BIOWARFARE RESEARCH CONDUCTED AT U.S. UNIVERSITIES
Overshadowed by Star Wars, the push toward developing ghastly
instruments of biological warfare has been one of the Reagan
administration’s best-kept secrets.
The research budget for infectious diseases and toxins has increased
tenfold since fiscal 1981, and most of the 1986 budget of $42
million went to 24 U.S. Universities where the world’s most deadly
organisms are being cultivated in campus labs.
The large sums of military money available for bio-technology
research is a powerful attraction for scientists whose civilian
funding resources have dried up.
Scientists who formerly researched diseases like cancer now use
their talents to develop strains of such rare pathogens as anthrax,
Rift Valley fever, Japanese encephalitis, tularemia, shigella,
botulin, and Q fever.
Many members of the academic community find the trend alarming.
However, when MIT’s biology department voted to refuse Pentagon
funds for biotech research, the administration forced it to reverse
its decision by threatening to cut off other funds.
In 1987, when the University of Wisconsin hired retired Army Col.
Philip Sobocinski to help professors attract Pentagon-funded
biowarfare research, a UW science writer was fired after disclosing
the details in the student newspaper.
Since the U.S. signed the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons
Convention, which bans “development, production, stockpiling, and
use of microbes or their poisonous byproducts except in amounts
necessary for protective and peaceful research,” the university-
based projects are called defensive efforts aimed at developing
vaccines and protective gear.
Scientists who oppose the program insist that a germ-warfare defense
is clearly impractical; the entire population would have to be
vaccinated for every known harmful biological agent.
The only feasible application of a “defensive” development is in
conjunction with offensive use: Troops could be effectively
vaccinated for a single agent prior to launching an attack with it.
Another issue receiving even less attention is the safety or the
security of the labs involved. Release of pathogens, either by
accident or design, would prove tragic.
Twenty-three U.S. schools, including the Universities of California,
Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Utah, are
currently engaged in Bio-Warfare Research.
Sources: ISTHMUS, October 8, 1987, “Biowarfare and the UW,”
by Richard Jannaccio;
THE PROGRESSIVE, Nov. 16, 1987, “Poisons from the
Pentagon,” by Seth Shulman;
WALL STREET JOURNAL, Sept. 17, 1986, “Military Science,”
by Bill Richards and Tim Carrington.
From: UTNE READER, September/October 1988, p. 87.