The United States biological weapons program officially began in spring 1943 on orders from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. Research continued following World War II as the U.S. built up a large stockpile of biological agents and weapons. Over the course of its 26 year history, the program weaponized and stockpiled the following seven bio-agents (and pursued basic research on many more):
- Bacillus anthracis (anthrax)
- Francisella tularensis (tularemia)
- Brucella spp (brucellosis)
- Coxiella burnetii (Q-fever)
- Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEE)
- Botulinum toxin (botulism)
- Staphylococcal enterotoxin B
Throughout its history the US bioweapons program was secret. It became controversial when it was later revealed that laboratory and field testing (some of the latter using simulants on non-consenting individuals) had been common. The official policy of the United States was first to deter the use of bio-weapons against U.S. forces and secondarily to retaliate if deterrence failed. There exists no evidence that the U.S. ever used biological agents against an enemy in the field (see below for alleged uses).
In 1969, President Richard Nixon ended all offensive (i.e., non-defensive) aspects of the U.S. bio-weapons program. In 1975 the U.S. ratified both the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) — these are international treaties outlawing biological warfare. Recent U.S. biodefense programs, however, have raised concerns that the U.S. may be pursuing research that is outlawed by the BWC.
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