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Science and Technology and their Impacts on the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

Publisher: SIPRI
December, 2011

This study surveys important science and technology (S&T) trends relevant to the effective implementation of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), including in the context of the 2011 Seventh Review Conference. The amount of information on S&T activity is open-ended. It is nevertheless important to review major trends and methods (or approaches) that may be followed in order to understand the implications of S&T developments for biological arms control.

An attempt has been made to extend the type of sources and discussion often encountered in standard biological arms control analyses. It is hoped that this report provides a useful foundation for the further consideration of S&T developments, and methodologies for their assessment in the BTWC context.

The parties to the BTWC must recognize the implications of any paradigm shift emanating from S&T developments, both with respect to the prohibition of biological warfare and to the emergence of new framework conditions for scientific and economic cooperation and development.


1. Introduction

     I. Project background

    II. Recent developments in the lead-up to Review Conference

2. The legal and political context

     I. Regulatory issues

    II. Compliance

3. Science and technology developments

     I. S&T evaluation approaches

    II. Synthetic biology (including synthetic genomics)

   III. Systems biology and bio-informatics

    IV. Brain research

     V. Targeted drug delivery

    VI. Bioforensics

4. The interface between S&T developments and the BTWC: Recommendations

     I. Intersessional process

    II. Other considerations

5. Conclusions

Annex A. Policy options

     I. Compliance

    II. Science and technology

   III. Article X

    IV. Other 39


Dr John Hart was an Associate Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme.