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Gene Splicing of Pathogens To Make Biological Weapons Is Illegal — But Nobody Is Enforcing the Law

The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention prohibited bioengineering pathogens to create biological weapons, but because nations have been unable to agree on how to strengthen the treaty, some countries are still doing the research and stockpiling bioweapons.

Brandeis University scientists are making dramatic progress with techniques for “gene splicing” — modifying the genetic makeup of organisms.

This work includes bioengineering pathogens for medical research, techniques that also can be used to create deadly biological weapons. It’s an overlap that’s helped fuel speculation that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was bioengineered at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and that it subsequently “escaped” through a lab accident to produce the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world already has a legal foundation to prevent gene splicing for warfare: the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Unfortunately, nations have been unable to agree on how to strengthen the treaty. Some countries have also pursued bioweapons research and stockpiling in violation of it.