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Thread: Unholy Grail: The Quest for Genetic Weapons

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    Lightbulb Unholy Grail: The Quest for Genetic Weapons

    by Kellia Ramares (Mar. 11, 2003)

    Biological and Chemical Weapons: Is their use inevitable?

    In 1997, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen reported that more than 25 countries had-or may be developing-nuclear, biological and
    chemical (NBC) weapons and the means to deliver them, and that a larger number were capable of producing such weapons, potentially on short notice. There are a number of reasons why, despite the BTWC, the use of biological and chemical weapons becomes more and more likely:

    1) It is extremely difficult to monitor the creation of bioweapons because there are no critical raw materials, e.g. uranium or plutonium, the mining, manufacture or transportation of which could be evidence of the creation of the weapon; a small amount of a bioagent can do a lot of damage, so no major stockpiling is needed;

    2) Bioweapons are cheap compared to conventional and nuclear weapons, and can be economically developed through computer modeling. Furthermore, bioweapons do not require a large and expensive delivery infrastructure of conventional weapons, i.e. planes, aircraft carriers, missiles, etc. For example, anthrax was sent through the U.S. mails in 2001;

    3) The spread of human, animal or crop disease can be made to look like an "act of God" with no one able to trace the perpetrator(s) [...]

    The adaptation to future warfare involving CBW is being done in such as way as to increase the likelihood of such a war. The United States, and perhaps other nations as well, is engaging in so-called defensive research known as "threat assessment." That means creating the threat or a simulant of it, and testing its delivery by various means in order to assess how harmful it could be.

    Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Chair of the Federation of American Scientist's Working Group on Biological Weapons and Director of the Federation's Chemical and Biological Arms Control Program, has written that the outcome of threat assessment "may be a covert international arms race to stay at the cutting edge of BW development, using defence as a cover."

    To make matters worse, the United States is moving toward more secrecy about the general conduct of its defensive research, a practice which could make other nations suspicious about the true nature of the research. It's also appears that the U.S. is up to lawyerly tricks to evade the requirements of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Dr. Rosenberg has reported:

    "It is startling to find, in the Assessment Report of a meeting of US and UK defence officials, that 'in the US these [relevant treaties, including the BWC] do not apply to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or Department of Energy.' Therefore, the Report lists as one of the Recommended Actions for the US: 'If there are promising technologies that DoD is prohibited from pursuing, set up MOA [memoranda of agreement] with DOJ or DOE.' The US delegation to this event - the Non-Lethal Weapons Urban Operations Executive Seminar, held in London on November 30, 2000 - was led by four US Marine Corps Generals, including one who was Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps."

    Chemical and biological weapons (CBW) create the possibility of warfare in which battlefields are intentionally or unintentionally rendered obsolete, as it may not be possible to confine diseases or chemicals to a limited geographical area. They also ensure a future of warfare, perhaps a very near future, in which civilians are not "collateral damage" but the prime targets. And the combination of a lowered moral barrier towards CBW, the stirring up of ages-old ethnic hatreds, and advances in genome research within the last decade has brought the genocidal possibility of genetic weapons, i.e., weapons that target some component of the genetic makeup (genome) of its victim, closer to reality.

    So far, there is no proof that genetic weapons targeting any organism have actually been developed. But several countries have researched or are researching the subject. The possibilities for genetic weapons range from botanical pathogens that could wipe out a region's crops in an act of military or economic warfare, or terrorism, to the ultimate Hitlerian nightmare: the "ethno-bomb," a weapon targeted at unique or nearly unique genetic characteristics of a population. (For the purposes of this article, pathogens that can harm anyone, but which are distributed, intentionally or accidentally, to a specific racial or ethnic group are not considered "ethno-bombs" or "ethnic weapons.")

    A strong case for HIV being a laboratory created virus distributed intentionally or accidentally to Central Africa and the New York gay community via smallpox and hepatitis B vaccines is made by Dr. Leonard Horowitz in Emerging Viruses: AIDS & Ebola - Nature, Accident or Intentional?, (Tetrahedron, Inc., Rockport MA, 1996). In the worst case scenario of unintended consequences, government and corporate genome research intended for legitimate medical applications may someday provide the knowledge required to develop genetically specific ethnic weapons.

    "Ethno-Bombs": Warnings were raised a decade ago

    In 1993, RAFI, Rural Advancement Foundation International, now the ETC Group - Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration, raised concerns that the gathering of human genetic material by, among other organizations, the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) could make feasible the development of ethnically targeted viruses. RAFI's executive director, Pat Roy Mooney wrote: "Not since we warned, at the beginning of the 1980s, that herbicide manufacturers were buying seed companies in order to develop plant varieties that liked their chemicals, has RAFI borne the brunt of so much abuse.

    But in 1996, Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association's (BMA) Head of Science and Ethics told a congress of the World Medical Association that ethnically targeted genetic weapons were now possible, and she cited as example the possibility of designing an agent that could sterilize or pass on a lethal hereditary defect in specific ethnic groups.
    In 1999, the BMA issued a report called Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity, which warned that genetic knowledge could be misused to develop weapons aimed at specific ethnic groups. The executive summary, available online, stated:

    "Over the last few decades rapid advances in molecular biology have allowed the heritable material (DNA) of different organisms to be interchanged. The Human Genome Project and the Human Genetic Diversity Projects are allowing the identification of human genetic coding and differences in normal genetic material between different ethnic groups.
    During the review conferences on the BTWC, an increasing level of concern has been expressed by national governments over the potential use of genetic knowledge in the development of a new generation of biological and toxin weapons. Legitimate research into microbiological agents, relating both to the development of agents for use in, for example agriculture, or to improve the medical response to disease causing agents, may be difficult to distinguish from research with the malign purpose of producing more effective weapons."

    Research that could be used to develop ethnic weapons has historically been based upon natural susceptibilities, or upon the absence of vaccination within a target group. Genetic engineering of biological agents, to make them more potent, has been carried out covertly for some years, but not as an overt step to produce more effective weapons. In genetic terms there are more similarities between different people and peoples than there are differences. But the differences exist, and may singly or in combination distinguish the members of one social group (an "ethnic" group) from another.

    Rapid Advances: How fast is fast?

    Advancements in genome research have occurred at an amazing pace The U.S. Human Genome Project expects to complete the Human DNA Sequence in the spring of 2003, two years ahead of the original schedule. RAFI's (now ETC Group's) Pat Roy Mooney has written:

    "The amount of genetic information being stored in the international gene banks is doubling every 14 months... A quarter century ago, it took a laboratory two months to sequence 150 nucleotides (the molecular letters that spell out a gene). Now, scientists can sequence 11 million letters in a matter of hours. The cost of DNA sequencing has dropped from about US$100 per base pair in 1980 to less than a dollar today [early 2001] and will be down to pennies by 2002. Standard gene sequencing technology once required at least two weeks and $US20,000 to screen a single patient for genetic variations in 100,000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). Now 100,000 SNPs can be screened in a few hours for a few hundred dollars."

    Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are small genetic variations that occur in individuals. But studies are also being done by the SNP Consortium, an organization of private biotechnology firms, to see how they vary from group to group. The groups being studied are African Americans, Asians and Caucasians.

    Sequencing the Human Genome: What do genes say about race?

    The Human Genome Project has shown that 99.9% of human DNA is identical throughout the species and that there are more genetic variations within groups than between groups. Thus, race, as we think of it socially, is a cultural construct, rather than a genetic one. Yet, our eyes tell us that there are differences. All humans would look alike otherwise. It is also well known that certain ethnic groups have predispositions to certain illnesses. Something must account for those predispositions. Is that something in the .1% of non-identical genes scattered throughout humanity? More specifically, is that something explained by Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms ?

