SIGN THE PETITION: Stop the Genetic Engineering of Viruses! Shut Down All ‘Biodefense’ Labs Immediately!

Most people associate the words “genetic engineering” with GMO corn and soy crops, Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller and the anti-GMO movement’s hard-fought (but ultimately lost) campaign for GMO labeling laws.

As dangerous and unnecessary as genetic engineering is when used to modify food, the technology has an even more potentially deadly use: biowarfare.

It’s time to stop allowing—and funding—the dangerous and illegal activity of genetically engineering viruses, under the guise of “biodefense,” in the U.S. and worldwide.

SIGN THE PETITION: Stop the Genetic Engineering of Viruses! Shut Down All Biowarfare Labs Immediately!

person in hazmat suit inspecting a petri dish behind a sign that says DANGER COVID19 BIOHAZARD

The debate over the origin of the COVID-19 virus is heating up. 

But there’s no debate about the human suffering the pandemic has already caused. And no shortage of speculation about the inevitable economic and world hunger crises soon to follow on its heels.

In his recent article, OCA’s Ronnie Cummins quotes a number of scientists who cite evidence supporting their belief that COVID-19 was genetically engineered in a lab in Wuhan, China. The scientists posit that the virus accidentally escaped from the lab, igniting a global pandemic.

Other scientists favor variations on an alternative theory, that COVID-19 is a zoonotic virus capable of jumping species, and that it originated in a bat, possibly one sold at a “wet market” in Wuhan, where it was inadvertently transferred to humans.

We may never get a straight answer from either the U.S. or Chinese government on the origins of this particular virus. 

But there’s no refuting this fact: Genetic engineering has long played a key role in U.S. and international biowarfare. Allowing scientists to conduct experiments with genetic engineering/gene editing and viruses—especially the type of “gain of functionexperimentation used to make viruses as lethal as possible to humans—is sheer madness.

As scientists warn in this recent article on GM Watch, sooner or later, accidents happen:

“In their view, it is now ‘100 seconds to midnight’ and humanity is in its greatest moment of peril.”

The ‘black biology’ of biotechnology’

The “history of warfare and the history of disease are unquestionably interwoven,” wrote Michael J. Ainscough, in a 2002 paper titled: “Next Generation Bioweapons: The Technology of Genetic Engineering Applied to Biowarfare and Bioterrorism.” 

Ainscough, a medical doctor, Air Force flight surgeon and at the time a diplomat of the American Preventive Medicine in Aerospace Medicine, argued that “organisms with altered characteristics are the ‘next generation’ of biological weapons. He wrote:

“In this century, it is widely predicted that advances in biology and biotechnology will revolutionize society and life as we know it. At the same time, the ‘black biology’ of biotechnology, which can be used to create biological weapons, will be one of the gravest threats we will face.”

Genetic engineering technology has evolved considerably since Ainscough wrote on the subject two decades ago. Today, scientists warn that the newer gene editing and synthetic biology technologies pose even greater risks in the realm of biowarfare.

Toby Ord, senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, told GM Watch that the risks posed by these newer gene editing technologies are among “the highest existential threats we face.”

As GM Watch reports

"Ord’s concerns about gene editing being used to genetically modify a pathogen are shared by the U.S. intelligence community. In fact, in 2016, the technique was added to the list of ‘weapons of mass destruction and proliferation’ by the top U.S. intelligence official for this very reason. The late Stephen Hawking also thought the genetic engineering of viruses had created the risk of a lethal ‘own goal.’ And by ‘lethal’ he meant not just as deadly as the current pandemic, but something that could make the planet completely uninhabitable for humans."

Is Monsanto engaged in illegal bioterrorism research?

