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

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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.