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Fears on Eruption of Biological Warfare in 21st Century | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ex-Nato commander James Stavridis. AFP

London- Biological weapons of mass destruction with the ability to spread deadly diseases like Ebola and Zika could wipe out up to a fifth of the world’s population, it has been claimed, ex-NATO commander James Stavridis has said.

Stavridis described the prospect of advanced biological technology being used by terrorists or “rogue nations” as “most alarming.”

Britain’s The Daily Mail quoted him as saying that it could lead to an epidemic “not dissimilar to the Spanish influenza” a century ago.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Stavridis said: “In that plague, by some estimates, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population was infected, with a 10 to 20 percent mortality rate.

“Extrapolated to our current global population, that would equate to more than 400 million dead.”

“Most alarming would be that either rogue nations or violent transnational groups would gain access to these technologies and use them to create biological weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

Last year, an EU report suggested that ISIS has recruited experts to wage war on the West using chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

It warned: “At present, European citizens are not seriously contemplating the possibility that extremist groups might use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials during attacks in Europe.

“Under these circumstances, the impact of such an attack, should it occur, would be even more destabilizing.”

Intelligence services were also warned to screen returning Jihadi fighters for “specialist CBRN knowledge.”

According to Foreign Policy, by the turn of the next century, most scientists believe biological technologies will introduce the most wrenching changes — both practical and ethical — in our daily lives. These technologies will include human and animal life extension, crop and livestock genetic manipulation, and human performance enhancement, which together will begin changing the very nature of what it means to be human.

Some of the most promising advances involve man-machine interfaces, with particular emphasis on brain-machine connections that would allow the use of disconnected limbs; more rapid disease identification in response to both natural and man-made epidemics; artificial intelligence, which offers the greatest near-term potential for both positive benefit and military application (i.e., autonomous attack drones); human performance enhancement, including significant reduction in sleep needs, increases in mental acuity, and improvements in exoskeleton and skin “armor”; and efficient genome editing using CRISPR-Cas, a technology that has become widely available to ever smaller laboratory settings, including individuals working out of their homes.