As early as 600 BCE, people have recognized the potential impact of infectious diseases as a weapon of war. Whether it was using victims of diseases weapons or contaminating water, this strategy of targeting the health of a nation has been used even into the 20th century.
There is substantial evidence that during World War I, Germany experimented with biological warfare, and because of this the United Nations moved to establish the 1925 Geneva Protocol to prohibit the use of biological warfare. Nonetheless, during World War II many of the countries that signed the Geneva Protocol, went on to experiment with biological warfare including Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the United States.
The United Nations in 1972 then established the Biological Weapons Convention to prohibit the development and production of pathogens or toxins in “quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes.” In 1995, a report stated that Russia continued to operate a former Soviet Union bioweapons research program, employing at least 25,000 people in the research. The UN investigated countries such as Iraq in order to attempt to enforce the BWC, but the use and production of biological weapons continued. In 1997, the UN implemented the Chemical Weapons Convention in an effort to further combat biological weapons as well as chemical weapons.
Since the implementation of the BWC, the number of countries in possession of biological warfare has declined from nearly 20 to only a half a dozen today.
Biological Warfare in the News: