The bioterrorism threat and dual-use biotechnological research: An israeli perspective

Science and Engineering Ethics 16 (1):85-97 (2010)
Abstract
Israel has a long history of concern with chemical and biological threats, since several hostile states in the Middle East are likely to possess such weapons. The Twin-Tower terrorist attacks and Anthrax envelope scares of 2001 were a watershed for public perceptions of the threat of unconventional terror in general and of biological terror in particular. New advances in biotechnology will only increase the ability of terrorists to exploit the burgeoning availability of related information to develop ever-more destructive bioweapons. Many areas of modern biological research are unavoidably dual-use by nature. They thus have a great potential for both help and harm; and facilitating the former while preventing the latter remains a serious challenge to researchers and governments alike. This article addresses how Israel might best (1) prevent hostile elements from obtaining, from Israel’s biological research system, materials, information and technologies that might facilitate their carrying out a biological attack, while (2) continuing to promote academic openness, excellence and other hallmarks of that system. This important and sensitive issue was assessed by a special national committee, and their recommendations are presented and discussed. One particularly innovative element is the restructuring and use of Israel’s extensive biosafety system to also address biosecurity goals, with minimal disruption or delay.
Keywords Biosecurity  Bioterror  Dual-use  Biosafety  Academic freedom/responsibility  Recommendations
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