    When it comes to the development of "ethno bombs," it's the study of SNPs that most worries Edward Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project and a former RAFI staff member. It's the primary focus of the Sunshine Project to prevent new breakthroughs in biotechnology from being applied for military purposes. In an interview with FTW in January, 2003, Hammond said of SNPs:

    "What these are, put in more simple language, are little, small differences in the genetic code that are in all of us, but ones which can be at least theoretically related to a particular ethnic group or a particular kind of people. And so the fear is that these discoveries that there are some very minor genetic differences that do seem to roughly break down somewhat along culturally defined ethnic lines could become exploitable, particularly once we reach the point where genetic constructs that could be created by science could take advantage of a group of these. What I mean by that is that there are very, very few genetic differences that in and of themselves are markedly different from one population to another.

    However, if you could do a combination of factors, a combination of small differences in genes there might be ways to roughly create something that you would call a genetic weapon.
    If we arrive at the point where genetic weapons are possible, and I do believe that this will happen, the thing that I'm most concerned about are not the individual "disease" genes that have been identified in the past.[Ethnically related genetic disorders such as Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, or Tay-Sachs Disease]. Rather it is a combination of genes that occur in particular frequencies in different populations and by targeting the absence or the presence of a particularly small group of genes that seems to have some sort of ethnic association, than by that way, I think genetic weapons may become possible."

    The rapid developments in genome mapping have enabled the Human Genome Project to meet all its goals for 1994-1998, and to add two new goals for 1999-2003:

    1. The determination of human sequence variation [mapping the SNPs]
    2. Functional analysis of the operation of the whole genome [understanding how the whole system works].

    These are two goals vital to creating ethnic-specific genetic weapons.

    Genetic weapons development: terrorists won't try this at home

    We cannot be sure how many states are trying to develop genetic weapons. But we can be sure that the entities trying to develop them are states (possibly with the help of large corporate contractors) and not terrorist groups. This is because only states can manage the complex science genetic research requires. Dr. Claire Fraser, President and Director of the Institute for Genomic Research (Tigr) says that although genetic data on human pathogens are public, no one knows enough to turn this information into bioweapons. Speaking out against calls to classify now public genome data, Fraser told BBC News Online:

    "I want to debunk the myth that genomics has delivered a fully annotated set of virulence and pathogenicity genes to potential terrorists. I have heard some describe genome databases as bioterror catalogues where one could order an antibiotic-resistance gene from organism one, a toxin from organism two, and a cell-adhesion molecule from organism three, and quickly engineer a super pathogen, This just isn't the case." [...]

    Who's been doing what?

    Since all biological and chemical weapons are illegal, and since ethnic weapons are especially abhorrent, countries doing research in these areas don't brag about it. Nor do the corporate media take much notice. Number 16 on Project Censored's list of the 25 top censored stories for the year 2000 was "Human Genome Project Opens the Door to Ethnically Specific Bioweapons." But in recent years, some information has surfaced in government reports or corporate media indicating that some countries have been researching the possibility of ethnic weapons.

    South Africa: Apartheid regime sought "black bomb"

    In the 1980s, South Africa's apartheid regime ran a biological weapons program called "Project Coast". According to an April 2001 U.S. Air Force Report36 one of the program's goals was to develop a "black bomb" via genetic engineering research. The "black bomb" would weaken or kill blacks but not whites.

    In addition to the "black bomb," Project Coast planned to build a large-scale anthrax production facility to produce anthrax for use against black guerrilla fighters inside or outside of South Africa and to develop a drug that would induce infertility and could be given surreptitiously to blacks, perhaps under the pretext of a vaccine. None of these goals were achieved. However, in one of the appendices to the USAF report, the authors asked, "In its genetic engineering experiments, how close was South Africa to a "black bomb"? Are other countries developing similar biological weapons?"

    Israel: CBW program finds genetic differences between Arabs and Jews

    On November 15, 1998, the Sunday Times of London ran a front page article reporting that the Israelis were planning an ethnic bomb. The article stated that the Israelis were trying to identify distinctive genes carried by some Arabs, particularly Iraqis. "The intention is to use the ability of viruses and certain bacteria to alter the DNA inside their host's living cells. The scientists are trying to engineer deadly microorganisms that attack only those bearing the distinctive genes."

