The question of chemical and biological weapons was traditionally treated as a single issue requiring a unified approach. However, in 1971, it was agreed to separate the two aspects in the hope that it would be possible to achieve an early ban on biological weapon -- weapons that were considered to be of less military value than chemical weapons. In 1972, following the submission of two identical draft texts by the eastern European States, on the one hand, and by the USA on the other, the [Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) Weapons and on Their Destruction] was concluded. It came into force on 26 March 1975. The Biological Weapons Convention was considered a first possible step towards a comprehensive ban on biological weapons.
One field trial of the dissemination of biologically active agents showed that 200 kg could be distributed from a ship travelling at a distance of 260 kilometres parallel to a coastline leading to a coverage of 75,000 square kilometres. The strength of such agents is illustrated by the fact that a similar degree of poisoning could be achieved with 0.5 kilo of [Salmonella] culture, with 5 kilos of botulinum toxin, 7 kilos of staphylococcal enterotoxin or 50 kilos of V-nerve agent, or for comparison, with 10 tonnes of potassium cyanide.
A bacterium called [Deinococcus radiodurans] can survive exposure to gamma rays that exceeds by thousands the lethal human dose and cracks glass. The DNA from 100-year old spores of the bacterium recovered from Antarctica reassembled and proliferated in a nutrient bath.
In 1990 the USA was planning to introduce malumbia caterpillars, an indigenous pest of the coca plant, as part of a programme against producers of cocaine in Peru.
In Iraq, firm evidence of Saddam Hussein's interest in biological warfare was discovered by a United Nations inspection team in 1991. Iraq signed the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Challenged by a UN special commission under Resolution 687 aimed at destroying Iraq's chemical, biological and long-range missile armoury, it denied having biological weapons. Yet when the inspection team arrived, the Iraqis admitted that they had in 1986 begun research in Salman Pak, involving anthrax, botulism and gas gangrene, and that this research could be used for defensive or offensive purposes. It found equipment for fermentation, production, aerosol testing and storage, but no actual weapons and no means of filling them. However, the report noted that, in addition to the evident damage caused by allied bombing, "key buildings" had been removed a short time before.
2. Those possessing or seeking to acquire a biological warfare capability include Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Israel, Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and possibly Taiwan.
3. A teaspoon of anthrax bacteria efficiently dispersed could do as much damage as tons of nerve gas - of which one drop absorbed through the skin can kill.
2. No government admits possessing biological weapons.