Once again, the World Health Assembly failed to set a deadline for the destruction of smallpox samples, delaying discussion for another three years. Though it still affirms the need for live sample destruction, the two-day “contentious debate” (repeated for the last 25 years) ended on May 24 in a victory for bioweapons development in the U.S. and Russia.
“The retention of the existing stocks of smallpox virus are not required” to maintain and bolster current vaccine supplies, argues Dr. D. A. Henderson in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science. Through current technology, smallpox vaccines can be developed from the known genome. Live viruses are simply no longer needed.
The claimed need to protect against smallpox appears to be a ruse for the development of its use as a bioweapon. Given the history of its use in Native American genocide, the United States should be specifically banned from possessing the live virus. But, this is the same country that’s radiating with impunity the Middle East with depleted uranium.
In A pox on the keepers of a killer virus, Ben Macintyre urges, “By destroying the last stocks, the world would be drawing a clear legal distinction: anyone in possession of the virus after that date would be guilty of a crime against humanity.”
Biological disarmament is not on the table, however, though the debate has been raging since smallpox eradication over 30 years ago.
Even Forbes Magazine condemns retention. In It’s time to destroy the U.S. smallpox reserves, Steven Salzberg argues, “The only thing they need to do is to destroy their stocks of smallpox, and wipe out this virus once and for all. This seems like an obvious thing to do, but it’s obvious now that the scientists whose jobs depend on keeping the smallpox around will never agree to destroy it. Nor will their bosses at the CDC. Yet keeping the smallpox around dramatically increases the risk that a deranged person will get his hands on it and release it in the population.”
He urges President Obama to “order the CDC to destroy their stocks of smallpox, and eliminate this unnecessary risk from the planet. The United States can and should take the moral lead on this public health threat, rather than stonewalling once again at the next World Health Assembly. Destroy the smallpox, and wipe out this scourge once and for all.”
Hear, hear. But we know he won’t. Obama has infected his administration with former biotech employees bent on genetically contaminating the biosphere from crops to animals to oil-eating microbes to drugs. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority just awarded nearly $3 billion in smallpox research grants to two US firms. Something other than morality guides public policy.