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97 Foreign Aff. 178 (2018)
The New Killer Pathogens: Countering the Coming Bioweapons Threat

handle is hein.journals/fora97 and id is 602 raw text is: 

The New Killer


Countering the Coming
Bioweapons Threat

Kate Charlet
ilitary and political leaders
          have worried about large-
          scale biological warfare for
more than a century. Blight to destroy
crops, Anthrax to slay horses and cattle,
Plague to poison not armies only but
whole districts-such are the lines along
which military science is remorselessly
advancing, Winston Churchill lamented
in 1925. But despite the deadly potential
of biological weapons, their actual use
remains rare and (mostly) small scale.
Over the last several decades, most
states have given up their programs.
Today, no country is openly pursuing
biological weapons.
   Recent breakthroughs in gene editing
 have generated massive excitement, but
 they have also reenergized fears about
 weaponized pathogens. Using gene-editing
 tools, including a system known as CRISPR,
 scientists are now able to modify an
 organism's DNA more efficiently, flexibly,
 and accurately than ever before. The
 full range of potential applications is
 hard to predict, but CRISPR makes it
 much easier for scientists to produce
 changes in how organisms operate.
   These technologies offer vast potential
 for global good. Researchers are studying
 KATE CHARLET is Director of the Technology
 and International Affairs Program at the
 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

the use of new gene-editing techniques
to fix deadly genetic mutations, create
disease-resistant crops, and treat cancer.
Top scientists at Harvard are pursuing
medical applications once thought to be
out of reach, such as age reversal and
transplanting pig organs into humans.
But it's not hard to imagine how gene-
editing technologies could be misused.
Some fear that terrorists with even
moderate capabilities could develop
deadlier pathogens. And laboratories,
appealing to parents' instincts to offer
advantages to their children, could
modify embryos in ways that cross
ethical boundaries.
   One of the most worrisome questions
today is whether advances in biotech-
nology could tempt states to revive their
old biological weapons programs or start
new ones. Such an outcome would drasti-
cally undermine the progress of the last
several decades. A revitalization of state
biological weapons programs could trigger
new conflicts or rekindle old arms races,
destabilizing the international order.
   Faced with extremes of promise and
peril, policymakers must proceed with
a sense of perspective. Fear-mongering
or overregulation could undercut the
almost unimaginable benefits of the
biotechnology revolution. But failing
to anticipate and manage the signifi-
cant risks, including the resurgence of
state biological weapons programs,
would be equally problematic.

Understanding the risks that biological
weapons pose today requires a closer look
at how states have historically weighed
their benefits and drawbacks. Since
1945, only six countries have publicly
admitted developing biological weapons,


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