Biological and chemical weapons have generally been associated with each
other in the public mind, and the extensive use of poison gas in World War I
(resulting in over a million casualties and over 100,000 deaths) led to the
Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibiting the use of both poison gas and
bacteriological methods in warfare. At the 1932 - 1937 Disarmament
Conference, unsuccessful attempts were made to work out an agreement that
would prohibit the production and stockpiling of biological and chemical
weapons. During World War II, new and more toxic nerve gases were developed,
and research and development was begun on biological weapons. Neither side
used such weapons. President Roosevelt, in a statement warning the Axis
powers against the use of chemical weapons, declared:
Use of such weapons has been outlawed by the general opinion of civilized
mankind. This country has not used them, and I hope we never will be
compelled to use them. I state categorically that we shall under no
circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used
by our enemies.
In the postwar negotiations on general disarmament, biological and chemical
weapons were usually considered together with nuclear and conventional
weapons. Both the United States and Soviet Union, in the 1962 sessions of
the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC), offered plans for general
and complete disarmament that included provisions for eliminating chemical
and biological weapons.
An issue that long hindered progress was whether chemical and biological
weapons should continue to be linked. A British draft convention submitted
to the ENDC on July 10, 1969, concentrated on the elimination of biological
weapons only. A draft convention proposed in the General Assembly by the
Soviet Union and its allies on September 19 dealt with both chemical and
biological weapons. The Soviet representative argued that they had been
treated together in the Geneva Protocol and in the General Assembly
resolutions and report, and should continue to be dealt with in the same
instrument. A separate biological weapons convention, he warned, might serve
to intensify the chemical arms race.
The United States supported the British position and stressed the
difference between the two kinds of weapons. Unlike biological weapons,
chemical weapons had actually been used in modern warfare. Many states
maintained chemical weapons in their arsenals to deter the use of this type
of weapon against them, and to provide a retaliatory capability if
deterrence failed. Many of these nations, the United States pointed out,
would be reluctant to give up this capability without reliable assurance
that other nations were not developing, producing, and stockpiling chemical
While the United States did not consider prohibition of one of these
classes of weapons less urgent or important than the other, it held that
biological weapons presented less intractable problems, and an agreement on
banning them should not be delayed until agreement on a reliable prohibition
of chemical weapons could be reached.
Shortly after President Nixon took office, he ordered a review of U.S.
policy and programs regarding biological and chemical warfare. On November
25, 1969, the President declared that the United States unilaterally
renounced first use of lethal or incapacitating chemical agents and weapons
and unconditionally renounced all methods of biological warfare. Henceforth
the U.S. biological program would be confined to research on strictly
defined measures of defense, such as immunization. The Department of Defense
was ordered to draw up a plan for the disposal of existing stocks of
biological agents and weapons. On February 14, 1970, the White House
announced extension of the ban to cover toxins (substances falling between
biologicals and chemicals in that they act like chemicals but are ordinarily
produced by biological or microbic processes).
The U.S. action was widely welcomed internationally, and the example was
followed by others. Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom stated that they
had no biological weapons and did not intend to produce any. It was
generally recognized, however, that unilateral actions could not take the
place of a binding international commitment. A number of nations, including
the Soviet Union and its allies, continued to favor a comprehensive
agreement covering both chemical and biological weapons.
Discussion throughout 1970 in the General Assembly and the Conference of
the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) -- as the ENDC was named after its
enlargement to 26 members in August 1969 -- produced no agreement. A
breakthrough came on March 30, 1971, however, when the Soviet Union and its
allies changed their position and introduced a revised draft convention
limited to biological weapons and toxins. It then became possible for the
co-chairmen of the CCD -- the U.S. and Soviet representatives -- to work out
an agreed draft, as they had done with the Non- Proliferation and the Seabed
Treaties. On August 5, the United States and the Soviet Union submitted
separate but identical texts.
On December 16, the General Assembly approved a resolution, adopted by a
vote of 110 to 0, commending the convention and expressing hope for the
widest possible adherence.
