TABLE 5.1Relevance of Trends in Science and Technology to the BWC: An Article-by Article Summary

BWC ArticleRelationship to Selected S&T Developments
I. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:
  1. Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;
  2. Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
The general prohibitions embodied in Article I apply to the misapplication of any of the S&T developments discussed at the workshop. This includes the use of synthetic techniques (e.g., chemical synthesis of nucleic acids and synthetic biology) as well as materials science and nanoscience technologies that could be used to develop targeted toxin and gene delivery systems.
II. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to destroy, or to divert to peaceful purposes, as soon as possible but not later than nine months after entry into force of the Convention, all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in Article I of the Convention, which are in its possession or under its jurisdiction or control. In implementing the provisions of this article all necessary safety precautions shall be observed to protect populations and the environment.If destruction were ever needed, S&T advances in areas such as detection and surveillance technologies such as biosensors could also help States Parties monitor the process. Advances in vaccine and medical countermeasures development have the potential to contribute to appropriate safety precautions during destruction.
III. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any State, group of States or international organizations to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in Article I of this Convention.Norms of responsible conduct within the scientific community can assist in establishing an environment that does not support misuse. The importance of enabling technologies and services in the life sciences and a partnership with the industries that supply the research community also contribute, for example in developing ways to evaluate gene synthesis requests against pathogen sequences.a The research community and industry can also be partners with the policy and legal communities in striking the appropriate balance between regulation and scientific progress.
IV. Each State Party to this Convention shall, in accordance with its constitutional processes, take any necessary measures to prohibit and prevent the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, or retention of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in Article I of the Convention, within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction or under its control anywhere.Clarifications with regard to the coverage of advances in S&T under Article I could require additional legislative or regulatory steps by the States Parties under Article IV to embed them into national laws and regulations.
The increased power of and access to S&T could make it easier (subject to all the roadblocks discussed earlier) for terrorist and other non-state groups to develop and produce biological weapons, and thus trends in S&T are changing states’ ability to counter/prevent/respond to bioterrorism.
Awareness within the S&T community of the broad set of ethical norms and legal obligations that prohibit misuse, along with engagement in relevant discussions, is valuable in supporting the treaty.
V. The States Parties to this Convention undertake to consult one another and to cooperate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the objective of, or in the application of the provisions of, the Convention. Consultation and Cooperation pursuant to this article may also be undertaken through appropriate international procedures within the framework of the United Nations and in accordance with its Charter.S&T developments can help support States Parties’ national efforts to implement the provisions of the BWC. In particular, developments in biosensors, plant and animal disease surveillance systems, and microbial forensics could contribute to monitoring and investigating potential instances of the development, acquisition, or use of a biological agent.
International collaborations that help support other aspects of BWC implementation—global cooperation in scientific research, in systems for disease surveillance and identification, and in development and manufacture of vaccines and medical therapeutics—also foster transparency and contribute to the creation of conditions under which any concerns about possible risks can be discussed in a cooperative manner.
  1. Any State Party to this convention which finds that any other State Party is acting in breach of obligations deriving from the provisions of the Convention may lodge a complaint with the Security Council of the United Nations. Such a complaint should include all possible evidence confirming its validity, as well as a request for its consideration by the Security Council.
  2. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to cooperate in carrying out any investigation which the Security Council may initiate, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, on the basis of the complaint received by the Council. The Security Council shall inform the States Parties to the Convention of the results of the investigation.
S&T can contribute to investigations of instances of alleged misuse of biological materials. Genomics and other “omics” fields provide information that can help characterize a potential agent. Creating international capacity in the field of microbial forensics, which is built on these areas of sciences, may also help identify the origins of a microbial pathogen, and this is one area of particular relevance to the BWC. Other detection and surveillance systems (e.g., biosensors, disease surveillance networks) may also help provide evidence of the occurrence of an event and assist in determining whether it is likely to be a natural outbreak, an accidental release, or an intentional act.
VII. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to provide or support assistance, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to any Party to the Convention which so requests, if the Security Council decides that such Party has been exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention.S&T can contribute to the provision of assistance through the sharing of scientific information and capabilities in areas like microbial forensics, disease surveillance, vaccine development, improved treatments and prophylaxis, as well as other advances that improve biodefense and domestic response capabilities.
IX. Each State Party to this Convention affirms the recognized objective of effective prohibition of chemical weapons and, to this end, undertakes to continue negotiations in good faith with a view to reaching early agreement on effective measures for the prohibition of their development, production and stockpiling and for their destruction, and on appropriate measures concerning equipment and means of delivery specifically designed for the production or use of chemical agents for weapons purposes.The use of chemical techniques to synthesize biological molecules and the use of engineered biological systems to produce chemicals highlight areas of convergence between chemistry and biology and the value of dialogue between the BWC and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). S&T developments discussed during the workshop (e.g., sensors, countermeasures) can also contribute to addressing potential chemical weapons threats.
  1. The States Parties to this Convention undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the use of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins for peaceful purposes. Parties to the Convention in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing individually or together with other States or international organizations to the further development and application of scientific discoveries in the field of bacteriology (biology) for prevention of disease, or for other peaceful purposes.
  2. This Convention shall be implemented in a manner designed to avoid hampering the economic or technological development of States Partie s to the Convention or international cooperation in the field of peaceful bacteriological (biological) activities, including the international exchange of bacteriological (biological) and toxins and equipment for the processing, use or production of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.
S&T developments contribute directly to the effective use of science for peaceful and beneficial purposes. Enabling technologies such as the Internet enhance scientific collaboration and information sharing. Cooperative efforts in areas like genome sequencing, understanding human variation, vaccine development, and disease surveillance all support the goals expressed in Article X.
The scientific community can also support national and international efforts by fostering a culture of awareness, self-governance, and responsible conduct and by engaging in stakeholder discussions to achieve security goals while not unduly restricting legitimate and beneficial research.
The growing S&T capacity in many parts of the world can also enable more States Parties to participate actively in the implementation of the convention.

In recent years the five largest (the International Gene Synthesis Consortium (IGSC), http://www​.genesynthesisconsortium​.org/Home.html) and a number of smaller gene synthesis companies (the International Association Synthetic Biology (IASB), http://www​​/synthetic-biology/) have created consortia to promote adherence to different voluntary protocols to screen orders (IGSC’s emphasis) and vet customers (IASB’s) to check that transactions are legitimate. An account of this and other approaches to self-governance may be found in Smithson (2010).

SOURCE: United Nations (2011) for text of the BWC Articles.

From: 5, Monitoring and Assessing Trends in Science and Technology

Cover of Life Sciences and Related Fields
Life Sciences and Related Fields: Trends Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention.
National Research Council (US) Committee on Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention: An International Workshop.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.
Copyright © 2011, National Academy of Sciences.

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