Clinton warns of dangers of gene assembly technology

Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, warned an international meeting in Geneva of the dangers new gene assembly technology could offer, such as terrorist use for biological weapons.
While the threat from bioweapons has drawn less attention in recent years than the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation to countries such as North Korea and Iran, experts have warned that the increasing ease with which bioweapons can be created might be used by terrorist groups. These groups could develop and spread new diseases mimicking the effects of the fictional epidemic portrayed in the Hollywood movie "Contagion," the Associated Press reports.
Clinton spoke at a meeting aimed at reviewing the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. She told diplomats that the major challenge was maximizing the benefits of scientific research while minimizing the risks it could be used for harm.
"The emerging gene synthesis industry is making genetic material more widely available," Clinton said, according to the Associated Press. "This has many benefits for research, but it could also potentially be used to assemble the components of a deadly organism. A crude but effective terrorist weapon can be made using a small sample of any number of widely available pathogens, inexpensive equipment, and college-level chemistry and biology."
The U.S. government has cited efforts by al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks to recruit scientists able to make biological weapons as a concern of national security.
"Less than a year ago, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula made a call to arms for, and I quote, 'brothers with degrees in microbiology or develop a weapon of mass destruction,'" Clinton said, according to the Associated Press.
Clinton also mentioned the attempts by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan to obtain anthrax in the 1990s and the U.S. anthrax attacks in 2001 that killed five people.