Gene Watch Conference

Biological Weapons and the New Genetics - Avoiding the Threat

Section 3: Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
a) Present Status of the protocol to the BWTC: Dr Daniel Feakes (co authored with Jez Littlewood)
b) Response: Dr. Jeff Kipling (Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry)
c) Discussion Chaired by: Prof. Julian Perry Robinson

Section 3a: Present status of the protocol to the BWTC: -Dr Daniel Feakes

Chairman's Draft Protocol

Dr. Feakes first gave an idea of the process by which the protocol is negotiated. Participating nations first submit ideas for inclusion which are compiled into a working document called a "rolling text". All  material yet to be agreed   is in brackets. During each session of negotiations, segments are reworded and discussed until an agreement is reached. Agreed segments are included in the next draft without brackets. The process proceeds until their is sufficient levels of agreement for the chairman to write a basic document (The Chairman's Draft or this instance called the "composite text") which is a movement very close to agreement.

The composite text was released in April 2001, and is currently being discussed. This is the current state of the protocol negotiations. The US didn't agree the composite text, but stated that "the composite text did not reflect the US approach to issues".

The remaining issues with the draft protocol are:

  1. Technical inconsistencies or omissions
  2. Comments or proposals
  3. Areas of disagreement

Content of the Draft Protocol

  1. Definitions of Terms (Article 2)
  2. Declaration Triggers (Article 4)
  3. Visit Regime (Article 6)
  4. Transfer & Export Issues (Article 7)
  5. Provisions for Investigations (Article 9)
  6. EIF Criteria

Dr Feakes then outlined the Architecture of the protocol dealing with issues on Declarations, Visits and Investigations.

Issues remaining to be addressed

e.g. One of the decisions required is to agree how to decide upon investigation. Should the phrasing require a vote to prevent an investigation if their is a sufficient suspicion of violation, or do you vote to initiate an investigation.

( a written paper from Dr. Feakes is to be emailed to participants)

Section 3b: Response - Dr. Jeff Kipling

One of the difficulties for the Industry is that there is a negative press in some areas.

Clearly industry has dual capacity plants. Plants designed to produce inoculations etc., can also produce biological weapons.

Industry has co-operated with the process of developing the protocol. Companies have held mock inspections and provided technical information on inspection procedures. This is to enable inspections that do not interfere with the normal manufacturing, and which do not jeopardise commercial privacy.

In relation to the protocol the industry believes that it wouldn't catch offenders, and that it could risk the loss of proprietary information. However evaluation concluded that security of commercial information was maintained throughout the visiting process.