Showing posts from September, 2014

Bioethics/Policy Discussion - Storage and Weaponization of Biological Agents (Biosafety)

This summer has seen a surge in discussion over biosafety. Should we still be storing smallpox? Is the risk of bioterrorism greater now in the post-genomic era? Should we artificially increase virulence in the lab to be prepared for it possibly occurring in the environment?
On Tuesday the Penn Science Policy Group discussed the issue of biosafety as it relates to potential uses of biological weapons and risks of accidental release of pathogens from research labs.
The idea of using biological weapons has existed long before cells, viruses, and bacteria were discovered. Around 1,500 B.C.E the Hittites in Asia Minor were deliberately sending diseased victims into enemy lands. In 1972, an international treaty known as the Biological Weapons Convention officially banned the possession and development of biological weapons, but that has not ended bioterrorist attacks. In 1982 a cult in Oregon tried to rig a local election by poisoning voters with salmonella. Anthrax has been released multip…