U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently warned that gene assembly technology research could potentially be used by terrorists to create biological weapons. If this is 'a' possible future or not, only time will tell, however it is indeed a scary thought.
The threat from bioweapons has drawn little attention in recent years, as governments focused more on the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation to countries such as Iran and North Korea.
But experts have warned that the increasing ease with which bioweapons can be created might be used by terror groups to develop and spread new diseases that could mimic the effects of the fictional global epidemic portrayed in the Hollywood thriller "Contagion."
Many have been calling on the elimination of current viruses and diseases that, if in the wrong hands, could be a powerful weapon. The U.S. announced plans to destroy their smallpox stockpile in May 2011, despite protests from the public. The government feared that terrorists could use the virus to unleash a devastating attack. The disease, which killed one-third of those who were infected, was last seen in 1978.
As late as 2010, a congressional mandated panel reported that the U.S. would not be prepared for a bioweapon attack. The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation said the Obama administration failed in its efforts to prepare for and respond to a biological attack, such as the release of deadly viruses or bacteria. After that report, Obama announced during his State of the Union speech that the country would be making strides to make sure it was prepared for a biological terrorist attack scenario.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been pushing for countries to eliminate their stockpiles since 2006. However, at the WHO's annual meeting, it was decided that nations' could keep their smallpox stockpiles for at least another three more years in order to develop vaccines and anti-virals, according to Reuters.
"The emerging gene synthesis industry is making genetic material more widely available," she said. "This has many benefits for research, but it could also potentially be used to assemble the components of a deadly organism."
This probably reminds people about the Anthrax attacks almost a decade ago. Washington has urged countries to increase transparency in their effort to lower the threat of bioweapons, but U.S. officials have shied away from calling for a formal international verification system, citing the complications that would be involved in monitoring the vast number of labs that would have to be monitored.