An ethnic bioweapon (biogenetic weapon) is a type of theoretical weapon that aims to harm only or primarily people of specific ethnicities or genotypes.
One of the first modern fictional discussions of ethnic weapons is in Robert A. Heinlein's 1942 novel Sixth Column (republished as The Day After Tomorrow), in which a race-specific radiation weapon is used against a so-called "Pan-Asian" invader.
In 1997, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen referred to the concept of an ethnic bioweapon as a possible risk. In 1998 some biological weapon experts considered such a "genetic weapon" plausible, and believed the former Soviet Union had undertaken some research on the influence of various substances on human genes.
In its 2000 policy paper Rebuilding America's Defenses, think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) described ethnic bioweapons as a potentially "politically useful tool". PNAC went on to provide substantial staffing for the Bush Jr administration.
The possibility of a "genetic bomb" is presented in Vincent Sarich's and Frank Miele's book, Race: The Reality of Human Differences, published in 2004. These authors view such weapons as technically feasible but not very likely to be used. (page 248 of paperback edition.)
In 2004, The Guardian reported that the British Medical Association (BMA) considered bioweapons designed to target certain ethnic groups as a possibility, and highlighted problems that advances in science for such things as "treatment to Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases could also be used for malign purposes".
In 2005, the official view of the International Committee of the Red Cross was "The potential to target a particular ethnic group with a biological agent is probably not far off. These scenarios are not the product of the ICRC's imagination but have either occurred or been identified by countless independent and governmental experts."
In 2012, The Atlantic wrote that a specific virus that targets individuals with a specific DNA sequence is within possibility in the near future. The magazine put forward a hypothetical scenario of a virus which caused mild flu to the general population but deadly symptoms to the President of the United States. They cite advances in personalized gene therapy as evidence.
Israeli "ethno-bomb" controversy
In November 1998, The Sunday Times reported that Israel was attempting to build an "ethno-bomb" containing a biological agent that could specifically target genetic traits present amongst Arab populations. Wired News also reported the story, as did Foreign Report.
Microbiologists and geneticists were skeptical towards the scientific plausibility of such a biological agent. The New York Post, describing the claims as "blood libel", reported that the likely source for the story was a work of science fiction by Israeli academic Doron Stanitsky. Stanitsky had sent his completely fictional work about such a weapon to Israeli newspapers two years before. The article also noted the views of genetic researchers who claimed the idea as "wholly fantastical", with others claiming that the weapon was theoretically possible.
A planned second installment of the article never appeared, and no sources were ever identified. Neither of the authors of the Sunday Times story, Uzi Mahnaimi and Marie Colvin, have spoken publicly on the matter.
Russian ban on export of biological samples
In May 2007, a Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that the Russian government banned all exports of human biosamples. The report claims that the reason for the ban was a secret FSB report about on-going development of "genetic bioweapons" targeting Russian population by Western institutions. The report mentions the Harvard School of Public Health, American International Health Alliance, Department of Medical Biotechnology of Jagiellonian University, United States Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology Warsaw University, and United States Agency for International Development.
- Genographic Project, genetic anthropology study; intention is to study migration.
- Biological warfare
- Prayer of the Rollerboys
- Project Coast
- Race in biomedicine
- Syphon Filter, a video game in which terrorists attempt to release a genetically programmable virus.
- Wouter Basson
- International HapMap Project
- William Cohen (1997-04-28). "Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy". Sam Nunn Policy Forum, University of Georgia. Archived from the original on 2004-11-18. Retrieved 2006-07-12.
- Interview of Dr Christopher Davis, UK Defence Intelligence Staff, Plague War, Frontline, PBS, October 1998
- Adam, David (28 October 2004), Could you make a genetically targeted weapon?, The Guardian
- Preventing the use of biological and chemical weapons: 80 years on, Official Statement by Jacques Forster, vice-president of the ICRC, 10-06-2005
- Hessel, Andrew (2012), Hacking the President’s DNA, The Atlantic
- Brooks, Rosa (2016-03-15). "Can There Be War Without Soldiers?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
- Uzi Mahnaimi; Marie Colvin (1998-11-15). "Israel planning 'ethnic' bomb as Saddam caves in". The Sunday Times.
- "Israel's Ethnic Weapon?". Wired News. 1998-11-16.
- James Ridgeway (1999-02-02). "Ethnic Warfare". The Village Voice.
- "UPI report".
- Stein, Jeff. "Debunking the "ethno-bomb"". Salon. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- "Now Playing: A Blood Libel For The 21st Century". New York Post. 1998-11-22.
- "Google Groups quoting Haaretz". groups.google.com. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
- "Россия блюдет человеческий образец". Kommersant. 2007-05-29. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
- on YouTube
- Genetic weapons: a 21st-century nightmare?, Ethirajan Anbarasan, UNESCO Courier, March 1999
- Is all fair in biological warfare?, Journal of Medical Ethics, June 2009.
- New biological weapons: Science fiction or moral imperative?, Robin Coupland, Red Cross Red Crescent, July 1999