Article I of the BWC bans the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of all naturally or artificially created or altered microbial and other biological agents and toxins, as well as their components, regardless of their origin and method of production and whether they affect humans, animals or plants, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.
The Seventh Review Conference reaffirmed that “Article I applies to all scientific and technological developments in the life sciences and in other fields of science relevant to the Convention.”
Biological science and technology has advanced exponentially since the signing of the Convention in 1972. Although the Convention is uniquely broad and bans “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins, whatever their origin or method of production,” it is vital to stay informed about relevant advances in science and technology in order to identify potential breaches of the Convention. For instance, the fields of chemistry and biology are increasingly converging, blurring the distinctions between chemically-synthesized pathogens and organically-produced chemicals. On the other hand, similar scientific advances can also be of benefit to the Convention in that they can improve vaccines and disease diagnosis, for example. Nonetheless, the technology surrounding the BWC is inherently dual-use, demonstrating the importance of recognizing the fine line between peaceful and malevolent uses.