When an investigation is led by individuals with financial and professional stakes in the outcome, what happens? Nothing. And thatâ€™s where weâ€™re at with the World Health Organizationâ€™s investigative team1 tasked with getting to the bottom of SARS-CoV-2â€™s origin.
The WHOâ€™s investigative commission includes Peter Daszak, Ph.D.,2 the president of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that has a close working relationship with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), having outsourced several gain-of-function research projects to it. When SARS-CoV-2 first emerged in Wuhan, China, the EcoHealth Alliance was actually funding the WIV to collect and study novel bat coronaviruses.
Not only has Daszak gone on public record dismissing the possibility of the pandemic being the result of a lab leak,3 calling the notion â€œcrackpot,â€� â€œpreposterousâ€� and â€œpure baloney,â€�4 he was also the mastermind behind the publication of a scientific statement, published in The Lancet and signed by 26 additional scientists, condemning such inquiries as â€œconspiracy theory.â€�5,6
This manufactured â€œscientific consensusâ€� was then relied on by the media to â€œdebunkâ€� theories and evidence showing the pandemic virus most likely originated from a laboratory.
WHOâ€™s Investigative Team Dismisses Lab Origin Theory
Considering Daszakâ€™s personal involvement with gain-of-function research in general, and research efforts at WIV in particular, he has plenty of motivation to make sure the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic is not laid at the feet of researchers such as himself, especially those at WIV.
So, it was no surprise whatsoever when the WHO, February 9, 2021, announced its investigators had concluded the WIV and two other biosafety level 4 laboratories in Wuhan had nothing to do with the COVID-19 outbreak, and that the lab-escape theory would no longer be part of the teamâ€™s investigation.7,8,9
Interestingly, Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, points out that SARS-related work has also been done in BSL2 and BSL3 labs, which were excluded from the investigation.10 The team also was not equipped or designed to conduct a forensic examination of laboratory practices.11 Rather, they relied on information obtained directly from the Chinese team.
According to the WHO team leader, Danish food safety and zoonosis scientist Ben Embarek, the officials at WIV â€œare the best ones to dismiss the claims and provide answersâ€� about the potential for a lab leak. However, that line of reasoning hardly passes the smell test.
As noted by GM Watch, it â€œdefies common sense: Suspects in an investigation should clearly not be treated as â€˜the best onesâ€™ to dismiss any possible charges against them.â€�12 Embarek further insisted that lab accidents are â€œextremely rare,â€� hence itâ€™s â€œvery unlikely that anything could escape from such a place.â€�13 Yet this is another entirely unconvincing argument.
According to the Cambridge Working Group in 2014, â€œbiosafety incidents involving regulated pathogens have been occurring on average over twice a weekâ€� in the U.S. alone,14,15 and a Beijing virology lab accidentally released the original SARS virus on no less than four separate occasions.16 Three of those four instances led to outbreaks.17
Experts Condemn Conflicted WHO Inquiry
Many experts are now condemning the WHOâ€™s inquiry as a sham and a political stunt to exonerate the Chinese government.18 And, at the front of this sham investigation is Daszak himself, who was hand selected by Chinese authorities to be on the WHOâ€™s investigative team in the first place. As reported by GM Watch:19
â€œThe lengths that China is going to in order to control the WHOâ€™s narrative was highlighted in John Sudworthâ€™s report20 on the press conference for the BBC. It showed Chinese officials preventing him from interviewing a WHO team member after the press conference.
Nobody tried to prevent him interviewing Peter Daszak, however. In fact, Daszak has given so many media interviews during the WHO teamâ€™s time in China that he has, in the words of one commentator, established himself as â€˜the public voice of the WHO team.â€™â€�
Unherd also reported on the controversial WHO investigation:21
â€œThe experts were adamant: there is no need for further inquiries into this concept since it is â€˜extremely unlikelyâ€™ to be the cause of this global catastrophe. It was no surprise to hear such claims from Liang Wannian, the Chinese professor on the podium.
