That Wonderful Year: Smallpox, Genetic Engineering, and Bio-Terrorism
David A. Koplow
Georgetown University Law Center
Maryland Law Review, Vol. 62, No. 3, 2003
This article analyzes three seemingly unrelated areas of public policy that first emerged in modern form thirty years ago, and have today combined in unforeseen ways that simultaneously promise tremendous advantages in public health, but also threaten the foundations of global security. The three areas are: a) the eradication of the ancient scourge of smallpox, a disease that has through the centuries caused more human death, suffering and fear than any other communicable illness; b) genetic engineering, which has elicited all manner of new products improving human welfare and vastly expanded our understanding of nature's fundamental processes; and c) arms control, especially the articulation of the Biological Weapons Convention, the first (albeit, imperfect) international accord that totally removed an entire category of deployed weaponry from the active arsenals of countries around the world. Today, as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction emerges as the leading threat to national security, and especially as the specter of terrorists armed with new generations of biological weapons animates national policy, it is more important than ever to grasp the interrelationships between these three diverse sectors. This article traces the evolution of each sector during the past 30 years, culminating with the erratic decisions of the World Health Organization regarding destruction or preservation of the last remaining samples of the virus that causes smallpox - residuals that are stored, for now, in secure freezers at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the comparable Russian facility, denominated Vector, in Siberia. It also discusses the controversial U.S. program for vaccination of millions of health care workers and other "first responders" to a bioterrorism crisis, a strategy (since disrupted by opposition from hospitals and health care workers) that could have proven fatal to many. The article concludes with a series of recommendations regarding U.S. policy on a variety of related matters. The article is drawn from the author's book, Smallpox: The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scourge (University of California Press, 2003).
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 4, 2003
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo2 in 0.313 seconds