Call for United States to Support a Strengthened Biological Weapons Convention

  • Date: Nov 13 2002
  • Policy Number: 200213

Key Words: Chemicals, Congress, Warfare

The American Public Health Association,

Recognizing that the unprecedented number and distribution of suspected bioterrorism-related anthrax exposures and infections in 20011 raised widespread concern about the nature of intentional origins2; and,

Observing that in 2000, the APHA Governing Council adopted a policy statement that called on the Department of Health and Human Services, when designing programs to counter potential bioterrorist threats, to develop a process that could evaluate alternatives for threat reduction as well as measures necessary to guarantee that defensive programs do not promote offensive capabilities3; and,

Noting that in the same policy statement it was suggested that in order to implement this policy APHA should collaborate with other national and international organizations in educating the public in all nations on the need for complete, verifiable disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, as a fundamental way to avoid bioterrorism3; and,

Recognizing that despite being a signatory to the biological weapons convention (BWC), the United States government in November 2001 formally withdrew from the BWC Review Conference, after refusing to agree to an internationally negotiated draft protocol that would help strengthen and enforce the BWC, leading to a year’s suspension of work to strengthen the BWC enforcement provisions4; and 

Noting that the United States has been reported to be working on biological weapons and producing genetically engineered anthrax5, possibly in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention6; therefore,

  1. Calls on the United States government to join with other countries to develop a mechanism to guarantee maximum transparency for all “defensive” biological research to assure that offensive weapons are not developed; and
  2. Calls on the United States government to participate fully with other nations of the world to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention by closing loopholes and developing the most vigorous inspection regime possible that would markedly decrease the risk of offensive use of biological weapons by nation-states or terrorists; and,
  3. Calls on the United States government to join other nations in a multilateral process to strengthen international public health infrastructure, institutions and resources to guard against outbreaks of disease no matter what the cause.

References

  1. Altman LK. C.D.C. Team Tackles Anthrax. New York Times. October 16, 2001. 
  2. Johnston D. Broad WJ, Miller J. Inquiry Includes Possibility of Killer from US Lab: An Insider Would Fit the FBI’s Official Role of An Anthrax Suspect. New York Times. December 2, 001:B1.
  3. APHA Policy Statement 200016: Effective Public Health Assessment, Prevention, Response, and Training for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, Including Bioterrorism. APHA Policy Statements 1948-present, cumulative. Washington DC: American Public Health Association; current volume.
  4. Cooper G. U.S. Rejects Biological Weapons Accord. Washington Post. July 25, 2001; Allen M, Mufson S. US Scuttles Germ War Conference: Move to Halt Talks Stuns European Allies. Washington Post. December 8, 2001:A1.
  5. Miller J, Engelberg S, Broad WJ. U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits. New York Times. September 4, 2001. 
  6. Miller J. When Is Bomb Not a Bomb? Germ Experts Confront U.S. New York Times. September 5, 2001.

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