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Neurobiology: A case study of the imminent militarization of biology

30-09-2005 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 859, by Mark Wheelis, Malcolm Dando

The biological, medical (and legal) communities should face the near certainty that unless active steps are taken to prevent it, biology will become the next major military technology, and that neuroscience — and by implication much of the rest of modern biology — will become highly vulnerable to use or abuse in entirely unintended, but clearly foreseeable, ways.


Mark Wheelis and Malcolm Dando
Mark Wheelis is Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at the University of California, Davis, CA (USA), and Malcolm Dando is Professor of International Security at the University of Bradford (UK) and Director of the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre. 

The revolution in biology, including advances in genomics, will lead to rapid progress in the treatment of mental illness by advancing the discovery of highly specific ligands that affect specific neurological pathways. The status of brain science and its potential for military application to enhance soldier performance, to develop new weapons and to facilitate interrogation are discussed. If such applications are pursued, they will also expand the options available to torturers, dictators and terrorists. Several generic approaches to containing the malign applications of biology are shown, and it is concluded that success or failure in doing so will be significantly dependent on the active involvement of the scientific and medical communities.  

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