The French representative abstained, explaining that the convention, though
a step forward, might weaken the Geneva Protocol ban on the use of chemical
weapons, and he did not consider that adequate international controls were
provided. He announced, however, that France would enact domestic
legislation prohibiting biological weapons, and this was done in June of the
The Peoples Republic of China did not participate in the negotiations on
the convention and did not sign it. At the 1972 General Assembly its
representative attacked the convention as a "sham," and criticized it for
not prohibiting chemical weapons.
The convention was opened for signature at Washington, London, and Moscow
on April 10, 1972. President Nixon submitted it to the Senate on August 10,
calling it "the first international agreement since World War II to provide
for the actual elimination of an entire class of weapons from the arsenals
of nations." The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed action on the
convention, however, holding it for consideration after resolution of the
herbicide and riot-control issues involved in the Geneva Protocol (see
section on the Geneva Protocol).
In the latter part of 1974 the Ford Administration undertook a new
initiative to obtain Senate consent to ratification of both the Geneva
Protocol and the Biological Weapons Convention, and ACDA Director Fred Ikle
testified with respect to both instruments before the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee on December 10. Soon thereafter the Committee voted
unanimously to send the two measures to the Senate floor, and on December 16
the Senate voted its approval, also unanimously.
President Ford signed instruments of ratification for the two measures on
January 22, 1975.
Under the terms of the convention, the parties undertake not to develop,
produce, stockpile, or acquire biological agents or toxins "of types and in
quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, and
other peaceful purposes," as well as weapons and means of delivery. All such
material is to be destroyed within nine months of the conventions entry into
force. In January 1976, all heads of Federal departments and agencies
certified to the President that as of December 26, 1975, their respective
departments and agencies were in full compliance with the convention.
The parties are to consult and cooperate in solving any problems that
arise. Complaints of a breach of obligations may be lodged with the Security
Council, and parties undertake to cooperate with any investigation the
Council initiates. If the Security Council finds that a state has been
endangered by a violation, the parties are to provide any assistance
Nothing in the convention is to be interpreted as lessening the obligations
imposed by the Geneva Protocol, and the parties undertake to pursue
negotiations for a ban on chemical weapons.
In addition, articles provide for exchange of information on peaceful uses,
amendment and review, and accession and withdrawal. The convention is of
At the second Review Conference in September 1986, the parties agreed to
implement data exchange measures to enhance confidence and to promote
cooperation in areas of permitted biological activities. In accordance with
the Final Declaration of that Review Conference, an ad hoc meeting of
scientific and technical experts was held March 31 - April 15, 1987, to
develop procedures for implementing annual data exchanges.
At the third Review Conference in September 1991 it was agreed to reaffirm
and extend confidence building measures agreed at the second Review
Conference and to create an Ad Hoc Group of Governmental Experts open to all
parties to identify, examine, and evaluate from a scientific and technical
standpoint potential verification measures with respect to the prohibitions
of the convention. The Ad Hoc Group met four times in 1992 and 1993,
completing its work and submitting a consensus report circulated to all
States Parties. As provided in the mandate, a majority of States Parties
called for a Special Conference to discuss the final report and consider
further actions. The Special Conference, held in September 1994, agreed to
establish an Ad Hoc Group, open to all States Parties, to consider
appropriate measures, and draft proposals to strengthen the Convention in a
legally binding instrument. The Ad Hoc Group convened two substantive
sessions in 1995, with additional meetings scheduled for 1996. The Ad Hoc
Group will prepare a report, to be considered at the Fourth Review
Conference of the BWC in the Fall of 1996.
