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Updated: Mar 6, 2009

Agricultural Biowarfare: State Programs to Develop Offensive Capabilities

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The chart below includes states that have developed or are suspected of developing biological agents with anti-livestock or anti-crop properties, although zoonotic agents can infect both livestock and humans.[1] This chart summarizes data available from open sources. Precise assessment of a state's capabilities is difficult because most bio-warfare programs were, and/or are, secret and cannot be independently assessed. For information on complete CBW state programs and activities, see the CBW: Possession and Programs chart.

STATE
STATUS[2]
DATES
DISEASE
COMMENTS
Canada[3]

Former

1941-1960's

anthrax, Rinderpest

Exact date of project termination unclear

Egypt[4]

Probable

1972-present

anthrax, brucellosis, glanders, psittacosis, Eastern equine encephalitis

Biological capability may not have been eliminated

France[5]

Former

1939-1972

Potato beetle, and research into anthrax, salmonella, cholera, rinderpest, botulinum toxin and ricin.

Exact date of project termination unclear.  Project may have been terminated during the 1950s. 

Germany[6]

Former

1915-1917, 1942-1945

anthrax, foot and mouth disease, glanders, potato beetle, wheat fungus

in the 1930s and 1940s the program was continued for "mainly defensive" purposes.[6]  During WWII also experimented with turnip weevils, antler moths, potato stalk rot, potato tuber decay, and misc. anti-crop weeds

Iraq[7]

Known

1980s-1990s

aflatoxin, anthrax, camelpox, foot and mouth disease, wheat stem rust

Iraq Survey Group (ISG) has not uncovered proof that Iraq pursued a consequential BW program since the UNSCOM discovery and eradication of a BW program in the early 1990s. 

Iran [8]

Uncertain

1980(?)-?

Ricin, anthrax, foot and mouth disease

 

Israel [9]

Uncertain

1948?-present

anthrax (?)

 

Japan[10]

Former

1937-1945

anthrax, glanders

During WWII experimented with misc. anti-crop fungi, bacteria, nematodes

North Korea[11]

Probable

? - present

anthrax

 

Rhodesia[12]  (Zimbabwe)

Uncertain/Former

1978-1980

anthrax

A suspicious epidemic of cattle anthrax resulted in 182 human deaths. Some epidemiologists believe government forces infected livestock to impoverish the rural black population during the last phase of the civil war.

South Africa[13]

Former

1980's-1993

anthrax

 

Syria[14]

Probable

? - present

anthrax

 

United Kingdom[15]

Former

1937-1960's

anthrax

Exact date of project termination unclear

United States[16]

Former

1943-1969

anthrax, brucellosis, Eastern & Western equine encephalitis, foot and mouth disease, fowl plague, glanders, late blight of potato, Newcastle disease, psittacosis, rice blast, rice brown spot disease, Rinderpest, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, wheat blast fungus, wheat stem rust

 

USSR[17] (Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan)

Formerly active; current status unclear

1935-1992

African swine fever, anthrax, Avian influenza, brown grass mosaic, brucellosis, contagious bovine pleuropneunomia, contagious ecthyma (sheep), foot and mouth disease, glanders, maize rust, Newcastle disease virus, potato virus, psittacosis, rice blast, Rinderpest, rye blast, tobacco mosaic, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, vesicular stomatitis, wheat & barley mosaic streak, wheat stem rust

Also experimented with parasitic insects and insect attractants

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[1] Zoonotic agents/diseases above are anthrax, brucellosis, glanders, psittacosis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.

[2] Known: where states have either declared their programs or there is clear evidence of possession. Probable: where states have been publicly named by government or military officials as 'probable' possessors or as producing agents. Former: where states have acknowledged having a program in the past.

[3] The Office of Technology Assessment includes Canada in a list of countries that have admitted to having had "offensive [biological] weapon munitions supplies or development programs in the past." U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 1993), p. 63. See also Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Vol. I (NY: Humanities Press, 1971), p. 118-119; and John Bryden, Deadly Allies: Canada's Secret War 1937-1947, pp. 108, 120, 210, 218, 223, 243.

[4] "The United States believes that Egypt had developed biological warfare agents by 1972. There is no evidence to indicate that Egypt has eliminated this capability and it remains likely that the Egyptian capability to conduct biological warfare continues to exist." ACDA Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control Agreements: 1997 Annual Report to Congress, (U.S. Dept. of State) [http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/reports/annual/comp97.html]. Anthrax is among those agents which Egypt has reportedly conducted applied research. Shoham, "Chemical and Biological Weapons in Egypt," The Nonproliferation Review, 5:3 (Spring-Summer 1998), p. 54-55. Arms Control Association: Fact Sheets: Briefing Paper on the Status of Biological Weapons Nonproliferation [http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/bwissuebrief.asp?print]
Also see: The CBW Conventions Bulletin, No. 74 (December 2006), p. 19.

[5] Jonathan Ban, "Agricultural Biological Warfare: An Overview", The Arena, No. 9 (June 2000), Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, p. 2. See also Oliver Lepick, "French Activities Related to Biological Warfare, 1919-1945," in Geissler, Erhard and Moon, John Ellis van Courtland, eds., Biological Warfare from the Middle Ages to 1945, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Michael Mates, "Biological Weapons: the Threat of the New Century?" NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Science and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on the Proliferation of Military Technology, April 16, 1999. Also see: http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/biological-weapons-convention/ and http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/france/

[6] Jonathan Ban, "Agricultural Biological Warfare: An Overview," The Arena, No. 9 (June 2000), Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, p. 2. See also Erhard Geissler, "Biological Warfare Activities in Germany, 1923-45" in Geissler, Erhard and Moon, John Ellis van Courtland, eds., Biological Warfare from the Middle Ages to 1945, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1999); and W. Seth Carus, Bioterrorism and Biocrimes: The Illicit Use of Biological Agents in the 20th Century, Working Paper (Center for Counterproliferation Research, National Defense University, August 1998/July 1999 revision), p. 87-89.

