Issue Date: November 29, 2004
Biological weapons treaty can be monitored, experts conclude
A group of experts from the U.S. pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries concludes that the Biological Weapons Convention can be verified and describes how this could be done in a report coproduced with the Center for Strategic & International Studies ("Resuscitating the Bioweapons Ban: U.S. Industry Experts Plans for Treaty Monitoring"). A verification protocol to the treaty was rejected in 2001, mainly because the U.S. argued that it was too weak to be effective, would compromise U.S. biodefense programs, and would be too intrusive to industry. But the group of experts has developed a more aggressive strategy for routine inspections of commercial facilities than the protocol discarded three years ago. Their scheme minimizes the burden imposed on an inspected facility and protects proprietary information. Their plan fields a team of six to eight people--rather than the four required by the protocol--for a five-day on-site inspection. The facility to be inspected would be given a one-week advance notice rather than the two-week notice required by the rejected protocol. The experts recommend that their scheme be field-tested at industry facilities in government-funded trial inspections. Such trials were required by a 1999 law but have never been carried out. Procedures are still not developed for so-called challenge inspections and for inspecting university and government labs.
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