Jenseits der kontrolle

Eine Veranstaltung zum Thema "Biologische Waffen im 21. Jahrhundert" im Deutschen Hygiene-Museum

Hinter der Modernisierung in der Wissenschaft stehen gemeinhin Freigeister, Aubenseiter oder eine intellektuelle Avantgarde. They make it possible for new ways of thinking and doing things to establish themselves far from the scientific mainstream. Such developments can be found in abundance in the recent history of Europe: Galileo’s heliocentric world view or Freud’s psychoanalysis are only two prominent taboo violations.

As important as such new impulses are for the modern human self-understanding, as important is their public control through a broad discussion and the thereby ensured alignment with valid ethical standards of the respective society.

For the humanities this is an accepted fact, but in times of privatization of research in the natural sciences such control is even more urgent. But this basic rule is also valid from a historical point of view: Would a nuclear attack on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, for example, have been so easy in view of such a social handling of the new knowledge of destructive power??

Fehlende Diskussion und Kontrolle findet in keinem wirtschaftlichen Bereich weniger statt als in der rustungsindustriellen Forschung. But it is precisely in this area that achievements of civil research are harnessed, wherever possible militarily, and further developed from this point of view. This shortcoming will be addressed next Saturday at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden by natural scientists, scientific ethicists and journalists at the conference Biological Weapons in the 21st Century.Century).

Only today, years after the end of the Cold War, is it finally becoming clear that the 1975 Geneva Disarmament Commission Biological Weapons Convention had little impact. "Today it is clear", according to the invitation to the conference, "that until the 1990s both the former Soviet Union and Iraq massively violated the ban (on development, production and storage of biological weapons)." And also religiously motivated attacks, such as those of the Japanese Aum sect in the mid-1990s, have stirred up fears of the intangibility of the danger posed by biological warfare agents.

Especially the new possibilities of the genetic revolution increase the knowledge about biological weapons like never before. Because defensive research is also kept hidden from public view, any kind of control mechanism is doomed to failure from the outset. The speaker Thomas Gebauer from the organization medico international therefore wants to show that "democratic options in the (…) Dealing with risk potentials in the long term will lead to a more sustainable solution, because it will be anchored in a vigilant public". Besides "soft" policy issues such as social or labor market policy, such vigilant publicity is undesirable when it comes to security issues. But the international campaign to ban landmines has shown that it is possible to enforce a weapons ban through public pressure and international moral respect, he said.

All the more worrying, then, is the fact that bioweapons research is becoming increasingly independent (albeit defensively) in Germany, too "dangerous erosion of the worldwide respect for biological weapons", according to the disarmament expert Jan van Aken of the Sunshine Project. Following the withdrawal of the United States from the protocol, it is now necessary to insist more strongly on the full validity of the ban – a clear message to the Conference of the Parties, which will decide the fate of the convention at the end of this year.

The latest report "Biological weapons: Bundeswehr research projects" by Jan van Aken can be found on the website of the Sunshine Project. Here is just a short excerpt:

The Bundeswehr’s biological defense research has been massively expanded since 1995, and the budget for bioweapons research has increased at an above-average rate compared to the overall budget. This defense offensive in the test tube is clearly directly related to the reorientation of the Bundeswehr towards foreign missions. According to the Ministry of Defense (BMVg), the threat from biological weapons has increased – not because bacterial bombs are now expected to be dropped on Munich or Berlin, but because the "rapid response forces" in foreign missions tend to be exposed to a higher risk of biological weapons "crisis reaction forces" tend to be exposed to a higher B danger during foreign missions. According to the BMVg, this has created a gap in requirements "requirements gap" which is currently to be closed in the research institutes of the Bundeswehr and NATO. In this respect, the massive expansion of bioweapons research at the Bundeswehr is to be understood as part of a buildup that creates the prerequisites for the deployment of the Bundeswehr outside NATO territory.

So far, only few facts are known to the public about the Bundeswehr’s bioweapons research. The Ministry of Defense (BMVg) consistently refuses to disclose facts and face critical discussion. The Bundeswehr is certainly not involved in the development of biobombs and killer bacteria, but is conducting a defensive research program. Offensive bioweapons research is prohibited in Germany, and there is no reasonable doubt that the Bundeswehr complies with this prohibition. The BMVg must immediately abandon its policy of secrecy and ensure that the public is fully informed about all aspects of B research.

The following will discuss the possibilities of eliminating or at least reducing the danger of bioweapons: Bernhard Skrobanek of Roche Diagnostik, the physician Ulrike Beisiegel, her colleague Kathryn Nixdorff of the IANUS Group in Darmstadt, the spokesman of the board of the "Doctors against nuclear war" (IPPNW), Lars Pohlmeier, and Jan van Aken of Sunshine Project discuss.

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