Dual-Use Biological Equipment: Difficulties in Domestic Regulation

A question in the current debate over chemical and biological terrorism is: how well do current United States policies limit opportunities to terrorist groups for acquisition of such weapons? The domestic purchase and use of “dual-use” biological equipment, such as fermenters, centrifuges, and other equipment, is one area suggested as potentially providing opportunities for terrorist, biological weapons development. Dual-use equipment has both legitimate civilian and military use. Regulating international sale of dual-use equipment is used as a nonproliferation policy tool. Similar regulation of domestic sales has not been employed. This report will discuss the difficulties of applying domestic controls on dual-use biological equipment and the potential advantages and disadvantages of doing so.