A few months ago, Roger Brent, a geneticist who runs a California biotech firm, sent me an unpublished paper in which he wrote that genetically engineered bioweapons developed by small teams are a bigger threat than suitcase nukes.
Brent is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that a bioterrorist wouldn’t need a team of virologists and state funding. He says advances in DNA-hacking technology have reached the point where an evil lab assistant with the right resources could do the job.
Gold Star, but I'm wondering how alarmist this is.
[ That last sentence of the quote quite evokes 12 Monkeys, probably purposefully.
I think the level of concern is as it should be. Nanochick could probably speak 1 million times more intelligently on the subject, but I'm convinced that the equipment and raw materials are trivial and getting more so.
The question becomes skills and training... even if you have the materials for a nuke, putting one together is non-trivial. In comparison, how much schooling would a potential terrorist need to get to work on bioweaponry? A PhD? How likely is that to happen? Still, when it comes down to it, it only has to happen once to be tremendously devastating, and it looks like it's easier than nuke building, all told. On top of which, it's *much* easier to transport and deploy than a nuke...
I think the analogy to computer tech is a good one. 25 years ago people were building computers with wirewrap techniques. Now you can click a couple buttons and have a blog, publush music, make movies, talk to anyone, anywhere.
I agree that bio is much greater potential threat than nuclear, at least in the hands of small actors. I think nations are still gunshy to move that direction because of the potential lack of control you have with bio... at least a nuke has a well defined blast radius. With bio, it's tough to banish scenarios in which you miscalculate the virulence or mutations occur and suddenly instead of killing a bunch of the enemy, you've killed yourself too, and everyone else. Small, independent malefactors may have no such yoke.
Anyway, my 2c.
Paul Boutin : Biowar for Dummies