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COVID-19—Reckless ‘Gain-of-Function’ Experiments Lie at the Root of the Pandemic

“Gain-of-function studies are, according to the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, research which involves increasing the capacity of a pathogen to cause illness. The method is controversial because it can also risk new viruses leaking out of laboratories and into the population. In the period 2014 to 2018 this type of research was prohibited in the U.S., but in December 2017, American authorities announced that these kinds of studies would again be allowed.” From “The Evidence Which Suggests That This Is No Naturally Evolved Virus,” by Aksel Fridstrøm, July 13, 2020

Despite an ongoing cover-up by government authorities, the biotech industry, the military industrial complex and the mass media, there is growing scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was created and (most likely accidentally) leaked from a dual-use military/civilian lab in Wuhan, China.

The ensuing pandemic (currently with 14 million infected and 585,000 dead, which has precipitated a global economic meltdown) is the predictable, yet preventable, collateral damage of a reckless, decades-long, and accident-prone biodefense/biowarfare program carried out  by the U.S. (including both the Obama and Trump administrations, and their predecessors), China, Russia and other highly industrialized and militarized nations.

Unbeknownst to the public, a shadowy international network of thousands of virologists, gene engineers, military scientists and biotech entrepreneurs are weaponizing viruses and microorganisms in civilian and military labs under the euphemism of gain-of-function research. They hide behind the guise of “biodefense” and “biomedicine.” But as investigative reporter and bioweapons expert Sam Husseini writes, gain-of-function/biowarfare scientists in labs such as Wuhan, China or Fort Detrick, Maryland, are deliberately and recklessly evading international law:

“Governments that participate in such biological weapon research generally distinguish between ‘biowarfare’ and ‘biodefense,’ as if to paint such ‘defense’ programs as necessary. But this is rhetorical sleight-of-hand; the two concepts are largely indistinguishable. ‘Biodefense’ implies tacit biowarfare, breeding more dangerous pathogens for the alleged purpose of finding a way to fight them. While this work appears to have succeeded in creating deadly and infectious agents, including deadlier flu strains, such ‘defense’ research is impotent in its ability to defend us from this pandemic.” 

A growing arsenal of Frankenstein viruses and microorganisms have been created, despite U.S. and international laws supposedly banning biowarfare weapons and experimentation. A disturbing number of these so-called “dual-use” biowarfare/biodefense labs have experienced leaks, accidents, thefts and even deliberate releases like the 2001 anthrax attacks over the past three decades.

The creation of COVID-19, engineered by repeatedly “passaging” a bat virus through animal and human cells and/or genetic engineering or splicing specific genetic sequences into the virus, violated a ban on gain-of-function experiments called for by many of the world’s top scientists. These experiments also violated the precautionary principle of a Global Biowarfare Convention, designed to prevent the accidental or deliberate release of biological weapons of mass destruction.

Despite the 24/7 story—that the virus jumped accidentally from bats into humans—relentlessly peddled by the Chinese government, the World Health Organization (which was supposedly monitoring the Wuhan Lab), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which provided funding for the Wuhan gain-of-function experiments, the Trump Administration, global military and intelligence agencies, government- and corporate-funded entities such as the EcoHealth Alliance and the mass media, there is mounting evidence that COVID-19 was caused, not by an accident in nature, but by a lab escape or leak.

Fortunately, some media outlets aren’t afraid to question this carefully orchestrated narrative. Here are a few examples:

• GM Watch, “Lab Escape Theory of SARS-CoV-2 Origin Gaining Scientific Support,” May 28, 2020

• Bulletin of Atomic Scientists“Did the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Arise from a Bat Coronavirus Research Program in a Chinese Laboratory? Very Possibly,” June 4, 2020

• The Times (UK)“Revealed: Seven-Year Coronavirus Trail from Mine Deaths to a Wuhan Lab,” July 4, 2020

• Newsweek, “Scientists Shouldn't Rule Out Lab As Source of Coronavirus, New Study Says,” May 17, 2020

• Independent Science News“The Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin,” June 2, 2020

• Taiwan News“Norwegian virologist claims coronavirus is 'chimera' Made in Chinese Lab,” June 10, 2020

Gain-of-function experiments on bat viruses aren’t new. Going back decades, these types of experiments have been publicly documented in a series of peer-reviewed scientific papers co-authored by the Director of the Wuhan lab, Dr. Zhengli Shi, popularly known as the “Bat Woman.” Published papers reveal that researchers have been collecting samples, and carrying out experiments to manipulate the bat coronavirus so that it can readily infect human cells.

