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PSR calls for strengthened Biological Weapons Convention inspections and protocols to close loopholes
December 7, 2011
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) applauds the
Obama Administration’s decision to send U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
to the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference underway in Geneva
Switzerland. Recognizing that recent
developments in biotechnology and genetic engineering provide the potential to
create novel and uniquely dangerous organisms that could be weaponized and pose
an unacceptable threat to human health, PSR welcomes such high-level attention
to this vital issue.
Secretary Clinton is scheduled to arrive today. The lasting
value of her visit will depend on whether the U.S. is willing to reinstate the
commitment of previous administrations to strengthen this essential
international treaty. At this critical
moment, empty rhetoric will not suffice.
Our nation must listen to the health professionals and scientists who have
urged bold action to prevent manmade epidemics that would be resistant to all
forms of standard vaccines and countermeasures, and which would likely overcome
even robust medical and emergency preparedness measures.
On such a critical global health issue, the U.S. must lead by example. PSR
believes that Secretary Clinton should commit to greater U.S. transparency and
enhanced multilateral oversight of its own biological defense programs. In
addition, the U.S. needs to provide leadership in calling for strengthened
inspection and verification protocols to close loopholes in the current BWC,
long recognized as vulnerabilities by many global disarmament expert.
As Amy Smithson, senior fellow at the James Martin Center
for Nonproliferation Studies said, Secretary Clinton’s appearance "is a
most welcome indication of high-level political attention being paid to the
bioweapons ban. But the proof will be in whether she introduces significant new
proposals to strengthen the treaty's compliance provisions or continues a
regrettable, multiyear trend of more rhetoric about the severity of the
bioweapons problem than action to reduce that threat."
We will be watching to see what Secretary Clinton says and
what our nation does in the coming weeks and months to prevent
laboratory-created plagues of unimaginable consequence. We hope our nation will
provide the vision and leadership to preserve and greatly strengthen this vital