Use of bioweapons often fails, report says

Despite a large number of attempts at using biological weapons, the majority of them have failed, with relatively few used in the last decade.

Between 1900 and 2001, there were 262 recorded attempts to use bioweapons worldwide. Since September 11, 2001, there have been relatively few, according to

With the exception of attacks on the Chinese by the Japanese during World War II, 60 percent of the cases involved terrorists and 40 percent were criminal in nature. Of the 262 cases, however, 66 percent of the attacks were hoaxes, 21 percent were threats that never came to fruition and only 13 percent were successfully carried out.

Of those actual attacks, 24 percent occurred within the United States and caused no casualties. The remaining attacks caused almost 80 casualties, reports.

The Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for 20 such attacks between April 1990 and July 1995. Half of their attacks utilized biological weapons, anthrax and Botulinum toxin, but only eight people were killed.

Aum Shinrikyo had many skilled engineers and scientists as members of its organization - some were graduates from among the best Japanese universities. As they began to recognize the shortfalls of their biological weapons, they began to involve themselves in molecular engineering.

Fortunately, the cult was broken up by Japanese police in 1996. In a few more years, it might have been possible for them to have developed the kind of designer bugs that, so far, have only been produced in laboratories in America, Russia and, possibly, China, reports.

The major problem with biological weapons, which Aum Shinrikyo found out, is that they are difficult to distribute. Sun, wind and moisture can reduce the effectiveness of most bioagents. Some very specific conditions are needed to facilitate successful delivery, and these conditions can change rapidly.