In his recent article, “Did This Virus Come from a Lab? Maybe Not—but It Exposes the Threat of a Biowarfare Arms Race,” journalist Sam Husseini cites some alarming numbers concerning how much money (much of it your money) is spent on biowarfare:

For years, many scientists have raised concerns regarding bioweapons/biodefense lab work, and specifically about the fact that huge increases in funding have taken place since 9/11. This was especially true after the anthrax-by-mail attacks that killed five people in the weeks after 9/11, which the FBI ultimately blamed on a U.S. government biodefense scientist. A 2013 study found that biodefense funding since 2001 had totaled at least $78 billion, and more has surely been spent since then. This has led to a proliferation of laboratories, scientists and new organisms, effectively setting off a biological arms race. 

Husseini reports that after the 2014 Ebola outbreak in west Africa, under the Obama administration, the U.S. government "paused funding" for what’s  known as ‘gain-of-function’ research on certain organisms.” “Gain-of-function” research, Husseini explains, “actually seeks to make deadly pathogens deadlier, in some cases making pathogens airborne that previously were not.”

But in 2017, under the Trump administration, funding was reinstated.

How is it that the genetic engineering of viruses, for “gain-of-function” is funded at all, when U.S. and international laws clearly prohibit it?

Biological weapons research was outlawed in 1972, under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The international treaty specifically bans biological agents and toxins "of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes."

In the U.S., biowarfare research is prohibited under the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989

Dr. Francis Boyle, an American human rights lawyer and professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, drafted the 1989 law. 

In a recent interview Boyle said that when he was writing the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, he visited a top official at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri:

“And I met with him to explain that the biological warfare anti terrorism act was not designed to go after GMO food. And I wanted to assure him of that because I did not want Monsanto lobbying against me.”

Boyle said he was assured that Monsanto had no interest in biological warfare weapons work. However, according to Boyle, Monsanto does now operate a Level-4 lab in St. Louis.

According to this 2013 list compiled by the Federation of American Scientists (but not updated since 2013), there are 13 VSL-4 labs operating in the U.S. There are no labs in St. Louis on the list.

But the Federation of American Scientists does show a St. Louis lab on its list of Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The Federation describes the regional centers as “consortia of universities and research institutions that pursue research with the intentions of producing therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics for pathogens that could be used in a bioterrorist attack or could become more widespread.”

Whether or not Monsanto operates a level-4, or any type of lab conducting research on  “pathogens that could be used in a bioterrorist attack or could become more widespread,” deserves further investigation. As does the fact that the latest list of labs hasn’t been updated since 2013.

But we do know that all of these labs, according to Husseini, operate in secret, and are also known to be accident-prone.

It’s time to cut the funding for all of these labs, and end the dangerous, and illegal, genetic engineering of viruses.

Sign the Petition

 PETITION

As a taxpayer and a citizen of Planet Earth, I call on the U.S. and world governments to stop funding and to immediately shut down all biowarfare/biodefense research, including the genetic engineering of viruses.

Scientists are engaged in a heated debate over whether COVID-19 originated in a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, or whether this “novel” coronavirus was genetically engineered in a lab, and inadvertently escaped due to a security lapse.

But there can be no debate about this: Genetically engineering viruses for “gain-of-function,” to make them as lethal as possible to as many humans as possible, is illegal under the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, enacted in 1990 by the U.S. Congress, and under the Biological Weapons Convention, an international treaty.

Genetically engineering viruses to kill people is sheer insanity, especially given what we know about lab safety and human error.

Consider this: In June 2016, USA Today reported that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they had identified 34 incident reports involving bioterror pathogens mishandled at CDC labs that were “inadvertently” not disclosed in 2014 to congressional investigators who had asked for the information. All involved certain heavily regulated agricultural viruses— such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus — classified by the federal government as “select agents” because of their potential to be used as bioweapons and cause significant economic harm.

In August 2019, the New York Times reported on the shut-down of “deadly germ research” over “safety concerns” at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, in Fort Detrick, Md.

And the Washington Post recently reported that two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats.

Spending billions of dollars on genetic engineering to create biological weapons is wasteful, reckless and irresponsible under any circumstances. In a world where millions of people live in abject poverty, in a time when we face an existential climate crisis, it’s unconscionable.

It’s time to identify all labs engaged in this activity and shut them down for good.