| GEO World|
| Obama steers clear of bioweapons convention in new plan|
| Updated at: 0118 PST, Thursday, December 10, 2009|
WASHINGTON: The United States issued a new strategy Wednesday for dealing with a rising threat from biological weapons but stopped short of measures to give teeth to an existing international convention.
Instead, the White House said it would step up protections against biological attacks by increasing vigilance and global access to information on disease outbreaks and strengthening norms of scientific conduct.
"We will continue to face new and emerging biological threats that will require the coordinated and concerted efforts of a broad range of domestic and international partners," President Barack Obama said in releasing the strategy.
The White House paper said risks traditionally associated with state-run germ warfare programs have spread in recent years to extremist groups as technological advances have made it easier and cheaper to produce biological agents.
While the United States has made strides over the past eight years in recognizing and responding to acts of bioterrorism, it said less attention has been paid to developing strategies to prevent attacks.
"Although it is entirely feasible to mitigate the impact of even a large-scale biological attack upon a city's population, doing so incurs a significant cost and effort," the paper said.
"We therefore need to place increased priority on actions to further reduce the likelihood that such an attack might occur."
The paper sets out a series of objectives for the new strategy, broadly aimed at protecting against "the misuse of the life sciences to develop or use biological agents that cause harm."
These include efforts to increase access to knowledge and products that can reduce the impact of outbreaks of infectious disease.
It calls for activities to reinforce "a culture of responsibility, awareness and vigilance" in the life sciences, and steps to safeguard scientific knowledge and capabilities that could be vulnerable to misuse.