In the wake of 9/11 the US has greatly boosted funding for Bio-weapons research. This research is being used to protect us from the "dark future" of
bio-warfare. The rapid research and quick growth of the knowledge base in this area is have caused many to worry. Some say we're opening a Pandora's
Box, other's are concerned that the current research being done is in breach of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, and such breaches by the US
will lead other nations to work around the rules or snub them all together as well.
Even more worrisome to many experts is the apparent growth in secretive, or "black box," biodefense research by the U.S. intelligence community.
"There's all kinds of secret research going on right now," says Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist who has worked closely with the military. "The
more you create secret research in biology," he warns, "the more you create risk." One program that has become public is Project Jefferson, a Pentagon
effort to genetically engineer a vaccine-resistant version of anthrax. After the program's existence was revealed by the New York Times in 2001, the
Pentagon announced that it intended to complete the project and that the results would be classified. "[The military's] natural instinct is to exploit
the technology and keep everybody else away from it," says John D. Steinbruner, director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the
University of Maryland. "In their hands, this technology is potentially extremely dangerous."
Programs like Project Jefferson have already raised concerns that U.S. scientists are treading dangerously close to the limits of the 1972 Biological
Weapons Convention, which prohibits offensive research. Just months before September 11, the Bush administration walked away from negotiations to
impose biological-weapons inspections, in part because American pharmaceutical companies did not want to open their labs to international inspectors.
The abandonment of the talks left the world without any way to enforce the treaty's restrictions. Now, experts fear that the explosion of American
research—including programs such as Project Jefferson that are widely viewed as potential violations of the treaty—might encourage other countries to
disregard the convention.
Despite these fears, the administration is pushing to expand research programs even further. In a rare unclassified report on the Pentagon's
biodefense plans, James B. Petro, a top official in the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently called for a new federal "threat assessment" facility
for advanced bioweapons. Such a facility, he wrote, would investigate topics with "limited implications for the general bioscience community, but
significant application for nefarious scientists."
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The most telling thing in this article is this quote by researcher Mark Buller: " "When you have thrown a lot of money at it, people start to think
very hard about what is possible, losing sight of what is practical."
Lost in the research is what the possible outcomes of doing such things as bringing back to life parts of the 1918 Influenza Virus and creating a
strain of Anthrax that's immune to an antidote could be. They just don't know what might be brought to life, and with so much research going on at
once many things get lost in the fray.
The international ramifications of skirting the Bio-weapons convention will lead to many other nations doing so and having the moral authority to back
it. I do suppose however, if I were a pharmaceutical company I wouldn't want people nosing around my research department either.