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Overview of Dark Biotechnology

dark biotechnology
Elements of Dark Biotechnology

Every science has dark sides that are not beneficial for humans, living organisms, and the environment. Similarly, Biotechnology has vast applications for human welfare, animals, and the environment but it has also a dark side. Dark Biotechnology is related to the dark sides of Biotechnology and is connected with bioterrorism, biowarfare, and biological weapons.

In other words, applications of microorganisms, and their products like toxins for causing diseases and death in targeted organisms, animals, plants, and humans are called Dark Biotechnology. It also includes destroying agricultural crops, livestock, water-based vegetation, and fisheries to harm the Bioeconomy of the enemy.

In this field of Biotechnology, all research works are related to the investigation of pathogenic organisms that are virulent and resistant type, identification, and by applying biotechnological techniques converting them into biological weapons for targeted organisms.

Broadly we can say the Dark color of Biotechnology includes all research works related to microorganisms against the human welfare and living organism that including the production of bioweapons, biowarfare, and bioterrorism.

It also includes the studies of toxins that can cause disease, harmful effects, and death in humans, animals, and plants. We can say that dark biotechnology is exploring the negative side of biological sciences. Biotechnological techniques are used now to engineer the organisms to be more effective for use in bioweapon development.

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Parts of Dark Biotechnology

colors of Biotechnology
Different Parts of Dark Biotechnology

The dark side of Biotechnology mainly deals with all types of activities related to wars, weapons development, and terrorism by using Biotechnological techniques. For a better understanding of Dark Biotechnology, we can divide it into three major parts.

  1. Bioweapon
  2. Biowarfare
  3. Bioterrorism

Now we understand each term deeply.

1. Bioweapon (Biological Weapon)

Any microbiological agent or its products that can cause the disease, harmful effects, and death of the targeted organism can be said as a Bioweapon or Biological weapon. It can be bacteria, viruses, protozoa, rickettsia, fungi, and biological toxins produced by microorganisms, plants, or animals.

Biological weapons are very inexpensive in nature that provide a very effective tool to cause terror in widespread societies, and whole nations. Biological weapons are cheaper, more targeted, and have lots of diversity. Microorganisms used as Bioweapons cause anthrax, brucella, plague, Q fever, viral encephalitis, viral haemorrhagic fever, tularemia, smallpox, etc. on the targets.

Bio-weapons are capable to harm humans, crops, livestock, animals, or the entire environment. Its efficiency or work nature may be different as per requirement. They can harm very slowly or work instantly to kill targeted organisms. Bioweapons, similar to weapons able in mass killings, so terrorists can use them to cause great damage. Examples of such Bioweapons are Anthrax, Botulinum, Tularemia, and Variola.

By applying Biotechnological techniques like genetically engineering on biological organisms converts them into the most dangerous Bioweapons that have the potential to produce more extensive and devastating effects on human populations than conventional weapons.

2. Biowarfare

It is a method of warfare where Bioweapons are used to kill or damage humans, animals, plants, and living organisms. Biological agents that are used as Bioweapons may be microorganisms or toxins and can be used to spread deadly diseases by means of air, water, and food products.

Biowarfare is different from natural pandemics like the bubonic plague in 1347, Smallpox in 1351, cholera pandemic in 1817–1824, Influenza flu pandemic in 1889, Spanish flu between 1918, etc. The recent COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 is also different from Biowarfare. Biowarfare is different from natural pandemics in the sense of intention only. But both cause the same results.

3. Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism is a type of terrorism where Bioweapons are used in Biowarfare. In other words, the intentional use of harmful biological agents to violence against persons, society, and nations is called Bioterrorism. Bioterrorism is a global level serious concern because it can be used by terrorist groups against nations.

Bioterrorism is the main concern of any nation for the security of its public. So it is the main responsibility of the nation to conduct research on Bioterrorism. A bioterrorism attack is limited to only a small number of targeted people in a public place that causes a public health emergency in the country. So it is very necessary to protect themselves from any Bioterrorist attack it is necessary to develop the techniques to detect a Bioweapons attack in advance.

You Should Solve: Free Online MCQs on Biotechnology

History of Biowarfare and Bioterrorism

The history of this Biowarfare goes back for centuries. The first reported Bioterrorism case was found when the Assyrians poisoned the well water with the toxin-producing fungus (Ergot) in the 6th century B.C. Again a Biowarfare was reported when the decomposing bodies of war victims were intentionally thrown into enemy territory in the 1340 war in Northern France.

In 1972, Chicago police were arrested two college students for planning to poison the city's water supply with Biological agents that causes typhoid. In recent times the use of biological weapons was reported by Japan against China during World War II in 1936.

The latest Bioterrorism was reported between September and October 2001, soon after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001. When the deliberately infectious anthrax letters were concurrently delivered to news media offices and the U.S Congress.

Examples of Bioweapons

The most dangerous bioweapons are mainly contagious microorganisms that have the capability to live in an environment in extreme conditions. These include majorly pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi. There are lots of Bioweapons that are used in Biowarfare against humans, animals, and agricultural crops. Here we listed some of the major Biological weapons' names and details.

1. Bacillus Anthracis (Anthrax)

It is the most deadly Bioweapon of Biowarfare. It is gram-positive rod-shaped spores of Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Its odorless and tasteless spores make Anthrax a deadly Bio-weapon.

2. Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum Toxin is produced by Clostridium botulinum and is the most dangerous known toxin. It causes Botulism in humans which is a lethal muscle-paralyzing disease. C. botulinum grows in spoiled canned food. It is so harmful, its 1 g of botulism dispersed in the air can kill 1 million people.

3. Variola major (Smallpox)

Smallpox is a deadly contagious viral disease that has been caused by Variola major virus. It caused the death of 300 million people during the 20th century.

4. Ebola

Another deadly virus was first detected in 1976 and killed thousands of people in Africa. It destroys mainly humans' immune systems. Not only humans it also kills livestock like cows. Ebola virus-infected persons have a high case-fatality rate.

5. Bubonic Plague

Commonly called Plague, an infectious disease caused by the bacterium called Yersinia pestis and is generally found in rats and fleas. It spreads through respiratory droplets during face-to-face contact with the infected patients. It causes fever, weakness, and pneumonia and, if not treated early-stage, it leads to respiratory failure and death.

Try to Solve: Quiz on Colors of Biotechnology


Every science has two sides similarly, Biotechnology has also a dark side. Bioweapons, Biowarfare, and Bioterrorism come under Dark Biotechnology. Biotechnology techniques are used for the development of Bioweapons that are very cheaper than conventional weapons and more lethal.

Terrorists and criminals use Bioweapons to harm the targeted persons, society, and nations. Biowarfare causes result similar to natural pandemic situations but it differs in the sense only that Biowarfares are man-made not natural. To protect themselves from bioterrorism, every country works on various technologies to how to recover from the Bioweapons attack.

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