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Allergy bomb ragweed banned in Holland

  1. Sep 10, 2010 #1
    It appears that common ragweed is the major cause of pollen allergy, for instance this study.

    The Netherlands has taken initiative to eradicate the American intruder in the local plant community. For instance (Dutch)

    Google translation of the first paragraph:

    So everybody is urged to remove Ambrose from his garden and whereever you happen to encouter it.

    Useful or waste of time?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2010 #2
    I would say useful in that it could be one of the first steps taken to control this weed.Hay fever can be very debilitating for some people and in the UK the hay fever season coincides with the main exam season thereby affecting some students performances.
  4. Sep 10, 2010 #3
    Ragweeed and Goldenrod kick my *** at this time of year, and from another thread on PF it seems it's the case for many.
  5. Sep 10, 2010 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    Ambrosia spp. are generally invader species. That means they grow on disturbed sites. Like the tilled soil in your garden. Buried seed populations are the main source of this kind of invasion. Dig up buried seed, and the seed responds by germinating, even if it has been in the soil for years.

    So, removing plants before they flower will eventually deplete the seed reservoir in your garden but doing this on the scale of a whole country seems, at the best, daunting. I would suggest not very practical either. For example, every time someone turns the earth for a new wall, a sidewalk, or for planting crops later on, more seeds germinate. If this is in an area where pulling plants is not going to happen, the soil seed population is replenished. And you have a new wave of infection.

    Imported seed stocks are the original source of the problem and are a continuing source of replenishment as well. Even though all imported seed is analyzed for noxious weeds and germinability in the US (Federal Seed Act of 1938), large seed lots do contain a few problem seeds in spite of labelling and analysis. I assume most countries are equally careful about seed imports.
  6. Sep 10, 2010 #5
    Isn't there a parasitic plant which preys on ragweed... I seem to remember this, but only that... if anyone knows more, please post!
  7. Sep 10, 2010 #6
    Indeed, good one,

    Cuscuta attenuata or tapertip dodder.

    Worth looking into.
  8. Sep 10, 2010 #7
    Ah! Thank you for the link Andre, I'll have to re-read this material.
  9. Sep 11, 2010 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    The title of the thread intrigued me- surely someone has thought of militarizing ragweed pollen. Is that considered a bioweapon?
  10. Sep 11, 2010 #9
    If you're going to violate bio-chem weapons treaties, I think you might as well go all out and use VX, a deliriant, or a novel pathogen.
  11. Sep 12, 2010 #10

    Andy Resnick

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    But my question was, "is ragweed pollen considered a bioweapon?" Veering slightly off-topic, what about urushiol? The point is, would using those widely-occurring non-lethal irritants be in violation of a treaty?
  12. Sep 12, 2010 #11


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    Legal issues are well out of my area of expertise, but I think if a naturally occurring irritant is used with malicious intent, it would be treated the same as a synthetic irritant in the eyes of the law. It's the intent that matters.

    For an extreme example, if you intentionally kill someone with naturally-occurring poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), it's still murder.
  13. Sep 12, 2010 #12

    Andy Resnick

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    But pepper spray is legal to purchase. And presumably, can be used (in at least some cases) without fear of prosecution.
  14. Sep 12, 2010 #13
    If you use it in self-defense sure, just like a gun or a knife, but you can't go around blasting people with it for the hell of it; that would be called "assault and battery". If you smack someone in the face with a handful of ragweed in self defense, I'm sure you'd be fine too, and if you did it maliciously you'd be assaulting and battering them. The result, i.e. extent of bodily harm, would determine the charges to some extent as well.

    In war, it's more complex... you can use dazzling lasers under treaty, but not blinding lasers. You can't use chemical agents to sicken and disable an enemy in war (legally), or deliriants, opiates, organophosphates, or pathogens. Pollen... well... if you simply spread pollen in a war zone at natural concentrations it wouldn't be an effective weapon. If you choke the battlefield with it, or just plain dust, you're committing a war-crime, especially as in high concentrations any allergen can cause anaphylaxis, and death. You can't use CO2 to choke and kill a battlefield, so yeah, the result and intent matters in this case. Once you make the pollen concentrated and milled to be effective as a weapon, you've violated treaties without even deploying it. If you just have your soldiers throw weeds at the enemy, you're committing suicide... not a war-crime.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2010
  15. Sep 12, 2010 #14

    Andy Resnick

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    You raise some interesting points; since my football team is once again a huge disappointment, I had some time to skulk around the various arms control treaties.

