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7412: Chemical and Biological Methods of Warfare

With respect to biological and chemical methods of warfare, a number of concerns are widely held.

There exists the theoretical possibility of long-term residual effects on populations surviving such warfare and of uncontrollable ecological side effects.

As has been demonstrated recently, there are many serious dangers incidental to research, manufacture, storage, and transport of such agents.

Stockpiling large supplies of materials in strategic locations in .different parts of the world gives the ominous implication that military planning might consider the preemptive offensive use of biological or chemical methods.

These are issues which can be appreciated without entering into polemic on comparative degrees of immorality of one or another method of incapacitation and killing or of more or less polite types of warfare. Because war in any form is uncivilized and unconscionable, the American Public Health Association believes that the United States should join other nations in efforts to avoid war and its consequences.

Policy decisions relevant to biological and chemical methods of warfare are too serious to be left quietly and secretly in the hands of a few individuals. There must be effective democratic mechanisms for determination of policies and there must be public accountability concerning the implementation of such policies.

APHA believes that the following steps are strongly indicated and urges that they be taken to intensify international efforts for general disarmament and the furthering of peace.

The United States government should ratify the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the use in war of poison gas and biological weapons (which the. United States and Japan, alone among the major powers. have never ratified) and should support extension of such a ban to all chemical and biological weapons, including herbicides and riot gases.

The United States should institute a moratorium on all forms of research on and development of chemical and biological weapons of warfare.

The President of the United States should appoint a committee of citizens, from neither the Congress nor the military, of sufficient stature and composition to be the nation's monitor on activities related to biological and chemical warfare methods, and no doors should be closed to it concerning any secret data or information.

The United States Congress should obtain all necessary information, should maintain meaningful and appropriate surveillance, and should take a stronger roie in determining national policy on the subject of biological and chemical warfare.



32 Tozer Road Beverly, MA, U.S.A. 01915-5510
89 JUL 31 AM 10:27

July 27, 1989


Senator Herbert Kohl
Senate Judiciary Committee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Kohl:

I have examined Senate Bill S993, and I find it appropriate and timely, and urge its passage.

(508) 927-5054 TELEX 6817316 FAX (508) 921-1350

Genetic engineering is a powerful tool that can be used by experienced molecular biologists to produce, with a minimum of funds and equipment, biologicals that may be used to cure major world health problems or create world health problems. The choice for most of us is very clear. But, times and circumstances change - think of the choice that might have been made had Iran or Iraq in its present conflict had access to an established biotechnology center. Therefore, legislative restraints on the use of recombinant organisms or any biological system for weapons is absolutely essential, and this bill will certainly strengthen this effort.

We grow a wide variety of microorganisms to produce restriction endonucleases (the tools of genetic engineering) and sell many different vectors for recombinant DNA research. This bill would not restrict any of these activities, and I can't imagine any way in which it would inhibit the growth of any of the different disciplines of biotechnology.

Best regards.

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The Honorable Herb Kohl
Senate Judiciary Committee
702 Hart Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Kohl:

In view of your recent hearing on legislation to implement the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, we would like to submit for the legislative record the written comments which the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) submitted on July 10 to Representative Kastenmeier on the House bill, HR 237.




TELEPHONE: (202) 737-3600

July 27, 1989

We believe the intent of the proposed bills is in accord with the ASM's position on biological warfare as quoted in the attached letter to Representative Kastenmeier. Our primary concern, however, is that any enabling legislation should not include language which could be used to restrict peaceful, humane research. The attached July 10 letter outlines our concerns in more detail.

We appreciate your efforts to prohibit biological weapons and would be pleased to work with you and your staff on language which would appropriately implement the 1972 Convention.


Kenneth Berns

Kenneth I. Berns, M.D., Ph.D.
Chairman, Public and Scientific
Affairs Board (PSAB), American
Society for Microbiology (ASM)

The Honorable Robert W. Kastenmeier

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TELEPHONE: (202) 737-3600

July 10, 1989

The Honorable Robert W. Kastenmeier
Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual
Property and the Administration of Justice
Committee on the Judiciary

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative Kastenmeier:

We are responding to your request for comments from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) on HR 237, the Biological Weapons Act of 1989.

The intent of HR 237 is in accord with the ASM's position on biological warfare. In 1970, after considerable discussion concerning biological warfare, the Council of the ASM approved the following resolution: "The Council of the Society affirms that the health of science is enhanced by non-secret research and free movement of scientists. Furthermore, the Council affirms, support of President Nixon's action on November 25, 1969, and February 14, 1970, to end our involvement in production and use of biological weapons. Because of our concern for humanitarian application of microbiological science, we urge that all nations convert existing offensive biological warfare facilities to peaceful uses. 11 The ASM's Public and Scientific Affairs Board recently reviewed the 1970 Council resolution and is of the opinion that it still reflects the views of the membership.

However, we do have concerns about the specific language in the proposed implementation legislation that prevent us from endorsing the bill in its present form. We believe the bill may place certain restrictions on the freedom of inquiry of scientific investigators that extend beyond those intended. In particular, section 177 (page 4 lines 16 & 17) of the bill states "The defendant has the burden of proving this defense by a preponderance of the evidence." This provision appears to place scientists in the position of being guilty until they can prove themselves innocent and appears to be contrary to the American tradition of being innocent until proven guilty.

We are apprehensive that this provision could be and would be misused by individuals to harass the scientific community, not with the intention of prohibiting biological warfare but to prevent research with which they do not agree. In the past few years, there have been a number of lawsuits to prevent the release of genetically engineered microorganisms. The courts have ruled most of these as frivolous, but the same charges could be made under the proposed bill. Similarly, we are concerned


that animal rights' extremists could use the provisions of HR 237 to harass scientists using animals in research. We believe this legislation could be used as the basis for lawsuits that would impede advances in science. To prove themselves innocent, especially with the potential penalties of imprisonment for life or term, individual scientists could be faced with a tremendous burden, both economic and in terms of defending their reputations against attacks on personal integrity.

We also note that in Section 178, the definition of agent as "Any microorganism, virus or infectious substance, capable of causing death, disease or other biological malfunction in human, in animal, plant, or another living organism"....."deleterious alteration of the environment" is so broad that charges could be brought to disrupt almost any type of biomedical or agricultura) research. For example, if a scientist were developing a biologically produced pesticide or herbicide, how does the scientist defend against the charge that it will be used for biological warfare? Although the bill specifies intent, it is difficult to both prove and disprove intent. Again, one can envision many scenarios that could be used to harass scientists,

Scientists often use mutant microorganisms in their research. Some of these mutant organisms might be subsumed under the above-quoted definition of 'agent' in Section 178, thereby creating restraints on normal research practices. For instance, a mutant with a single gene deletion might cause a biological malfunction to an infected organism, but that result may not be undesirable in terms of research goals.

On page 5 line 18, the definition of vector is so broad that it could include vaccines that are used for animals. Also, since a vector that has been derived from a plant pest (for example, Crown gall) is used in a large number of plant recombinant DNA experiments, one could conceivably question the intent of all of these experiments.

We are very concerned that HR 237 will provide anyone who wishes to obstruct biological research with a tool to accomplish their ends. We well understand the difficulty that is encountered in attempting to write a bill that covers all aspects of biological warfare (weapons against humans, plants, animals and all living things) and yet does not infringe on the right to conduct research in a meaningful, constructive manner for the benefit of mankind.

We note that Senator Kohl recently introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S.993. A significant difference between this bill and the House bill is that it omits the provision, "The defendant has the burden of proving this defense by a preponderance of the evidence."

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