Thursday, April 14, 2011

The treaty banning biological weapons is a toothless tiger

Fear that the world is about to discover that the International Space Station has been used as a germ warfare factory has the US president running scared at the beginning of The Biocide Conspiracy, Ann Massey's new thriller. 

But if this scenario was fact, neither the US nor its partners, would have a case to answer. The 1972 treaty is nothing more than a toothless tiger. Nations are forbidden from developing or acquiring weapons that spread disease, but  allowed to conduct research on both microbes and germ munitions for "protective or defensive purposes."

It is hard to understand how experiments involving a model of a germ bomb and the development of more potent anthrax could be viewed as anything other than "offensive" and, at odds with the spirit of the treaty, but calls to strengthen the pact have been rejected by its key signatories.

Even if ISS scientists were suspected of  genetically engineering a potentially deadly bacterium, they need not fear a visit from UN inspectors.

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