For example, in a 2008 article in the Journal of Virology, Zi Sheng Li and other scientists report on how Chinese and U.S. scientists have genetically engineered SARS-like viruses from horseshoe bats, to enable the viruses to gain entry into human cells.

These highly controversial gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan lab were funded in large part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases NIAID (under the direction of Dr. Anthony Fauci) and the U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance, led by Peter Daszak, who’s become a ubiquitous spokesperson for the “it evolved in nature and jumped to humans” story.

Fauci, who since 1984 has held government positions under six presidents, both Republican and Democrat, has been a strong advocate for U.S. government funding of gain-of-function experimentation. Fauci claims, with little or no justification, that risky gain-of-function research can help develop new vaccines for pandemics, despite the fact that 30 years of these dangerous experiments have not delivered any tangible benefits, such as cures or safe vaccines.

In 2014 the Obama administration, following a series of lab accidents, and responding to a petition signed by more than 300 global scientists, declared a temporary, albeit partial “pause” on funding gain-of-function experiments in the U.S. Exemptions to this “pause,” eventually reviewed by a secret government panel, were nonetheless allowed to go forward.

The Obama administration’s ban was lifted in 2017, under Trump. Yet between 2014 – 2016, the NIH and Fauci-led NIAID, first under Obama and later under Trump, continued funding gain-of-function research, overseas at the Wuhan lab, via Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance.

Not surprisingly both Fauchi and Daszak have been staunch defenders of the official Chinese government story that the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) “naturally” evolved from bats and/or other host species to infect humans.

While Trump has at times attempted to fire up his xenophobic base by talking about the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu,” he hasn’t uttered a word about how his administration (as Obama before him) has been funding and participating in gain-of-function experiments. Not surprising, given Trump’s ongoing collaboration with Xi Jinping, the Chinese dictator, who just happens to control not only trillions of dollars in U.S. Treasury Bonds and exports, but the medical equipment, Pharma drugs and lab chemicals that are in such short supply in the U.S. Trump also has millions of dollars in real estate loans coming due from Chinese banks next year.

In 2017, the Trump administration officially reversed Obama’s “funding pause” on risky gain-of-function projects. A government panel was instituted to review each research project. Only those lab experiments that were supposedly 1) scientifically sound; 2) conducted in a high-security lab; 3) intended to produce knowledge that benefits humans; and 4) without a safer alternative, would be funded.

As the New York Times reported, many scientists protested the decision, correctly pointing out that gain-of-function researchers risk creating a monster germ that could escape the lab and seed a pandemic.

Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist and bioweapons expert at Rutgers University, told the Times that he applauded the requirement for review panels. However, he said the NIH should have created clearer minimum safety standards and a mandate that the benefits “outweigh” the risks instead of merely “justifying” them.

Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist who directs the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Times that recent disease-enhancing experiments “have given us some modest scientific knowledge and done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, and yet risked creating an accidental pandemic.” Lipsitch said hoped the panels would turn down such work.

Though the ban was overturned in December 2017, it wasn’t until February 2019, when news of the first approved studies was leaked to Science Magazine, that the public learned that the reviews of grant proposals involving gain-of-function research—funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars—were to be conducted in secret. Names of the expert-panel members have been kept secret, along with the panels reviews of gain-of-function and other virus and pathogen experiment proposals.

The idea of the U.S. government, under any administration, funding dangerous experiments it doesn’t want you to know about became a literal public relations time bomb in January 2020, when the emergence of a new, highly contagious virus in China hit the news.

