Sign In
Skip over global navigation links
Public Health Emergency U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
 

S3 - Science Safety Security

Laws and Treaties FAQs

International

What is the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC)?
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is a legally binding treaty that opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. It bans the development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, and production of biological agents and toxins "of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes" and weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles "designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict." It also bans the transfer of or assistance with acquiring the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles mentioned above (see BWC website at http://www.state.gov/t/isn/bw/).  U.S. federal prohibitions on biological weapons relating to the BWC are codified in Section 175, Title 18, U.S. Code.  In addition to the U.S. federal laws, some states have also established state-level criminal penalties for the possession of biological agents.


What is the scope of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540)?

UNSCR 1540, in April 2004, established for the first time binding obligations on all United Nations Member States to take and enforce effective measures against the proliferation of, or acquisition by non-State actors, of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, their means of delivery or related materials. For more information, see the Department of State website on UNSCR 1540.


What is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production,Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC)?

The Convention, more commonly known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, is a legally binding treaty.  It was opened for signature in January 1993 and came into force in April 1997.  The Convention prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer  or use of chemical weapons, including toxins. The convention also requires all signatories to implement national measures to prevent the use, spread or development of chemical weapons. See the Chemical Weapons Convention Website.  U.S. federal prohibitions on chemical weapons relating to the CWC are codified in Section 229, Title 18, of the U.S. Code.


What is the Protocol for Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous of Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (Geneva Protocol)?

The Geneva Protocol is a legally binding treaty that prohibits the use of gases and biological weapons against an enemy in times of war.  It opened for signature in 1925 and was the basis for both the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.  While the Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of biological weapons in war, it does not discuss internal and civil violence, stockpiling, production or development.  The latter three topics are covered by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.  


What is the Australia Group?

The Australia Group is an informal consensus group of countries, including the U.S., which focuses on reducing the risk of chemical and biological weapons proliferation.  It was established in 1985 to address gaps and inconsistencies in export controls for chemical and biological agents and has expanded to included dual-use materials.  Consensus decisions of the Australia Group are implemented through national legislation by individual countries. See the Implementation of the Understandings Reached at the 2010 Australia Group (AG) Plenary Meeting and Other AG-Related Clarifications and Corrections to the EAR.


What is the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (“10 plus 10 over 10”)?

The Global Partnership was established as a G7 plus Russia initiative to address nonproliferation of all types of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), including biological weapons and now includes several other nations as donor countries.  The program supports biological nonproliferation work primarily through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (Nunn-Lugar Program).  The “10 plus 10 over 10” nickname for the program refers to the original agreement that the group would raise 20 billion dollars over 10 years, $10 billion from the U.S. and $10 billion from other G8 partners. See The G8 Partnership.   

 

National

What is the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002?
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, (Pub. L. No. 107-188) calls for creating and implementing a coordinated public health strategy for prevention, preparation, and response to a bioterrorism attack or other public health emergency.  The Act calls for collaboration with States, and periodic progress reviews and updates as appropriate (http://www.selectagents.gov/Legislation.html). Title II, Subtitle A of the Act provides for enhanced control of biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.  Title II, Subtitle B (see next question) provides for enhanced control of biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to animal or plant health, or to animal or plant products.  Both Subtitles A and B of Title II call for the creation of the Select Agents and Toxins list by the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture.


What is the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002?

Title II, Subtitle B, of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act was deemed the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act, established controls for biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to animal or plant health, or to animal or plant products (the Select Agents), for which possession, use and transfer requires Federal government notification and registration (http://www.selectagents.gov/Legislation.html). 
 

What is the PATRIOT ACT and how does it relate to biosecurity and biosafety?

Section 817 of the PATRIOT ACT established penalties for unauthorized possession or transfer of Select Agents, and restricted persons who can have access to listed Biological Select Agents and Toxins.


Where is the Biological Weapons Convention codified in United States law?

Prohibitions on biological weapons relating to the BWC are codified in Section 175, Title 18, U.S. Code.  Some individual states have also established state level criminal penalties for the possession of biological agents.


Where is the Chemical Weapons Convention codified in United States law?

Prohibitions on chemical weapons relating to the CWC are codified in Section 229, Title 18, of the U.S. Code.