Updates on Bird Flu and Nail Polish

Posted by at 5:35 pm on April 18, 2012
Category: Deemed ExportsIran SanctionsOFAC

Gregory Schulte
ABOVE: H5N1 virus

Civil disobedience and export laws: those are two concepts not often linked together. But it appears that a Dutch researcher on the H5N1 avian virus is planning to tell Dutch authorities to take a hike and will submit his research to a U.S. journal even though the Dutch government has declared that the research is export-controlled.

This issue was discussed in an earlier post on this blog that discussed how decisions by U.S. researchers to restrict dissemination of some research on the bird flu virus might disqualify the research from the fundamental research exception and make it difficult to share the research with colleagues in other countries. Those restrictions were ultimately removed and the research is not considered export controlled in the United States. Dutch authorities have relied on those initial restrictions to declare the research controlled and have told the researcher that he could not submit the research to foreign journals for publication.

Now Fouchier [the Dutch researcher] says that he is prepared to defy the government and submit the work anyway, an action that could cost him up to 6 years in prison or a $102,000 fine. …

“We simply will never apply for an export permit on a scientific manuscript for publication in a journal. We do not want to create a precedent here,” he told Nature. “We might end up in court indeed if they insist on censorship.”

As an unrelated update, this blog yesterday posted on the $450,000 fine levied on Essie Cosmetics for exports of nail polish to Iran. Several readers have emailed me to suggest that the high fine was based not on the strategic implications of nail polish exports but on, shall we say, an uncooperative attitude by Essie in dealing with OFAC. That’s not hard to believe because, notwithstanding Essie’s expensive dust-up with OFAC, the cosmetic company’s website still has Iran in the drop-down list of countries in forms on its website.


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Copyright © 2012 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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You wrote: “Those restrictions were ultimately removed and the research is not considered export controlled in the United States.”

The initial “restrictions” were merely “advice” in December 2011 from an advisory board to the U.S. government.

The U.S. government had not gotten around to acting on the advice, one way or the other, by the time the advisory board reversed its advice on March 30 2012.

The U.S. government has still not issued any dicta re: the March 30 advice. It is entirely possible that security branches of the U.S. government will prevail over the health branches, and push against publication of the Dutch paper.

Speculation: Strategically, the Dutch researcher’s position may make it MORE likely that the U.S. government will decide to push against publication — after all, the U.S. government probably does not want a fight with the Dutch government, more than it doesn’t want a fight with a bunch of arrogant scientists in the flu world.

Comment by Fact Checker on April 19th, 2012 @ 10:54 am

I see that N. Korea is also on that drop-down. They are an equal-opportunity exporter to the Axis of Beauty.

Comment by Bob on April 23rd, 2012 @ 12:52 pm