[7] Duelfer Report [http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/duelfer.html]: "In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW weapons quickly. ISG found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes."  Also see: http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/iraq/biological/

[8] "Research of publicly released information from Iranian scientific institutions shows no concrete proof of an offensive BW program. However, the available information does not disprove allegations made by a variety of sources. The sophisticated research facilities in Iran could easily serve as a front for illicit BW-related activities and offer a legitimate excuse to import dual-use material." [http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/iran/biological/]

[9] "Although there are clear indications that Israel operates an advanced biodefense program and possibly even maintains some sort of BW production capability, it is very doubtful that Israel actually produces or stockpiles BW agents beyond the small quantities required for defensive research." [http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/israel/biological/]

[10]Jonathan Ban, "Agricultural Biological Warfare: An Overview," The Arena, No. 9 (June 2000), Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, p. 2. See also Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars: A True Story of Biological Warfare, (NY: St. Martins Press, 2000), p. 24; Sheldon Harris, "The Japanese Biological Warfare Program: An Overview," in Geissler, Erhard and Moon, John Ellis van Courtland, eds., Biological Warfare from the Middle Ages to 1945, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1999); and Senator Dianne Feinstein, "Introduction of the Japanese Imperial Army Disclosure Act of 1999," Congressional Record: November 10, 1999 (Senate), p. S14533-S14571.

[11] Russian intelligence reports that North Korea is conducting military applied research on anthrax. Russian Federation Foreign Intelligence Service, "A New Challenge After the Cold War: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction," p. 99. See also North Korea Advisory Group, Report to The Speaker U.S. House of Representatives, November 1999; Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars: A True Story of Biological Warfare, (NY: St. Martins Press, 2000), p. 329-330; and Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., "Exposing the North Korean BW Arsenal," Jane's Intelligence Review, August 1998, 28-29.

[12] Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars: A True Story of Biological Warfare, (NY: St. Martins Press, 2000), p. 214-223; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction, OTA-BP-ISC-115 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 1993), p. 110; Meryl Nass, "Anthrax Epizootic in Zimbabwe, 1978-1980: Due to Deliberate Spread?" The PSR Quarterly, 2:4 (December 1992), 198-209; J.C.A. Davies, "A Major Epidemic of Anthrax in Zimbabwe, Part 1," Central African Journal of Medicine, 28 (1982), 291-298; J.C.A. Davies, "A Major Epidemic of Anthrax in Zimbabwe, Part 2," Central African Journal of Medicine, 29 (1983), 8-12.

[13] "Suspected extensive biowarfare program during apartheid years, directed against Rhodesian guerrillas; allegedly included agricultural biowarfare (for example, distribution of anthrax spores among cattle)" [http://www.ciaonet.org/wps/pah01/pah01.pdf] Truth and Reconciliation Commission, "Special Investigation into Project Coast: South Africa's Chemical And Biological Warfare Programme," Final Report, Vol. 2, chap. 6, October 29, 1998; A government spokesman stated that South Africa's biological weapons program has been "terminated, and that the material for offensive purposes in government storage has been destroyed." The program was shut down in 1993 and its products dumped at sea. See Buchizya Mseteka, "S. Africa Says it Terminated Chemical Weapons Scheme," Reuters, June 15, 1998; and Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg, Plague Wars: A True Story of Biological Warfare, (NY: St. Martins Press, 2000), p. 220.

[14] In its annual report to Congress, ACDA states that "it is highly probable that Syria is developing an offensive biological warfare capability." ACDA, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control Agreements: 1997 Annual Report to Congress (U.S. Dept. of State) [http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/reports/annual/comp97.html]; Also, Syria has a "[p]robable production capability for anthrax and botulinum toxin, and possibly other agents." Anthony H. Cordesman, "Creeping Proliferation Could Mean a Paradigm Shift in the Cost of War and Terrorism," (Center for Strategic and International Studies).

[15] Jonathan Ban, "Agricultural Biological Warfare: An Overview", The Arena, No. 9 (June 2000), Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, p. 2. See also Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Vol. I (NY: Humanities Press, 1971), p. 117-118; and Michael Mates, "Biological Weapons: the Threat of the New Century?" NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Science and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on the Proliferation of Military Technology, April 16, 1999.

[16] Jonathan Ban, "Agricultural Biological Warfare: An Overview", The Arena, No. 9 (June 2000), Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, p. 2-3; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare, Vol. I (NY: Humanities Press, 1971), p. 122-123.See also USAMRIID, "A History of Biological Warfare," [http://www.gulfwarvets.com/biowar.htm]

[17] Ken Alibek with Stephen Handelman, Biohazard (NY: Random House, 1999), pp. 268-269, 301; and "The Soviet Union's Anti-Agricultural Biological Weapons," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 894 (1999), 18-19; According to the DOD, some work "outside the scope of legitimate biological defense activity may be occurring" in Russia. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, 1997 Report (U.S. Dept. of Defense). "[S]ome facilities, in addition to being engaged in legitimate activity, may be maintaining the capability to produce biological warfare agents." ACDA, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control Agreements: 1997 Annual Report to Congress (U.S. Dept. of State) [http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/reports/annual/comp97.html].


Updated: 02/2008


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