biological warfare

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biological warfare,

employment in war of microorganisms to injure or destroy people, animals, or crops; also called germ or bacteriological warfare. Limited attempts have been made in the past to spread disease among the enemy; e.g., military leaders in the French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
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 tried to spread smallpox among the Native Americans. Biological warfare has scarcely been used in modern times and was prohibited by the 1925 Geneva Convention. However, many nations in the 20th cent. conducted research to develop suitable military microorganisms, including strains of smallpox, anthrax, plague, and some nonlethal agents. Such microorganisms can be delivered by animals (especially rodents or insects) or by aerosol packages, built into artillery shells or the warheads of ground-to-ground or air-to-ground missiles and released into the atmosphere to infect by inhalation.

In 1972 the United States and the Soviet Union adopted an agreement, endorsed by the UN General Assembly and now ratified by more than 140 nations, to destroy existing stockpiles of biological weapons and refrain from developing or stockpiling new biological weapons. The treaty does allow research for defensive purposes, such as to develop antidotes to biological weapons. After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, it was disclosed that the Soviets had secretly increased research and production of a wide variety of deadly biological agents. Although Russian president Boris Yeltsin publicly ordered (1992) the abandonment of germ warfare, some expressed suspicion about the continued production of biological weapons in post–cold war Russia.

With the rise of extremist groups and the disintegration of the established international political order in the late 20th cent., biological weapons again began to be perceived as a serious threat. In the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.

The First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
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, five hidden germ-warfare laboratories and stockpiles of anthrax, botulism, and gas gangrene bacteria were discovered in Iraq. In addition to Iraq and Russia, North Korea, Iran, Egypt, Israel, China, and other nations are suspected of various violations of the 1972 agreement.

In 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, anthrax was sent through the mail in bioterrorist attacks against several locations in the United States. There was, however, no clear connection between the two terror attacks. In an attempt to develop a warning system for a bioterror attack, the Environmental Protection Agency's air quality monitoring system was adapted (2003) to permit detection of an outdoor release of smallpox and other pathogens. Such a system, however, would not have detected the narrowly focused indoor anthrax attacks of 2001.

See also chemical warfarechemical warfare,
employment in war of incendiaries, poison gases, and other chemical substances. Ancient armies attacking or defending fortified cities threw burning oil and fireballs. A primitive type of flamethrower was employed as early as the 5th cent. B.C.
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.

Bibliography

See study by J. Miller et al. (2001).

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biological warfare

[¦bī·ə¦läj·ə·kəl ′wȯr‚fer]
(ordnance)
Abbreviated BW.
Employment of living microorganisms, toxic biological products, and plant growth regulators to produce death or injury in humans, animals, or plants.
Defense against such action.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
There has been little public information available about bioweapons activities in North Korea, but the report argues that complacency is a major risk and efforts should be made to combat any potential emerging bioweapons threat.
Our invalid thinking turned dimwitted thugs carrying box-cutters into the advance team for evil bioweapons scientists and nuclear engineers.
4: Biological weapons (often termed bioweapons" biological threat agents" or bioagents") are living organisms or replicating entities (viruses which arenot universally considered alive") that reproduce orreplicate within their host victims.
(27) Yet these two diseases are not considered potential bioweapons because, despite their high rates of infection, their mortality rates are low and do not cause general panic.
With US intelligence and academic analysts displaying a consistent pattern of errors in assessing the threat from bioweapons, from the failure to properly understand the broad scope of the Soviet program to the mistaken conclusion that Iraq was still engaged in active production in the lead up to the 2003 invasion by the United States, this work argues that a narrow focus on material components and capabilities tends to neglect critical social factors at the individual, organizational, and political levels that effect state and non-state efforts to develop bioweapons.
Omowunmi Sadik, Capwave is a rapid, sensitive, and portable Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) platform for use anywhere antibody based testing can be done and is capable of detecting bioweapons (anthrax, bacillus globigii), biomarkers (cancer, stem cells), toxins (E.
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, 43, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told The Guardian of Britain that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.
At the time, intelligence sources told CNN that Alwan had claimed that Iraq had a secret bioweapons program.
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials, told the BND, Germany's secret service, that Iraq had mobile bioweapons trucks and had built clandestine factories.
The growing worldwide infrastructure for bioweapons engineering makes this notion plausible, at least as an accident; and we do know that huge population crashes naturally caused by microbes have happened many times in the past: In the 14th century, bubonic plague wiped out a third of Europe's crowded cities.
Arguably, stymied by states' failure to agree about verification procedures, a sweeping arms control and disarmament regime has been transformed into a taboo that attempts primarily to preclude the use of bioweapons. Contemporary limits on capabilities have been weakened politically, and the prospects for stronger limits do not look good.
Sixty years later however, new evidence has emerged that bioweapons may indeed have been used.