue their work while the Justice Department completes security risk assessments on them, APHIS said.

"This action is necessary to ensure that research, diagnostic and education programs are not disrupted," APHIS said in a Nov 3 news release.

Bioterrorism legislation passed last year requires groups and individuals that handle hazardous biological agents or toxins to register with the USDA or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rule covers agents or toxins that are considered a severe threat to public health or animal and plant health.

The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services published interim rules on the possession, use, and transfer of select agents and toxins in December 2002. The deadline for registration and full compliance with the rules is Nov 12.

On Nov 3, APHIS published a Federal Register notice of its intent to issue temporary registration certificates to applicants that file the required information and fingerprint cards by Nov 12. The temporary certificates will be in effect until APHIS grants or denies access to the select agents and toxins, according to the notice.

The Federal Register notice is in the form of an amendment of the select agent rules. APHIS will take comments on that amendment until Jan 2, 2004. (See news release link below for instructions on submitting comments.)

See also:

Nov 3 Federal Register notice

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