    The article reported that the program was based at Nes Tziyona, Israel's main biological and chemical weapons research facility, and that an unnamed scientist there said that while the common Semitic origin of Arabs and Jews complicated the task, "They have, however, succeeded in pinpointing a particular characteristic in the genetic profile of certain Arab communities, particularly the Iraqi people." The report also quoted Dedi Zucker, a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) as saying, "Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and our experience, such a weapon is monstrous and should be denied." Israel has never signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

    The Human Genome Diversity Project

    The HGDP is an international project based at the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. HGDP is not a part of the Human Genome Project. The HGDP is of grave concern to people who believe ethnically targeted genetic weapons are on the horizon. Among these people is Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. When asked by FTW via email if she was concerned that the Human Genome Project and the Human Genome Diversity Project will pave the way for genotype specific weapons, she replied simply: "Yes."

    The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list of the HGDP does deal briefly with the issue of ethnic weapons:

    "Could these samples be used to create biological weapons that were targeted at particular populations?

    Genocidal use of genetics is not possible with any currently known technology. On the basis of what we know of human genetic variation, it seems impossible that it will ever be developed. The Project would condemn and bar any effort to use its data for such purposes. The highly visible nature of the Project and its ethical constraints should make even the attempt less plausible."

    This answer is unsatisfactory on a number of levels. First of all, it was written in late 1993 and early 1994. Subsequent revelations have indicated that such weapons are being attempted. That the Project would bar efforts to use its data for such purposes is unenforceable. The Project is putting its data in the public domain. How could it stop a government from surreptitiously using that data? The "highly visible nature of the Project and its ethical constraints" could make it unlikely that members of the Project would use the data for weapons development while they were members of the project. But what would prevent them from doing so in subsequent research for third parties?

    Lastly the conclusion that "on the basis of what we know of human genetic variation, it seems impossible that it will ever be developed" is likely premised on a false assumption that Edward Hammond pointed out in his interview with FTW:

    "One of the things that people say is that, 'Well, look. You're never going to be able to develop a genetic weapon that is perfect. Whatever combination of genes or whatever gene you target, is never going to have 100% occurrence in the population that you target. And in almost all likelihood, your own population is going to have that sequence.' In other words, even in the "best case scenario" of somebody who was evil enough to try to develop this kind of weapon, it's never going to be perfect. It's only going to get 70, 80% of the enemy are going to potentially be subject to being affected by this weapon and you might have 5, 10, 15% of your own people potentially subject to this weapon. And so experts will say, 'You know, nobody's crazy enough to do that. Nobody would actually do that because, think of the risk that would pose to their own people. And think of the fact that it really isn't going to work against all of the enemy.'

    I really don't think that that kind of rationality pervades the people that would potentially do this. And if you look at what happens in ethnic conflicts, certainly rationality and calculation about what ends you are willing to go to, to get the other guy don't play out like that. So I think that there's a certain willful ignoring of the reality of how conflict takes place when people say that these aren't potentially practical weapons.

    In light of the Israeli research into the genetic differences between Arabs and Jews, who share Semitic origin, and in light of the overwhelming evidence that the United States Government had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks and allowed them to occur, resulting in the deaths of thousands of U.S. citizens, no one should assume that any weapon, genetic or not, would not be developed because some of the developer's people might suffer the same fate as the targeted "enemy."

    The U.S. and the "dual use" dilemma: Treatments or weapons?

    A genome is the complete DNA makeup of an organism, be it human, animal or plant. Research on genomes could lead to greater understanding of how disease pathogens or genetic defects operate. This, in turn could lead to medical breakthroughs: gene therapies, treatments that take into account the individual genetically-based responses to medications, or treatments for conditions for which certain population subgroups are susceptible. For example, NitroMed, Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company that is developing nitric oxide (NO)- enhanced medicines, is testing a drug called BiDil, which is designed to improve survival in African Americans with heart failure.46 A trial involving 600 African American men and women is now in progress, with the results expected in early 2004.

