against Crops; June 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Rogers, Whitby, Dando; 6 Page(s)
On November 25, 1969, President Richard Nixon announced that the U.S. would unilaterally "renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare." The official reason for the renunciation was that biological weapons were of limited military significance. Testifying before the U.S. Senate in 1989, Harvard University's Matthew S. Meselson, a molecular biologist and expert on biological weaponry, outlined the true reasons: "First, these weapons could be as great a threat as nuclear weapons; second, they could be simpler and less expensive to develop and produce than nuclear weapons; and crucially, the U.S. offensive biological weapons program could be easily duplicated.... This stark analysis led to the conclusion that our biological weapons program was a substantial threat to our own security."
Biological weapons date back at least to the Roman Empire, when a common practice was to throw dead animals into enemy water supplies to poison them. The U.S. government defined biological warfare as "the intentional cultivation or production of pathogenic bacteria, fungi, viruses...and their toxic products, as well as certain chemical compounds, for the purpose of producing disease or death."