Efforts to strengthen implementation of the international treaty banning biological weapons have restarted after they collapsed in bitter disagreement in 2001. A meeting of experts in Geneva, running from August 18 to 29, is being hosted by the United Nations to find a new way forward for the troubled process.

"It's a long, sad story," Richard Lennane, political affairs officer at the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs in Geneva, told The Scientist. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) came into force in 1975 and commits the 150 states that are party to it to prohibit the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons. But there is no enforcement or verification machinery within the treaty. A long process of negotiation to add these missing elements began in the 1990s.

This resulted in a new protocol, to be agreed in time for the Fifth Review Conference of the convention in...

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