    But genome research, like many other forms of biological and chemical research, is "dual use." And the U.S. Government appears to be very interested in its military applications. Note that the government's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) is not under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services. It is part of the Department of Energy, which often works hand-in-glove with the Defense Department. DOE's own explanation for its involvement in the Human Genome Project betrays military roots:

    "After the atomic bomb was developed and used, the U.S. Congress charged DOE's predecessor agencies (the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Administration) with studying and analyzing genome structure, replication, damage, and repair and the consequences of genetic mutations, especially those caused by radiation and chemical by-products of energy production. From these studies grew the recognition that the best way to study these effects was to analyze the entire human genome to obtain a reference sequence. Planning began in 1986 for DOE's Human Genome Program and in 1987 for the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) program. The DOE-NIH U.S. Human Genome Project formally began October 1, 1990, after the first joint 5-year plan was written and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two organizations."

    The JGI web site describes the Institute as "virtual human genome institute" that integrates the sequencing activities of the human genome centers at the three JGI member institutions: Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratories. JGI partner institutions include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Stanford Genome Center."

    The Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge laboratories are well known as nuclear weapons research facilities. Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos are seeking to install high containment microbiology labs in their facilities. These labs could work with virulent organisms such as live anthrax, botulism, plague. Opponents of biowarfare are concerned that the United States is violating the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention by genetically modifying anthrax.

    alking about Ethnic Weapons: Not in polite company

    The web sites for Human Genome Project Information are maintained on the web site of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Part of the web site is devoted to information on Ethical, Legal and Social Issues. That page stated that "The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have devoted 3% to 5% of their annual Human Genome Project (HGP) budgets toward studying the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) surrounding availability of genetic information. This represents the world's largest bioethics program, which has become a model for ELSI programs around the world."

    The issues raised on that page were: Fairness in the use of genetic information by insurers, employers, courts, schools, adoption agencies, and the military, among others; privacy and confidentiality of genetic information; psychological impact and stigmatization due to an individual's genetic differences; reproductive issues including adequate informed consent for complex and potentially controversial procedures, use of genetic information in reproductive decision making, and reproductive rights; clinical issues; uncertainties associated with gene tests for susceptibilities and complex conditions; conceptual and philosophical implications regarding human responsibility, free will vs. genetic determinism, and concepts of health and disease; health and environmental issues concerning genetically modified foods (GM) and microbes; and commercialization of products including property rights (patents, copyrights, and trade secrets) and accessibility of data and materials. This page contains no mention of military applications of genetics, or the possible development of ethnic weapons.

    Likewise, the page that is devoted to Minorities, Race, and Genomics contained information about conferences for minority leaders to inform them about the benefits of genetic research, and to discuss ways of helping more minority group members to develop careers in genetics. Issues that would be of primary interest to minority group individuals, i.e. genetic testing, use of genetics in the courtroom, patenting and other business issues, and careers in genetics were the subjects of the conferences. But the issue of interest to the continued survival of minority groups, i.e. the development of gene-specific ethnic weapons, was not on the agenda.

    Howard University, perhaps the most prestigious of the historically black colleges and universities in the United States, has a National Human Genome Center. The formation of the Center was announced on May 1, 2001. Its mission is "to explore the science of and teach the knowledge about DNA sequence variation and its interaction with the environment in the causality, prevention, and treatment of diseases common in African American and other African Diaspora populations." The program contains an ethics unit (GenEthics), which will be a source of bioethics information for the University and larger community as a whole. But again, military applications of genetics, and the implications of those applications for minorities is not mentioned among the many aspects of ethics with which the GenEthics unit will concern itself.

