Pubdate: June, 1999
Source: Scientific American (US)
Page: 75
Copyright: 1999 Scientific American, Inc
Note: This short article appeared as a side bar on a longer article,
"Biologicel Warfare Against Crops," by Paul Rogers, Simon Whitby, & Malcolm
Dundo, all biological warfare experts from Bradford University in England.


Last year the U.S. Congress approved a $23-million antidrug program that
includes research on plant pathogens.

Among the target plants are those that produce narcotics such as cocaine,
heroin and marijuana.

Advocates of the program hail it as a potential breakthrough. Representative
Bill McCollum of Florida, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, said,
"All of the indications are that this has the potential for making a big
difference in the drug war.... This could be the silver bullet."

Article I of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) bans
the development, production and stockpiling of biological agents intended
"for hostile purposes or in armed conflict." Also outlawed are biological
weapons "that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other
peaceful purposes." Proponents of the use of plant pathogens against drug
crops therefore point out that they would be used in cooperative proqrams
with states in which the drugs are produced. 

Opponents of the plans have three concerns.

One is that induced epidemics might, in some circumstances, spread to other

Another is that plant pathogens could be used in drug-proclucing regions
without the consent of the state in question.

Whereas such use might be popular with antidrug agencies, it would almost
certainly breach the BTWC and also set a dangerous precedent.

The greatest concern, however, is that the development of a capability to
destroy drug crops with plant pathogens will inevitably provide a wealth of
knowledge and practical experience that could readily be applied in much
more aggressive, offensive biological warfare
targeting food crops.

- - Paul Rogers, Simon Whitby, & Malcolm Dundo

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