During the past century, more than 500 million people have died due to infectious diseases. Several tens of thousands of these deaths were due to the deliberate release of pathogens or toxins. Two international treaties outlawed biological weapons in 1925 and 1972. Unfortunately, these treaties have failed to stop countries from conducting offensive weapons research and large-scale production of biological weapons. As our knowledge increases on these disease-causing agents, so does our fear of future threats of biological warfare (Frischknecht, 2003).
Biological warfare can be defined as “living organisms or infected material derived from them, which are used for hostile purposes and intended to cause disease or death in man, animals, and plants, and which depend for their efforts on the ability to multiply in the person, animal, or plant attacked” (Beeching, Dance, Miller, & Spencer, 2002). These agents have a huge impact on agriculture and on human health.
History of biological warfare programs
Since the beginning of civilization, poisons have been used for assassination purposes. The foundation of microbiology allowed those who were interested in biological weapons, to chose and design different biological agents. The potential dangers of these agents were soon recognized and resulted in two international declarations that prohibited the use of poisoned weapons. These treaties, however, contained no means of control and therefore, interested parties were developing and using biological weapons that we can see illustrated by the German army in the First World War. The German army was the first to use biological and chemical weapons, attempting to infect animals directly and to contaminate animal feed in their enemies’ co...
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Frischknecht, F. (2003). The history of biological warfare. EMBO reports, 4, S47-S52. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.embor849
Lesho, M. E., Dorsey, M. D., & Bunner, D. (1998). Feces, dead horses, and fleas. Evolution of the hostile use of biological agents. Western journal of medicine, 168(6), 512.
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