    Of course, this is not to say that any attendees of the minority conferences or the participants in the Howard University National Human Genome Center or any other human genome research facility in the world never discuss or research the ethical implications of genetic weapons. But the lack of open acknowledgement of the topic is disturbing. It is also not surprising to Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project. He told FTW: "Genetically targeted weapons or ethnic weapons are a big No-No to talk about in the world of biological weapons control. You don’t do it because you get scoffed at the minute that you do it. I personally think that people are sticking their heads in the sand about it."

    Agroterrorism: The Likely First Case Scenario

    The first genetic weapons are likely to be aimed, not at humans, but at agriculture. This is because so much more is known about plant and animal genetics through years of work sequencing their genomes and because modern agriculture has developed genetically uniform crops, which could be more easily attacked than people. Agricultural genetic weapons could also have a similar effect on a people as a direct genetic weapon, by wiping out many of the food sources of a geographically concentrated ethnic group. Dr. Mark Wheelis, a microbial biochemist and geneticist at the University of California Davis, focuses his research on the history of biological warfare, and on biological weapons control. He sees anti-agricultural bioweapons as being within the reach, not only of states, but also of agricultural corporations, organized crime, terrorist groups and individuals.

    According to Wheelis, reasons to attack agriculture would include: attacking the food supply of an enemy belligerent; destabilizing a government by initiating food shortages or unemployment; altering supply and demand patterns for a commodity, or commodity futures, and for other manipulations and disruptions of trade and financial markets.

    An agricultural bioattack would be easier to carry out than one directly against humans because there are many plant and animal diseases that humans could disperse without harming themselves by handling the bioagents. Fields have little or no security. If the goal is an economic one, such as to disrupt trade, the creation of only a few cases may be necessary to require the quarantine or destruction of a region’s crops or animals. One example of the havoc an agricultural disease can wreak on farm economies occurred in England in 2001, when over the course of 9 months, 5.7 million animals were slaughtered at a cost of 2.7 billion pounds after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

    Terminator Technology: a gateway to genetic attacks on agriculture?

    Terminator Technology, developed by St. Louis-based Monsanto Corporation, is the rubric for any of several patented processes of genetic engineering for the "control of plant gene expression," that result in second generation seeds "committing suicide" by self poisoning when an outside stimulus, most often the anti-biotic tetracycline, is applied to the crop.

    The goal of Terminator is to destroy the millennia old practice of seed-saving, thus forcing farmers to buy new seed in the market each year. Not surprisingly, Monsanto has been busy buying up seed companies. As of 1998, Monsanto owned Holdens Foundation Seeds, supplier for 25-30% of US maize acreage, Asgrow Agronmics, the leading soybean distributor in the US, De Kalb Genetics, the second largest seed company in the US and the ninth largest in the world, and Delta and Pine Land Company. This latter acquisition has given Monsanto control of 85% of the U.S. cotton seed market.

    Though technically not a genetic weapon as we have defined such in this article, Terminator technology and corporate monopolies on seed development and distribution can make the world more vulnerable to gene-specific attacks on crops by proliferating genetically identical plants.
    In an interview with FTW in January 2003, Dr. Wheelis said:

    "Since plant varieties are particularly highly inbred, and many domestic animals are very highly inbred, although not to the extent that many plants are, this does mean that, unlike humans, where there is a tremendous heterogeneity in any population, there’s a very high degree of genetic homogeneity. So you can travel for a hundred miles in [the] Midwest and see thousands of square miles planted with exactly the same variety of maize. And that means, using what one knows of the maize genome, and of this particular variety of maize, it might be possible to develop a chemical agent that will affect one variety of maize, but not another. Or a particular virus might be able to be engineered so it is able to infect on particular strain of maize or rice or whatever, but not others. And so this does raise at least the theoretical possibility, that one could tailor chemical or biological weapons to attack varieties of domestic crops or animals that were used in certain parts of the world and yet these chemicals or infectious agents would be harmless or much less harmful to other varieties. "

    FTW: Then...the mere fact that there are companies out there looking to spread a particular strain or species of maize, rice, whatever, and really the doing in of indigenous or farmer-developed crop could actually make it easier for genomic weapons?

