“The Insect Allies programme could be seen to violate the Biological Weapons Convention if the motivations presented by DARPA are not plausible. This is particularly true considering that this kind of technology could easily be used for biological warfare.” The new study also warns that such new weapon technology could encourage other countries to initiate similar insect programmes for military purposes.

DARPA stresses transparency

Bextine rejects any suggestions that DARPA is developing biological weapons, but acknowledges concerns about potential dual use of technology. “Those concerns are precisely why we structured the Insect Allies programme the way we did, as a transparent, university-led fundamental research effort that benefits from the active participation of regulators and ethicists and proactive communication to policy-makers,” he explains.

As a US Defense Department agency, DARPA is only too aware of dual purpose issues. Created as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1958 by then US President Dwight D.