What is Bioterrorism?
Bioterrorism is terrorism involving the intentional release or dissemination of biological agents. These agents are (bacteria, viruses, or toxins), and may be in a naturally occurring or a human-modified form. For the use of this method in warfare, see biological warfare.
Bioterrorism is an attractive weapon because biological agents are relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain, can be easily disseminated, and can cause widespread fear and panic beyond the actual physical damage they can cause. Military leaders, however, have learned that, as a military asset, bioterrorism has some important limitations; it is difficult to employ a bioweapon in a way that only the enemy is affected and not friendly forces. A biological weapon is useful to terrorists mainly as a method of creating mass panic and disruption to a state or a country. However, technologists such as Bill Joy have warned of the potential power which genetic engineering might place in the hands of future bio-terrorists.
The use of agents that do not cause harm to humans but disrupt the economy have been discussed. A highly relevant pathogen in this context is the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus, which is capable of causing widespread economic damage and public concern (as witnessed in the 2001 and 2007 FMD outbreaks in the UK), whilst having almost no capacity to infect humans.