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Biotechnology, weapons and humanity

31-12-2002 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 848

The ICRC is promoting consideration of the risks, rules and responsibilities related to advances in biotechnology which may lead to their hostile use to cause poisoning and deliberately spread disease.

   

Today, the world is on the verge of a revolution in biotechnology. Expected advances have enormous potential to benefit humanity. But these same technologies have great potential for misuse. They could facilitate the use of biological weapons either in armed conflict or as a means to spread terror. Deliberately inflicting disease and changing body chemistry is likely to become easier, deadlier, cheaper and more difficult to detect.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is promoting consideration of the risks, rules and responsibilities related to advances in biotechnology which may lead to their hostile use to cause poisoning and deliberately spread disease. An Appeal was launched by the ICRC on 23-25 September 2002.

The ICRC’s initiative is distinct from but is meant to complement ongoing efforts by States within the framework of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). The Fifth Review Conférence of States Parties to the BWC ended in November 2002 with the adoption of a plan containing modest commitments by States to meet at regular intervals over the next four years.
 
Includes:

  • Statement by the President of the ICRC Jakob Kellenberger

  • Appeal of the International Committee of the Red Cross on “Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity "

   
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