Ricin is a poison found in castor seeds. Since 9/11, the now turned parasitic US bioterror defense industry, always sucking on taxpayer dollars, has worked hard to convince that it's a horrible threat in the hands of terrorists.
It's not. And while nuts from the neo-Nazi survivalist right to one lone jihadist have attempted to grind castor seeds to powder, no one except the Bulgarian agency that killed dissident Georgi Markov back in the 1978 has ever wielded it successfully as a weapon.
Ricin, while very toxic, simply isn't quite poisonous enough. And it isn't a cake walk to purify it from castor seeds, although making castor mash is a fairly common activity.
I have written about this at length previously. Just see here, where the laundry list is archived.
Historically, the only people in the US who fiddle with castor seeds range from whack-jobs from the extreme right fringe -- neo-Nazis and those endeavoring to turn their living rooms into bunkers lest the tyrannical government come for them -- to those harboring the impulse to destroy their spouses
Two recent cases are in the news, the first from Everett, WA, where a man named Jeffrey Marble had it in for his wife. He beat her with a barbell and was convicted.
A jury on Wednesday quickly convicted an Everett man in the barbell beating of his wife last year.
A Sept. 8 sentencing date was set for Jeffery C. Marble, 49. He faces a standard sentencing range of 11 to nearly 14 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Federal agents weren't far behind after ricin was found in the home and tests later showed the woman had been exposed to the toxin.
Yet another case shows the standard perp, this time from a suburb of Chicago. Edward Bachner will eventually be sent over for buying up purified tetrodotoxin, a nerve poison extracted from puffer fish.
This case, also in a plot seemingly aimed at poisoning the wife, is coupled with the white kook's fetish for accumulating weaponry -- including castor powder.
The FBI arrested [Edward Bachner] June 30, 2008, after he arrived at a UPS Store to pick up vials of [tetrodotoxin] he had ordered from a company in New Jersey. Authorities said a search of his home on the 5700 block of McKenzie Drive later uncovered 45 full or partially full vials of the poison along with evidence he had obtained at least 19 more vials that were missing. Agents also found a handgun, more than 50 knives, five garrotes, a phony CIA badge, a precursor to the poison Ricin and books on how to poison people, make gun silencers and hand-to-hand combat, a federal prosecutor said. Bachner also faces charges he tried over the Internet to hire someone to kill his wife in 2005. Authorities questioned Bachner about that incident in 2006, but did not press charges at the time.
Ricin will never be used as a WMD. And while there may be a lot of wishful thinking devoted to the matter, it just isn't going to happen. Science, history and precedent don't support the conclusion. The castor plant has co-existed with man for a long time, not only as a renewable crop, but also as a decorative ornament.
People who have castor plants don't have WMDs in the garden. And castor oil pressing plants aren't biochemical weapons depots.
Nevertheless, the US government sends taxpayer money to a small portion of the bioterror defense industry every year for the purpose of defense against ricin.
Most of it goes to a company of small value known as Soligenix, part of the infamous Alliance for Biosecurity.
Soligenix, which used to known as DOR Biopharma -- the name change presumably made to camouflage it from potential investors -- has been working on a ricin vaccine ever since 9/11.
And it regularly tries to boost its worth by issuing press releases on its products, which have never quite made it to market.
Indeed, the only people who actually may need a ricin vaccine are those who do research on ricin. And -- perhaps -- the US crazymen who try to make it, along with anyone in their households.
The successful development of an effective vaccine against ricin toxin may act as a deterrent against the actual use of ricin as a biological weapon and could be used in rapid deployment scenarios in the event of a biological attack. RiVax™ would potentially be added to the Strategic National Stockpile and dispensed in the event of a terrorist attack.
You could think of it as a type of scientific corporate welfare work for the few and privileged. The company may go out of business some day. But as long as there is bioterror defense funding for almost non-existent threats, don't bet on it.
This post was published in an earlier form at the most entertaining and excellent blog -- Dick Destiny.