As researchers discover more agents that alter mental states, the Chemical Weapons Convention needs modification to help ensure that the life sciences are not used for hostile purposes, says Malcolm Dando.
Blind to misuse
The lack of engagement with this issue among life scientists in general is alarming. Some companies are already marketing oxytocin on the back of studies showing that a nasal squirt of the hormone increases trust in humans. Even though the effectiveness of commercial sprays is doubtful, such research opens up the possibility of a drug that could be used to manipulate people’s emotions in a military context. Discussions with more than 2,000 practising life scientists in 13 countries over the past few years have taught me that few have considered such possible uses of their work.