For damage control, the White House and the NIH convened a meeting of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), the panel that had previously written the rules for reviewing gain-of-function research, in with the intent of getting the NSABB on board with keeping everything secret.

At that meeting, the man who chairs the committee that decides which gain-of-function research can be funded by the government revealed himself.

Christian Hassell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense, Senior Science Adviser to the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response—and chair of the secret NSABB gain-of-function risk review committee—acted as one of the spokespersons for the Trump Administration. Hassell cautioned that disclosing the names of the government (likely including military) scientists who sat on his committee could “chill” people from serving. He claimed that the administration was “committed to enhancing transparency,” but warned that this would probably require new action by Congress.

Clearly the Trump administration, just like the Obama administration and those before it, isn’t going to do the right thing, and ban dangerous gain-of-function experiments unless we the people force them to.

It’s time for a permanent ban on the lab creation of deadly viruses.

Newsweek recently reported some of the details relating to the Trump administration funding scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses:

“In 2019, with the backing of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health committed $3.7 million over six years for research that included some gain-of-function work. The program followed another $3.7 million, 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019, bringing the total to $7.4 million.”

In April 2020, Trump finally cut off NIH aid to Wuhan for gain-of-function research as COVID-19 ravaged the globe. EcoHealth Alliance President Pete Daszak said that he and his team were merely studying how coronaviruses spread from bats to humans and claimed not to understand the rationale behind the decision to yank his grant.

But Daszak and his collaborators at the Wuhan Institute of Virology weren’t just studying how coronavirus spread from bats to humans, they were actually making coronavirus capable of spreading from bats to humans. They were the first to create a bat coronavirus capable of directly infecting humans (rather than first needing to evolve in an intermediate animal host). 

EcoHealth Alliance has since funded additional gain-of-function research that Daszak has championed—without acknowledging his connection. Gain-of-function research funded by EcoHealth Alliance included the 2015 coronavirus-SARS chimaera, created by a team that included the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This research has been widely criticized by fellow scientists.

In 2015, a team of researchers, including scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, created a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus from a virus called SHC014, which is found in horseshoe bats in China, and a virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Their chimaera infected human airway cells, proving that the surface protein of SHC014 had the necessary structure to bind to a key receptor on the cells and to infect them. 

Concerned scientists sounded the alarms.

In 2015, Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, told Nature magazine that researchers had created a novel virus that “grows remarkably well” in human cells. “If the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory.”

Wain-Hobson disapproved of the study because it provided little benefit, and revealed little about the risk that the wild SHC014 virus in bats posed to humans.

Richard Ebright, a biodefense expert from Rutgers University, spoke out about the same research, saying, “The only impact of this work is the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk.” 

But Daszak spoke out in favor of the research, saying the study’s findings “move this virus from a candidate emerging pathogen to a clear and present danger.”

Daszak’s statement is odd, as it seems obvious that it was the research itself that made the virus a clear and present danger, and that couldn’t be what he meant.

Nature failed to mention that EcoHealth Alliance had funded the research with a U.S. grant.

Even the creators of the coronavirus-SARS chimaera questioned the wisdom of tinkering with viruses to make them more dangerous to humans. As Nature reported, in their paper, the study authors conceded that funders may think twice about allowing such experiments in the future. "Scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue," they write, adding that discussion is needed as to "whether these types of chimeric virus studies warrant further investigation versus the inherent risks involved.”

It’s time for the U.S. government, and all the governments of the world to demonstrate their compliance with a global ban on chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, dropping the dangerous pretense that lab-created viruses and microorganisms constitute valid biomedical and biodefense research.

We need a total U.S. and global ban on dangerous gain-of-function experimentation, and we need it now, before the next pandemic escapes or is deliberately released.

Please join thousands of other concerned citizens and sign our petition here.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International, and the author of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal.”

Alexis Baden-Mayer is OCA’s political director. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Order Ronnie's New Book: Grassroots Rising

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