biological warfare

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Related to biological warfare: Chemical and Biological Warfare

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

biological warfare

[¦bī·ə¦läj·ə·kəl ′wȯr‚fer]
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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Another example of biological warfare often referred to in the historical record is the use of smallpox during the French and Indian War in 1763.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using weapons of mass destruction in the form of chemical and biological warfare from the perspective of the user.
Government labs went through thousands of samples of biological warfare organisms.
I was then asked by the CRG to help draft legislation to deal with this problem, in particular the abuse of genetic engineering technology for biological warfare purposes.
The Iranians have all of the necessary pharmaceutical expertise, as well as the commercial infrastructure needed to produce and hide a biological warfare program.
The book contains abridged versions of the class indices from Ellison's larger Handbook of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents.
Sheldon Harris, a retired history professor at California State University, Northridge, estimated in his 1994 book ''Factories of Death'' that more than 10,000 people were killed in Japanese biological warfare experiments from 1932-1945, most notably at what was known as Unit 731 near the northeastern city Harbin.
From 1949 to 1969, scientists had conducted biological warfare tests by releasing bacteria and chemicals from sprayers, automobiles, and airplanes over American cities and states.
A government spokesman in Baghdad said last April that the country's top biowarfare scientist and father of Saddam's clandestine biological warfare programme had been arrested after he was found in possession of "sensitive documents".
Take the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings, add a few hundred thousand casualties to the death tolls, raise the crisis level throughout the country to unprecedented proportions, and then leave the buildings intact as though nothing had happened, and you begin to get a sense of what may be in store for America should terrorists include biological warfare agents such as anthrax or botulinum toxin in their arsenal of weapons.
Most Americans listening to the President did not know that the United States supplied Iraq with much of the raw material for creating a chemical and biological warfare program.
There is a regrettable tendency to think about defense against biological warfare either as unnecessary or as "too hard.