    Wheelis: Yes, for sure. One of the most robust defenses against genotype specific weapons is a considerable amount of genetic heterogeneity. And in many parts of the developing world there are many different varieties of crops, often grown very close to each other. So you can find different land races of maize, for instance, in Mexico, grown only a few kilometers apart. Yet they’re remarkably different strains of maize. And so that kind of genetic heterogeneity in which over a large geographic area there are many different varieties of the same crop, sometimes several varieties cultivated together on the same plot of land, makes those crops quite resistant to any kind of genetic specificity of a weapon.

    In contrast, in the developed world, we commonly plant very large acreages, at very high densities, of identical, not just similar, but identical genotypes of whatever crop we’re talking about. And so that makes this high density, low genetic diversity monoculture quite vulnerable to this kind of attack, whereas the lower density, intercropped, genetically variable agriculture of much of the developing world is not so susceptible to this."

    Thus, ironically, it is the United States, a major agricultural producer, and the world’s biotech leader and superpower that could be devastated by a genetically specific agricultural bioattack. But Monsanto is also targeting the developing world. Dr. Harry B. Collins, Vice President for Technology Transfer at Delta and Pine Land Co., now owned by Monsanto, said in 1998, "The centuries old practice of farmer-saved seed is really a gross disadvantage to Third World farmers who inadvertently become locked into obsolete varieties because of their taking the "easy road" and not planting newer, more productive varieties."

    Modern chemical dependent farming is anything but an "easy road" for farmers of the developing world. Dependence on chemical inputs has raised the cost of farming in the Global South with devastating consequences. Radiojournalist Sputnik Kilambi has covered the suicides of farmers in India:

    "Between 1997 and the end of 2000, in just the single district of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, 1,826 people, mainly farmers, committed suicide. Most of the deaths were debt-related. Rising input costs, falling grain and oil seed prices, closures by banks, all policy-driven measures, crushed them. ... Small and marginal farmers of Anantapur have no other option. The region is a monocrop area and suffers from inadequate irrigation.... Ironically, says K. Gopal, it is the younger farmers, who in principle are open to modernization, that are most liable to commit suicide. "They’re very enterprising, risk-taking farmers. They’re willing to go in for modern agricultural practices, with a view to increase ease, to increase profitability. They go in for modern agricultural practices; they even go in for the use of insecticides, for the use of good quality seeds. What this shows is that modern farming does not have any validity for the small and marginal farmer kind of situation in which we are faced. The technology is not relevant; the profitability is not relevant; the liability is not valid."

    "For K. Gopal it is clear that the Andhra Pradesh government wants the farmers to get out of farming, to make way for the brave new world of corporate and industrialized farming. The Israelis have set up such a model in [an] area where the farmers grow exotic items like gerkins and baby corn for the urban middle and upper classes. The old relationship between farmer and land has been totally destroyed..."

    Corporate farming is doomed to failure as the End of the Age of Oil makes the petrochemically-derived pesticides and fertilizers on which it is dependent uneconomical and, inevitably, unavailable. But if, in the meantime, indigenous farmers and farming practices, including seed saving and cultivating genetically diverse crops, are destroyed, we may not need to develop "ethno-bombs" to destroy the only race genome researchers say there is: the human race.

    Conclusion: It's not the knowledge; it's what we do with it.

    With genetic research having a potential for beneficial use, the question is not whether to conduct the research, but how and to what end. The "how" is extremely important to indigenous and other minority populations who have been exploited by white Western science for centuries. On February 19, 1995, representatives of 17 indigenous organizations meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, issued a "Declaration of Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere Regarding the Human Genome Diversity Project."

    The document opposes the Human Genome Diversity Project, condemns the patenting of genetic materials and demands "an immediate moratorium on collections and/or patenting of genetic materials from indigenous persons and communities by any scientific project, health organization governments, Independent agencies, or individual researchers."

