June 20, 2007

Paranoid or Corrupt?

This week on CNE: Putin protects the precious bodily fluids of Russians from becoming bioweapons. In a bout of paranoia (?) Russia has banned export of human biological material, threatening many medical trials and making things hard for many patients. According to Kommersant this may be due to fears that such materials will be used to develop ethnic bioweapons against russians. The customs service claims they are just fighting organ theft. A more cynical guess would be that Putin et al. want to ensure Russia develops its own lab industry, and that the government gets a lot of say in it. The claims by the customs service that proper medical companies have nothing to fear also ring a bit hollow given that Russia ranks on par with Honduras and Rwanda in the corruption perceptions index 2006. With unclear rules open to interpretation it would take a miracle for corruption not to affect the movement of samples.

Of course, ethnically targeted bioweapons are a nasty possibility (imagine something based on the infamous mousepox hack but with the killer IL-4 a gene under regulatory control so that it only expresses in the presence of an ethnic marker - a mild disease that is spread by everybody but becomes lethal to a particular group). But the way to stop them is not to prevent the escape of genetic material, because that would require hiding the citizens behind an iron curtain (worked great last time, didn't it?). It is more efficient to make the bioweapons useless by increasing the genetic diversity of the population.

Posted by Anders3 at June 20, 2007 01:34 PM