"USDA Scientists Manage Pathogen 'Hot Zone' in Suburban Md. Lab"

"Department of Agriculture researchers are working with rare plant pathogens that have the power to wipe out food crops that feed billions of people, or if harnessed and applied precisely, could control noxious weeds that have infested millions of acres of land."

"FREDERICK, Md. -- A sign inside the locker room in Building 374 on the U.S. Army's Fort Detrick campus is framed by thick yellow and black striped tape.

***WARNING*** ALL ITEMS OF WORK, ARTICLES OF CLOTHING, AND PERSONNEL THAT CROSS CONTAINMENT PORTALS ARE SUBJECT TO DECONTAMINATION PROCEDURES.

Across the same military complex where scientists in space suits test the world's most deadly diseases, Department of Agriculture researchers are working with rare plant pathogens that have the power to wipe out food crops that feed billions of people, or if harnessed and applied precisely, could control noxious weeds that have infested millions of acres of land.

Many of the microbes do not otherwise exist in the United States, so pathologists must study them here in the Plant Disease Containment Facility, a high-security lab and greenhouse designed to ensure not a single microscopic spore escapes."

Laura Petersen reports for E&E News' Land Letter December 1, 2011.

Source: Land Letter, 12/06/2011