    Turns out, hollow-point bullets are illegal in warfare. So are any biological toxins, regardless of their origin or method of production- so much for pollen and urushiol.

    Even a CO2 bomb is outlawed. But. a bomb that kicked up sufficient dust to choke and suffocate an enemy does not appear to violate anything.

    I wonder if a bomb designed to destroy and disperse an enemy's chemical stocks would violate a treaty. Probably not- set the poison ivy on fire!
  16. Sep 12, 2010 #15
    HA! That's good stuff.

    Indeed, as are any weapons intended to maim instead of kill. Granted, these days you want something that can pierce armor, but there is a strategy based in burdening your opposition with cripples, maimed, and wounded men and women, rather than just reducing their numbers outright. A dead man is buried, end of story, but a wounded man requires others to rehab and care for him to some degree, and uses more resources.

    In practice, this issue is now more relevant in areas such as blinding lasers or means to deafen as something other than a side-effect of an attempt to kill. This is partly why there is some debate over the use of bomblets (cluster bomb ordinance) and mines, which are prone to maim and not kill when left undetonated.

    Yeah, the logic of killing is a *****eh? Take a large fuel-air-bomb for instance; many will be killed by the pressure wave, and the result of a rapid influx of oxygen to the ground zero event. This is a result of a weapon meant to kill specific targets however, so it's allowed. You'll deafen and blind plenty of people with standard dumb iron bombs, but that's not what they're meant to do, rather it's an unfortunate side-effect for people outside of the kill radius, but still close to the explosion.

    This is often part of the debate for white-phosphorus munitions, which tend to burn, cripple and maim, but we (the USA) and others argue that it's used as a smoke screen munition. That is a major ongoing debate, much as Napalm was very controversial. In the end, the laws of war have little to do with sparing lives, but rather set out a set of rules as to restrict the intent of the killer to JUST killing.

    Well, that doesn't require any special design, just an enemy with stockpiles such as Iraq in the first Gulf War. Ideally you deploy high-temp incendiary bombs such as thermite to render the substances inert, but... as we've seen, it doesn't always work. Then, the WEAPON is not illegal, but questions could be raised about the wisdom of attacking the stockpiles. In the end, the onus has always fallen on the group stockpiling the illegal arms... after all, you can't wait for them to deploy them in a weaponized form.

    You should follow the debate around the concept of the Bush W. -era "nuclear bunker-buster"... Many are horrified by the concept because the primary damage would be eclipsed by fallout, literally. In the past, in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, we deployed air-bursts, which minimized fallout and radioactive ejecta. If you drill a bomb underground you're kicking up some nasty material that will be toxic and radioactive for a long enough period to harm many "downwind".

    Bottom line: no maiming as a primary intent, no crippling as a primary intent, minimize fallout (literally and figuratively), no WMD, minimize undetonated ordinance, no chemical or biological agents: CO2 would be a "choking agent", as opposed to a nerve agent like organophosphates, or a blister agent such as Mustard Gas. I think urushiol oil would be considered a blister agent, ESPECIALLY in aerosol form, as opposed to "blood" agents such as cyanides.
  17. Sep 12, 2010 #16
    I should add, the question of Incapacitants... is open. If you have a means through dazzling lasers, flash-bang grenades and the like to stun large numbers with an expectation of 0 fatalities, it would be legal! The problem is that you can't use deliriants such as BZ to do that, or opiates like the Russians did in the theater terrorist incident, as both might well kill. If you could "mass taser" people however... who knows?

    The bottom line: Your incapacitant CANNOT have a lasting effect. NO blindness, no damage to the skin or lungs, no cardiac damage, no death. As we saw in the case of aerosolized fentanyl, you can get Naloxone to some, but others receive a lethal dose. The technology to incapacitate is MUCH harder to come by than a well-placed bullet. Weird, but in some ways it makes sense in light of the nature of these treaties. Gassing an army "to sleep" is still murder, even if you use an opiate and not an organophosphate.
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