Denmark institutes new rules for handling certain biological substances

Beginning May 1, hospitals, researchers and companies in Denmark will be required to apply for a license to use certain substances that could be used to make biological weapons.

Companies who do not apply for the license but continue to handle the substances will be at risk of a jail sentence.

The new requirement follows recent revelations by experts in that industry's sector who have stated that security has been too lax and that there has been little regulation for registering biological material.

"You could say that domestic safety has been extremely, extremely lax," John-Erik Stig Hansen, head of The Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness, told The Copenhagen Post.

Licenses will be issued by The Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness to institutions, hospitals and companies, which will allow them to work with so-called "biological dual use components."

The responsible management for companies that fail to acquire the necessary license will face up to two years imprisonment.

The new requirement follows a study carried out by a resident doctors at The Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness that examined safety and security procedures at 96 facilities. That study revealed that a doctor would be able to gain access to biological weapon components without major difficulty in 50 percent of cases.

"Companies should take it seriously – not just because the penalty for not having a licence can result in a 2 year jail term, but because no Danish companies or research institutions want to be involved in delivering components that can be used in a biological weapon attack," Hansen said.