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The life and chemical sciences are in the midst of a period of rapid and revolutionary transformation. The advances in science and technology, including those that result from convergence at the intersection of chemistry and biology, and progress in parallel disciplines and technologies, notably nanoscience and nanotechnology, are expected to bring about a wide range of societal benefits. In medicine, this could yield better diagnostic tools, prophylaxes and treatments, with, for example, an increasing ability to tailor drugs to the needs of individual patients; in agriculture, more environmentally hardy and disease resilient crops are being developed and farmed; energy production employing new bio-fuels and processes is being explored; and there are also advances towards more efficient, safer, environmentally friendly and sustainable production of consumer and industrial materials specifically designed to meet particular needs.

Inevitably, such transformational scientific and technological developments potentially have malign applications, and the dangers of such misuse have potentially profound implications for arms control and disarmament. Scientific advance could lead to the discovery or development of novel chemical agents, a greater ability to deliver these chemical agents to specific targets within the human body, and new or enhanced means of chemical agent dispersal over increasingly wider areas effecting greater numbers of people; eventually, such developments may even lead to the capability, or perceived capability, to conduct new forms of chemical warfare.

Such concerns are exacerbated by the unstable nature of the international security environment at the present time, with continuing warfare in the Middle East, threatened conflict in the Korean peninsula, the large-scale displacement and migration of people across the globe, the growth of extremist groups, and continuing terrorist attacks in many countries. This instability is likely to continue for many years and could fuel the further use of diverse toxic chemicals as improvised weapons, a desire by certain States to retain and employ existing stockpiles of chemical weapons, as well as increased interest in developing more advanced systems of chemical weapons.

Utilising a multi-disciplinary approach, and drawing upon an international group of experts, this book analyses current and near-term predictions of developments in relevant chemical and life sciences, and assesses the risks of their potential misapplication in the development of chemical weapons either through State programmes or by non-State actors such as armed opposition groups, terrorist organisations or criminal networks. The book analyses the current capabilities, limitations and failures of the existing relevant international arms control and disarmament instruments—notably the Chemical Weapons Convention—in preventing the development and use of chemical weapons. Through the employment of an innovative Holistic Arms Control methodology, the authors also look beyond the bounds of such treaties, to explore the full range of international law, international agreements and regulatory mechanisms potentially applicable to weapons employing toxic chemical agents, in order to develop recommendations for more effective routes to combat their proliferation and misuse.

This book is a call to action for the international scientific and governmental communities, underlining the vital importance of their active protecting and nurturing of the prohibition against poison and chemical weapons; and of building effective and responsive measures to ensure that the rapid advances in chemistry and the life sciences are safeguarded from malign use and are instead employed for the benefit of us all.

Diana Anderson

University of Bradford

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