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U.N. calls for biotechnology controls

Sept. 27, 2012 at 6:11 PM   |   Comments

CAMBRIDGE, England, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- More extensive international efforts need to be taken to prevent biotechnology being used to commit biological terrorism, a U.N. official says.

Piers Millet from the U.N. Biological Weapons Convention, speaking at the BioDesign Forum on synthetic biology being held in the Britain, warned there was no global organization with the power to ensure biotech did not fall into the hands of those who would used it for "nefarious" purposes, the BBC reported Thursday.

"If you look at the history of the last century we see a very clear trend -- every time we make a major step forward in our understanding of biology, we find a weapons application for it," he said.

He cited several major instances of biological attacks in the past few decades, as when the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo released anthrax spores in Tokyo in 1993.

"The traditional approach of the international community to dealing with weapons is this - they recognize a threat, develop a treaty, and then they turn that treaty into some operational form, normally by trying to control technology associated with it," Millet said.

"It has very strong models in nuclear and chemical spheres -- but not in regards to synthetic biology."

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