The Biological Weapons Regime

  • James RevillEmail author


This chapter looks at the web of measures in place to prohibit and prevent biological weapons. It argues that theoretically this web most closely resembles a type of “strong global prohibition regime”, yet at the same time, the notion of strength suggests a level of confidence in the regime that is misplaced at this current juncture when, in fact, there is little room for complacency concerning biological weapons. Shifts in the wider disarmament landscape, combined with changes in the capacity and geography of the life sciences, on the one hand, and the wider security context on the other, could result in the biological weapons regime being profoundly weakened in the future if it is not adequately “tended” by stakeholders. After a short introduction to biological weapons, the chapter proceeds to outline the origins of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. It then proceeds to look at the genesis of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The third section looks at the evolution and expansion of the BW regime in three different areas: domestic measures; effective verification; and international cooperation. The penultimate section of this chapter provides some reflections on the limitations of the biological weapons prohibition regime and the means whereby a changing scientific and security milieu present a potential challenge to the maintenance of a strong global regime.


Biological weapons Poison taboo Geneva protocol Biological and toxin weapons convention BTWC Regimes Biowarfare Bacteriological warfare 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Sussex Program, Science Policy Research UnitUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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