Editorials

Bioweapons

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7367.727 (Published 05 October 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:727

Usable weapons are technically easier to produce now, but we lack legal protection against them

  1. Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities
  1. British Medical Association, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP

    Biological weapons have been used throughout history. 1 2 For example, in medieval sieges infected animal corpses were thrown over the walls to start epidemics. In the first world war attempts were made to infect horses with glanders, and throughout history invading armies have poisoned wells and other water sources. Despite the 1972 international convention banning their use,3 attempts have been made to use these weapons—the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan tried to use them in 1995. The attacks on media and government offices in the United States with anthrax in 2001 in the aftermath of the events of September 11 reminded all of us of our vulnerability to biological and toxin weapons. Whether those attacks were the work of organised groups, rogue states and their supporters, or individuals with perceived grievances against the US government and its agents is irrelevant. The key point is that they show that the clandestine manufacture and distribution …

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