CONVENTION ON THE PROHIBITION OF THE DEVELOPMENT, PRODUCTION
AND STOCKPILING OF BACTERIOLOGICAL (BIOLOGICAL) AND TOXIN WEAPONS AND ON
Signed at Washington, London, and Moscow April 10,1972
Ratification advised by U.S. Senate December 16, 1974
Ratified by U.S. President January 22, 1975
U.S. ratification deposited at Washington, London, and Moscow March 26, 1975
Proclaimed by U.S. President March 26, 1975
Entered into force March 26, 1975
The States Parties to this Convention,
Determined to act with a view to achieving effective progress towards
general and complete disarmament, including the prohibition and elimination
of all types of weapons of mass destruction, and convinced that the
prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical and
bacteriological (biological) weapons and their elimination, through
effective measures, will facilitate the achievement of general and complete
disarmament under strict and effective international control,
Recognizing the important significance of the Protocol for the Prohibition
of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of
Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925, and
conscious also of the contribution which the said Protocol has already made,
and continues to make, to mitigating the horrors of war,
Reaffirming their adherence to the principles and objectives of that
Protocol and calling upon all States to comply strictly with them,
Recalling that the General Assembly of the United Nations has repeatedly
condemned all actions contrary to the principles and objectives of the
Geneva Protocol of June 17, 1925,
Desiring to contribute to the strengthening of confidence between peoples
and the general improvement of the international atmosphere,
Desiring also to contribute to the realization of the purposes and
principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Convinced of the importance and urgency of eliminating from the arsenals of
States, through effective measures, such dangerous weapons of mass
destruction as those using chemical or bacteriological (biological) agents,
Recognizing that an agreement on the prohibition of bacteriological
(biological) and toxin weapons represents a first possible step towards the
achievement of agreement on effective measures also for the prohibition of
the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons, and
determined to continue negotiations to that end,
Determined, for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the
possibility of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins being used as
Convinced that such use would be repugnant to the conscience of mankind and
that no effort should be spared to minimize this risk,
Have agreed as follows:
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to
develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:
(1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin
or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no
justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;
(2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or
toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to destroy, or to divert to
peaceful purposes, as soon as possible but not later than nine months after
the entry into force of the Convention, all agents, toxins, weapons,
equipment and means of delivery specified in article I of the Convention,
which are in its possession or under its jurisdiction or control. In
implementing the provisions of this article all necessary safety precautions
shall be observed to protect populations and the environment.
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to transfer to any
recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not in any way to assist,
encourage, or induce any State, group of States or international
organizations to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins,
weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in article I of the
Each State Party to this Convention shall, in accordance with its
constitutional processes, take any necessary measures to prohibit and
prevent the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, or retention
of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery specified in
article I of the Convention, within the territory of such State, under its
jurisdiction or under its control anywhere.
The States Parties to this Convention undertake to consult one another and
to cooperate in solving any problems which may arise in relation to the
objective of, or in the application of the provisions of, the Convention.
Consultation and cooperation pursuant to this article may also be undertaken
through appropriate international procedures within the framework of the
United Nations and in accordance with its Charter.
(1) Any State Party to this Convention which finds that any other State
Party is acting in breach of obligations deriving from the provisions of the
Convention may lodge a complaint with the Security Council of the United
Nations. Such a complaint should include all possible evidence confirming
its validity, as well as a request for its consideration by the Security
(2) Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to cooperate in carrying
out any investigation which the Security Council may initiate, in accordance
with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, on the basis of
the complaint received by the Council. The Security Council shall inform the
States Parties to the Convention of the results of the investigation.
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes to provide or support
assistance, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, to any Party to
the Convention which so requests, if the Security Council decides that such
Party has been exposed to danger as a result of violation of the Convention.
Nothing in this Convention shall be interpreted as in any way limiting or
detracting from the obligations assumed by any State under the Protocol for
the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases,
and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, signed at Geneva on June 17,
Each State Party to this Convention affirms the recognized objective of
effective prohibition of chemical weapons and, to this end, undertakes to
continue negotiations in good faith with a view to reaching early agreement
on effective measures for the prohibition of their development, production
and stockpiling and for their destruction, and on appropriate measures
concerning equipment and means of delivery specifically designed for the
production or use of chemical agents for weapons purposes.
