REPORT – INVISIBLE WEAPONS, VISIBLE WARS: BIOLOGICAL WARFARE

On the 24th of February the JASON Institute Activities Committee organized a lecture on biological warfare and biological weapons.

Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, insects, and fungi with the intent to kill or harm humans, animals or plants as an act of war. With the start of the corona pandemic, some even wondered if COVID-19 was developed as a biological weapon and released into the world on purpose. It sparked renewed attention for biological weapons and warfare, making it a very timely and interesting issue.

We were delighted to welcome Koos van der Bruggen, an expert in the field of biological weapons, as our speaker. Dr. van der Bruggen is a researcher and adviser on peace, security and ethical issues. He was involved in drawing up the KNAW (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen) Biosecurity Code of Conduct. As an expert, he was part of the Dutch delegation at BTWC (Biological Weapons Convention) meetings. Furthermore, He is co-author of the book ‘The Future of Biological Weapons Revisited: A Concise History of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention’.

Dr. van der Bruggen began the event with an interesting lecture. He first briefly explained what biological weapons are and how they work, before moving on to discussing some international regulations, such as the BTWC. He then explained the difference between biosafety and biosecurity, emphasizing that the biological weapons debate is a matter of biosecurity. After the practical content, Dr. van der Bruggen continued his lecture on the ethics of biological warfare, introducing the audience to the just war tradition. From a just war perspective, the development and storing of biological weapons is not  justified; these weapons are indiscriminate and using them would mean a violation of the so-called non-combatants principle. Furthermore, the possession of biological weapons cannot be legitimated for reasons of deterrence or biodefense. In the concluding remarks, Dr. van der Bruggen points out the importance of awareness and cooperation among the involved parties, such as scientists, hospitals, universities and politicians. 

After the lecture there was room for the audience to ask their questions on the topic.

We would like to thank Dr. van der Bruggen for taking the time and sharing his expertise on the matter. Lastly, we want to thank our audience for participating in this event!

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