    The document reaffirmed "that indigenous peoples have the fundamental rights to deny access to, refuse to participate in, or to allow removal or appropriation by external scientific projects of any genetic materials." Indigenous concerns are well founded, especially in light of the shameful history of white scientific practice that has indigenous people still struggling to reclaim sacred artifacts and the very bones of their ancestors from museum shelves.

    But even this document, so strongly opposed to genetic research on indigenous people, sounds a contradictory note. "We demand that scientific endeavors and resources be prioritized to support and improve social, economic and environmental conditions of indigenous peoples in their environments, thereby improving health conditions and raising the overall quality of life." Among the Pima Indians of Arizona, for example, 50% of people between the ages of 30 and 64 have diabetes. What if genetic research could find the cause and even a treatment for the high incidence of diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives?

    The question "To what end?" concerns us all. What if Israel, which apparently is researching genetic difference between Jews and Arabs to develop an ethnic weapon, altered its foreign policy to embrace the genetic research that links the two peoples?

    The U.S. Department of Energy is doing research within the Human Genome Project on chromosomes 5, 16 and 19. DOE says, "Particular genes of interest are those mediating individual susceptibilities to environmental toxins and ionizing radiation."

    Is DOE looking to refine dosage levels for radiation treatments for cancer, or is it trying to figure out how many people will survive strikes with tactical nuclear weapons? Even a cursory survey of the scientific literature in genetics indicates scientific interest in the genetic differences within and between peoples. In addition to possible medical applications of this research, there are other intriguing questions, about historical human migration patterns and the distribution and relationships of languages, for example, which should be of no military interest. But research that does turn up differences in the genetics of socially defined ethic groups is open to abuse, in all likelihood by governments, even if the scientists doing that research intended no such thing. The way to prevent such abuse is to strengthen the moral repugnance biological, chemical and genetic weapons and to create legal means to enforce the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Right now, the political and ethical dialogues are simply not keeping up with the pace of scientific advancements in genome research. Dr. Wheelis of U.C. Davis says:

    "[M]y sense is that the United States, some time ago, decided that chemical and biological weapons, and possibly even nuclear weapons were going to be proliferating worldwide. And that current arms control regimes had been unsuccessful in preventing that and that additional international negotiations didn’t look to hold out much hope for actually restraining weapons proliferation. Now I personally disagree with that. But I think that’s the position that many in the United States government have come to. They’ve concluded that there’s clear evidence of chemical and biological weapons proliferation in the world. That the biological weapons convention, the chemical weapons convention haven’t prevented that, that protocol for the biological weapons convention didn’t seem to have much promise to them as a tool to increase the safeguards against proliferation. And so I think the United States is in more of a responsive than a preventative mode. I think we basically decided prevention of proliferation has failed; it’s going to happen anyway; there’s not much we can do about it. And so we should go into a mode in which we respond."

    But the conventions have no teeth because the United States keeps resisting all efforts to give them any. Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg has written:

    "Since the BWC came into force in 1975, biotechnology has progressed rapidly, its military potential has not gone unnoticed, and suspicions have multiplied. Anxious to increase transparency and ensure compliance with the Convention, the state parties in 1986 adopted an annual information exchange as a ConfidenceBuilding Measure (CBM). The ineffectiveness of this 'politically-binding] measure led the parties in 1991 to initiate the process of developing a legally-binding Protocol to monitor compliance. Ten years later this process became stalemated over the implacable opposition of the Bush Administration to any legally-binding instrument."

    If the United States will not legally commit itself to compliance with the Convention, on what legal, moral, or rational basis can it go to war against Iraq or any other nation claiming that the other nation is creating chemical or biological weapons?

    Source: From the Wilderness through
    "National Socialism will not be the last word. Things must be concealed in the background which we cannot imagine at present, but we may expect to them to appear in the course of the future." - Carl Jung

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    This and other non-conventional weapon research has occurred and used especially in late 80s

    Energy from the Vacuum and the Tom Bearden Website are excellent researchers on this Go to Weapons part

    There is a huge wealth of knowledge here!

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