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Towards Preventing a Biological Weapons Technology Race

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  • Biology
  • Design
  • Law
  • Medicine


CISAC/ Europeans 6/29/86 revised from DSB/cisac-bw. 1.85 J. Lederberg, Rockefeller University, New York Towards preventing a biological weapons technology race. Biological weaponry poses a serious threat to all people, not just the combatants. As an overhanging anxiety it also contaminates other efforts at world order. The BW convention, signed 1972, was a useful partial step towards controlling biological and toxin weapons, notwithstanding its well-understood limitations with respect to a) verification, b) enforcement, and c) its inability to deal with weapons-related R t D (as opposed to production and deployment). Intrinsic to its utility was an expectation that it would foster a climate of mutually advantageous , cooperative verification and enforcement, meeting the deeper interests of all sides. The convention has undoubtedly been helpful in forestalling a major technology race in BW, compared e.g. to recent history in cruise missiles. Bowever, the limitations of the convention perhaps now contribute to other elements of international competition. The result today is a high degree of unmitigated suspicion about actions and intentions of ‘the other sides I , with grave consequences for 1) the credibility of arms control agreements generally - especially those not manifestly verifiable by the grossest of national means; and 2) the potentiality for fueling a major technology race between the superpowers, within the letter if not the spirit of the 1972 BW convention. Since biological agents could be manufactured in plants primarily designed for medical or industrial purposes, and since we have the prospect of still newer and more effective weapons-agents from biotechnology, anxieties about a threatening ‘breakout’ in violation of the 1972 convention further poison international harmony. Meanwhile, international security is more likely to be threatened by the proliferation of BW capability to less responsible powers; the nuclear superpo

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