United Kingdom publishes Biological Non-Proliferation Program

The government of the United Kingdom published its Biological Non-Proliferation Program last week, a document that outlines how the U.K. plans to address biological proliferation and dual-use materials.

The document demonstrates the changing direction of the U.K.'s policies on biological weapons. It plans to resume dual-use research and work with former weapons experts to learn more about biological and chemical weapons that could be used as weapons of mass destruction, Army-Technology.com reports.

"Work includes redirection of former weapons scientists and seeks to engage more widely with people whose scientific expertise could be misused for weapons purposes," the report said, according to Army-Technology.com. "Activities will continue to focus on engagement with biological scientists and provide support for the safe and secure development of 'dual use' biological science."

Dual-use research was part of a major worldwide debate in the last two years when two studies conducted in the U.S. and the Netherlands concentrated on the transmissibility of deadly H5N1 avian flu. The controversial studies led to a voluntary one-year research moratorium. Dual-use research focuses on scientific work that can be used to do both good and harm.

"A key feature of biological science is that much work with naturally occurring pathogens is potentially 'dual use,'" the report said, according to Army-Technology.com. "This means it can either be used for beneficial purposes - such as development of vaccines to prevent disease - or misused for harmful purposes deliberately to cause disease."

By reengaging in dual-use research, the U.K. may be taking the stance that dual-use research is more likely to make the world a safer place than a more dangerous one. Working with former weapon scientists could help the country to prevent chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons from falling into terrorist hands, Army-Technology.com reports.