The UK and Why ‘Research’ Was Dropped from the Draft Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
Article I of the Convention prohibits development, production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of microbial or other biological agents or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes. Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict are also banned. It is sometimes forgotten that the first draft Convention tabled by the UK in the summer of 1969 also included a ban on offensive research. This proposal remained on the table until the end game of the negotiations in August and September 1971. So why did it disappear from the final text despite having wide support? Unfortunately the negotiating record – UK state papers and ENDC/CCD PV records and Working Papers – is not absolutely clear on this point, but we can piece together the evolution of this particular provision and identify the time it dropped off the agenda. Seemingly, for the UK at least, there were other more pressing battles to fight and win in the negotiations’ last months, notwithstanding the importance of a ban on offensive research during 1968 and 1969. As we have seen, ensuring that a prohibition on use was covered and that there were effective provisions for the investigation of alleged BW use were British priorities. What this episode shows is how key issues can be overtaken by events and that negotiation outcomes do not always lead to clarity in some areas, either by design or oversight.