(1) The States Parties to this Convention undertake to facilitate, and have
the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment,
materials and scientific and technological information for the use of
bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins for peaceful purposes.
Parties to the Convention in a position to do so shall also cooperate in
contributing individually or together with other States or international
organizations to the further development and application of scientific
discoveries in the field of bacteriology (biology) for prevention of
disease, or for other peaceful purposes.
(2) This Convention shall be implemented in a manner designed to avoid
hampering the economic or technological development of States Parties to the
Convention or international cooperation in the field of peaceful
bacteriological (biological) activities, including the international
exchange of bacteriological (biological) agents and toxins and equipment for
the processing, use or production of bacteriological (biological) agents and
toxins for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of the
Any State Party may propose amendments to this Convention. Amendments shall
enter into force for each State Party accepting the amendments upon their
acceptance by a majority of the States Parties to the Convention and
thereafter for each remaining State Party on the date of acceptance by it.
Five years after the entry into force of this Convention, or earlier if it
is requested by a majority of Parties to the Convention by submitting a
proposal to this effect to the Depositary Governments, a conference of
States Parties to the Convention shall be held at Geneva, Switzerland, to
review the operation of the Convention, with a view to assuring that the
purposes of the preamble and the provisions of the Convention, including the
provisions concerning negotiations on chemical weapons, are being realized.
Such review shall take into account any new scientific and technological
developments relevant to the Convention.
(1) This Convention shall be of unlimited duration.
(2) Each State Party to this Convention shall in exercising its national
sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Convention if it decides
that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of the Convention,
have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice
of such withdrawal to all other States Parties to the Convention and to the
United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall
include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having
jeopardized its supreme interests.
(1) This Convention shall be open to all States for signature. Any State
which does not sign the Convention before its entry into force in accordance
with paragraph (3) of this Article may accede to it at any time.
(2) This Convention shall be subject to ratification by signatory States.
Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited
with the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, which are hereby designated the Depositary Governments.
(3) This Convention shall enter into force after the deposit of instruments
of ratification by twenty-two Governments, including the Governments
designated as Depositaries of the Convention.
(4) For States whose instruments of ratification or accession are deposited
subsequent to the entry into force of this Convention, it shall enter into
force on the date of the deposit of their instruments of ratification or
(5) The Depositary Governments shall promptly inform all signatory and
acceding States of the date of each signature, the date of deposit of each
instrument of ratification or of accession and the date of the entry into
force of this Convention, and of the receipt of other notices.
(6) This Convention shall be registered by the Depositary Governments
pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.
This Convention, the English, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese texts of
which are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the
Depositary Governments. Duly certified copies of the Convention shall be
transmitted by the Depositary Governments to the Governments of the
signatory and acceding states.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, duly authorized, have signed this
DONE in triplicate, at the cities of Washington, London and Moscow, this
tenth day of April, one thousand nine hundred and seventy-two.
PARTIES AND SIGNATORIES OF THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION
Republic of (3)
People's Republic of
Korea, Republic of
Yugoslav Republic of
Papua New Guinea
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Vincent and the
Sao Tome and Principe
(1) With reservation
(2) Based on general declarations concerning Treaty obligations applicable
prior to independence.
(3) Effective January 1, 1979, the United States recognized the government
of the People's Republic of China as the sole government of China. The
authorities on Taiwan state they will continue to abide by the provisions of
the Convention, and the United States regards them as bound by its
(4) Formerly part of the Soviet Union who signed and ratified the Convention
on behalf of Kyrgyzstan. Date of accession is unknown but Confidence
Building Measures Data Declaration submitted to the UN in 1993.
(5) Applicable to Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.
(6) The United Arab Emirates which did not ratify the Convention is listed
as one country.
(7) Extended to territories under the territorial sovereignty of the United
Kingdom. Also extended to New Hebrides; continued application to Vanuatu not