Bracing for Armageddon? The Science and Politics of Bioterrorism in America

By William R. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
GENETICALLY MODIFIED
PATHOGENS

IT HAS BEEN SAID MORE THAN ONCE THAT MILITARY FORCES are usually trained to fight the last war. Most of the pathogens on the CDC lists are in that mode—pathogens we already know from having explored their use, and defenses against them, in previous times. All of them exist in nature, and have changed very little since humans began studying them. The threat of bioterrorism based on these pathogens has stirred intense research into the development of new vaccines and drugs to defend against them, and we have made remarkable progress.

In fact, it is likely that within not too many years, we will have effectively neutralized most if not all of the CDC agents as potential bioterror weapons. But we should not assume that these are the only biological weapons that might be used against us. For some time now, scientists have been asking what the next generation of bioweapons might look like and how we can prepare ourselves to defend against them.

Do we really have to worry about a “next generation” of biological weapons? After all, didn’t the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 effectively shut down research into offensive biological weapons? Maybe. We think our own government has stopped such research, and we hope that others have done the same. But we don’t really know. And how do we define research into

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