Posted by: Footler PJ8 APR 2010
One of the earliest attempts to reach international agreement on preventing the use of poison or poisoned weapons took place at the Brussels Convention of 1874. Later, at the Hague Conference in 1899, the participating states pledged “not to employ asphyxiating or deleterious gases”.
In 1928, following the horrors of the 1914–18 war, the Geneva Protocol set out to prohibit the use of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of bacteriological methods of warfare” but it did not mention developing or stockpiling them.
Further negotiations eventually led to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which came into effect in 1975. The BWC states: “Each state party to this convention undertakes never in any circumstance to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain: (1) microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; …”
Even within this convention there may be something else to worry us. We have heard how mapping the genome could soon make it possible to prescribe a drug using a patient’s genetic metabolic profile. However, the same techniques might make it easier to target specific people with biological weapons. Such weapons may be a theoretical possibility now but could become a grim reality in future.
The Biological Weapons Convention currently lists 163 states that have ratified the convention and 13 who have signed it but not yet ratified it. Nineteen other states, including some African countries, small Pacific island nations and Israel, have yet to sign it.
We might also note that there is no routine monitoring of any country’s activities and that the details of what measures are necessary to comply with the convention is left to the discretion of the individual states.