He is, after all, head of the Covid-19 panel at their National Health Commission who led Beijingâ€™s response to the crisis. He has defended his governmentâ€™s â€˜decisiveâ€™ approach, despite the silencing of doctors trying to warn their fellow citizens, the denials of human transmission, the deletions of key data and the reluctance to share genetic sequencing22 …
Yet how shameful to see the WHO â€¦ diminish itself again by kowtowing to Chinaâ€™s dictatorial regime in such craven style. Beijing fiercely resisted this mission for months, even imposing sanctions on Australia after it called for such an inquiry.
It gave consent after considerable haggling in return for the right to vet the team of scientists. Lo and behold, those picked included â€¦ Daszak, who has worked with Wuhan scientists for years on their controversial experiments and led efforts to dismiss claims of any lab leak as â€˜baseless.â€™ Now suddenly this is a â€˜WHO-China Joint Studyâ€™ â€” and it seems the chosen experts see their task as selling Chinaâ€™s story to the planet.â€�
Indeed, China appears to be purposely hiding much of the scientific data the world needs if we are ever to get to the bottom of where SARS-CoV-2 came from, which makes the WHOâ€™s catering to China all the more suspicious.
As reported by OpIndia23 and others,24 a critical database in China that holds the genetic sequences of more than 22,000 samples, including more than 100 unpublished sequences of bat coronaviruses and all bat coronavirus gain-of-function research data from the WIV, was brought offline in September 2019. The WIV-affiliated database created by the National Virus Resource Center was also made inaccessible to the outside world.
According to OpIndia, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated there is â€œreason to believeâ€� WIV researchers became ill in the fall of 2019 which, if true, would coincide with the takedown of these crucial databases.25 Below, Iâ€™ll also review additional evidence suggesting WIV staff may have gotten ill as early as August 2017.
WHO Sticks to Natural Origin Theory
According to the WHO team and its Chinese counterparts, one theory still in the running is that SARS-CoV-2 piggybacked its way into the Wuhan market in shipments of frozen food from other areas of China, where coronavirus-carrying bats are known to reside, or even other countries.26,27 Australian beef was apparently offered up as one possible overseas source.28
In an interview with CNN, Daszak referred to finding SARS-CoV-2 on frozen animal foods as â€œa striking piece of evidence,â€� as the animal meats in question, including ferret badgers, have been identified as potential intermediate hosts.29
And that brings us to another promoted theory, which is that the virus mutated and jumped species naturally, going from bats to an intermediary host such as pangolin, cat or mink, before mutating into a virus capable of infecting a human host.
A third theory is that an infected individual brought the virus into the Wuhan market, although no details on who that might have been, or where they might have contracted the infection in the first place have been presented.
WHO has now declared its China investigation completed, and is considering expanding its scope to look into other countries as the potential source of the virus. Not surprisingly, Chinese state media are reporting that Wuhan has been â€œcleared of guiltâ€� and is no longer a suspected origin of the pandemic. The Chinese Foreign Ministry is also calling for an investigation into American-based laboratories.30
New Evidence of Lab Origin Emerges
Meanwhile, just two weeks before the WHO officially dismissed the lab leak theory and took it off the table for future inquiries, a new study31 by Dr. Steven Quay â€” a highly respected and one of the most-cited scientists in the world32 â€” was published, claiming to show â€œbeyond a reasonable doubt that SARS-CoV-2 is not a natural zoonosis but instead is laboratory derived.”
In the short video above, Quay summarizes the findings of his Bayesian analysis. His 193-page paper goes into the full details and can be downloaded from zenodo.org33 for those who want to dive into the nitty gritty of this statistical analysis.
Bayesian analysis,34 or Bayesian inference, is a statistical tool used to answer questions about unknown parameters by using probability distributions for observable data. As reported by PR Newswire:35
â€œBeginning with a likelihood of 98.2% that it was a zoonotic jump from nature with only a 1.2% probability it was a laboratory escape, 26 different, independent facts and evidence were examined systematically. The final conclusion is that it is a 99.8% probability SARS-CoV-2 came from a laboratory and only a 0.2% likelihood it came from nature.
â€˜Like many others, I am concerned about what appear to be significant conflicts of interest between members of the WHO team and scientists and doctors in China and how much this will impede an unbiased examination of the origin of SARS-CoV-2,â€™ said Dr. Quay.
â€˜By taking only publicly available, scientific evidence about SARS-CoV-2 and using highly conservative estimates in my analysis, I nonetheless conclude that it is beyond a reasonable doubt that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a laboratory.
