The prestigious international science journal Nature recently exposed the issue of the militarization of scientific research. While research into chemical and biological compounds and weapons has been supported by many governments for decades, advances in modern technology could lead to weapons with much greater potential for harm.
Existing biochemical threats include traditional and genetically modified biological agents, pathogens such as smallpox and anthrax, mind-altering chemical agents, and emerging nanotechnology.
Many researchers are actively pursuing the creation of “less-lethal” or “non-lethal” agents such as aerosols and drugs which could “pacify aggressive people during… terrorist attacks.”
Some of these weapons have already been applied in conflicts. In October of 2002, a group of Chechen rebels detained some 750 hostages in a theater in Moscow. Russian special military forces used chemicals derived from the opiate anesthetic and “incapacitating agent” fentanyl. The application resulted in the release of the hostages, though the gas killed 124 of the group.