The additional evidence of what appears to be adenovirus vaccine genetic sequences in specimens from five patients from December 2019 and sequenced by the Wuhan Institute of Virology requires an explanation. You would see this kind of data in a vaccine challenge trial, for example. Hopefully the WHO team can get answers to these questions.â€™”
Well, we now know that the WHO team got no such answers, and have moved on to less fertile fields of inquiry. Ironically, Quay based the starting probabilities used for his analysis on the work of Daszak himself, among others.
Suspicious Activity at WIV in Fall of 2019
At the same time, more evidence of â€œsuspicious activityâ€� at the WIV just before the official announcement of the COVID-19 outbreak has also emerged. As mentioned, there are suspicions that WIV laboratory staff may have gotten sick as early as August 2019. According to a January 24, 2021, report by Australian Sky News,36 a January 16, 2021, fact sheet released by the U.S. State Department states:
â€œThe U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses.â€�
The fact sheet further accuses the Chinese Communist Party of â€œsystematicallyâ€� preventing â€œa transparent and thorough investigation of the origin of the pandemic, instead choosing to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation,â€� while stressing that the U.S. government still does not know where, when or how SARS-CoV-2 initially infected humans.
They do not rule out a lab accident, however. The fact sheet also noted that China has a biological weapons program, and that the WIV has collaborated with the Chinese military on â€œsecret projects.â€�
Scientific Hubris Is a Serious Threat to Us All
December 18, 2020, Colin David Butler,37 Ph.D., of the Australian National University, published an editorial38 in the Journal of Human Security in which he reviews the history of pandemics from antiquity through COVID-19, along with evidence supporting the natural origin and lab escape theories respectively. As noted by Butler:
â€œIf the first theory is correct then it is a powerful warning, from nature, that our species is running a great risk. If the second theory is proven then it should be considered an equally powerful, indeed frightening, signal that we are in danger, from hubris as much as from ignorance.â€�
Indeed, scientific hubris may well be at the heart of our current problem. Why are certain scientists so reluctant to admit thereâ€™s evidence of human interference? Why do they try to shut down discussion? Could it be because theyâ€™re trying to ensure the continuation of gain-of-function research, despite the risks?
Weâ€™re often told that this kind of research is â€œnecessaryâ€� in order to stay ahead of the natural evolution of viruses, and that the risks associated with such research are minimal due to stringent safety protocols.
Yet the evidence shows a very different picture. For the past decade, red flags have repeatedly been raised within the scientific community as biosecurity breaches in high containment biological labs in the U.S. and around the world have occurred with surprising frequency.39,40,41,42,43
As recently as 2019, the BSL 4 lab in Fort Detrick was temporarily shut down after several protocol violations were noted.44 Asia Times45 lists several other examples of safety breaches at BSL3 and BSL4 labs, as does a May 28, 2015, article in USA Today,46 an April 11, 2014, article in Slate magazine47 and a November 16, 2020, article in Medium.48
Is Gain-of-Function Research Justifiable?
Clearly, getting to the bottom of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is crucial if we are to prevent a similar pandemic from erupting in the future. If gain-of-function research was in fact involved, we need to know, so that steps can either be taken to prevent another leak (which is not likely possible) or to dismantle and ban such research altogether for the common good.
As long as we are creating the risk, the benefit will be secondary. Any scientific or medical gains made from this kind of research pales in comparison to the incredible risks involved if weaponized pathogens are released, and it doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s by accident or on purpose. This sentiment has been echoed by others in a variety of scientific publications.49,50,51,52
Considering the potential for a massively lethal pandemic, I believe itâ€™s safe to say that BSL 3 and 4 laboratories pose a very real and serious existential threat to humanity.
Historical facts tell us accidental exposures and releases have already happened, and we only have our lucky stars to thank that none have turned into pandemics taking the lives of tens of millions, as was predicted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seeing how scientists have already figured out a way to mutate SARS-CoV-2 such that it evades human antibodies, as detailed in â€œLab Just Made a More Dangerous COVID Virus,â€� having a frank, open discussion about the scientific merits of this kind of work is more pertinent than ever before, and we shouldnâ€™t allow the WHOâ€™s dismissal of the lab origin theory dissuade us from such discussion.
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