Home Overview Press Room Blog Publications For Students about us
Search

About Environmentalism & Human Biotechnology


Environmentalists bring to the politics of human biotechnologies their long experience of the need for caution in the face of powerful new technologies, and for responsible social governance of technological innovation.

Environmentalists pioneered the precautionary principle, which counsels that the foreseeable consequences of new technologies should be evaluated in advance of their development and use, and that the burden of demonstrating their safety lies with their advocates and beneficiaries. Environmentalists also draw attention to the need for government to regulate markets in order to ensure public health and well-being.

Environmentalists' appreciation for appropriate technology and understanding that technical fixes are often inappropriate for social problems also hold important insights for evaluating human biotechnologies. Which biomedical, reproductive, and genetic applications of are worthy of support when measured against the principles of social justice, the common good, and the public interest? Which should we forgo? Which pose novel moral and political risks that require careful oversight and regulation?



Now They're Selling Synthetic Biology as Food?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 16th, 2014The commercialization of synthetic biology has been mostly based on public relations. Now there are efforts to introduce the technology to make food additives, quietly.
Pharma to fork: How we'll swallow synthetic biologyby Colin BarrasNew ScientistApril 10th, 2014Our best antimalarial drug comes from a plant, but now modified microbes are brewing it in a factory. Synthetic biology has got real – and food may be next.
Martha, My Dear: What De-Extinction Can’t Bring Backby Elizabeth KolbertThe New YorkerMarch 12th, 2014To bring a lost animal back because people might like to see it, or because they might feel better imagining that it’s not entirely gone, or just to demonstrate that it can be done is a vanity project, and nothing else.
The Mammoth Comethby Nathaniel RichThe New York TimesFebruary 27th, 2014Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad.
Is genius in the genes?by Steven RoseTESJanuary 24th, 2014The debate about genes and intelligence has resurfaced, and it’s more fervent than ever. Can achievement truly be inherited? Should education be tailored to individuals’ genetic potential?
Butting Heads Over "De-extinction"by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 16th, 2014Paul Ehrlich and Stewart Brand have written contrasting essays debating the idea of "de-extinction.”
Top Science Longreads of 2013by Ed YongNational GeographicDecember 23rd, 2013I’m really optimistic about the future for long, deep, rich science reporting. There are more places that are publishing it, more ways of finding it, and a seemingly huge cadre of people who are writing it well.
AquaBounty Facing Environmental Complaint in PanamaThe GuardianNovember 23rd, 2013A company creating GM salmon with the hopes of selling it for human consumption in the U.S. is facing a complaint in Panama alleging that it is in breach of the country’s environmental regulations.
Top 5 Reasons I am Opposed to Cloning Woolly Mammothsby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogNovember 18th, 2013I have to admit seeing a woolly mammoth, mastodon, or saber tooth tiger would be cool, but such efforts would not be without consequences and most of them would be profoundly negative.
Competition Launch to 'Brand' Synthetic Biology VanillaHispanic BusinessNovember 14th, 2013ETC Group and Friends of the Earth are launching a public design and branding competition to shine a spotlight on extreme genetic engineering used in our food.
Get a Whiff of 'Synthetic Biology'by Jim HightowerBoulder WeeklyNovember 7th, 2013Welcome once again to the phantasmagoric world of DNA manipulators. This branch of genetic engineering wizardry calls itself “synthetic biology.” That’s an oxymoron meaning “fake life.”
Companies Rush to Build ‘Bio-Factories’ for Medicines, Flavorings and Fuelsby Ariana Eunjung ChaThe Washington PostOctober 24th, 2013"You can now build a cell the same way you might build an app for your iPhone."
What’s That Smell? Exotic Scents Made From Re-engineered Yeastby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesOctober 20th, 2013A powerful form of genetic engineering could revolutionize the production of some of the most sought-after flavors and fragrances, but synthetic biology raises thorny issues.
Glowing plant project on Kickstarter sparks debate about regulation of DNA modificationby Ariana Eunjung ChaWashington PostOctober 3rd, 2013Who, if anyone, has the power to monitor the release of glowing seeds?
Blinded By Science[Mentions CGS's Jessica Cussins]Center for Environmental HealthSeptember 30th, 2013Three stories of science gone wrong: distorted science, unethical science, and just plain nutty science. We learn about geoengineering, flame retardant chemicals, and the controversy over misuse of Havasupai DNA.
Back from the Deadby Jason MarkEarth Island Journal, Autumn 2013The debate about de-extinction centers on a classic dilemma. Just because we can do something, does that mean we should?
Plants That Glow in the Dark Spark Heated Debateby Josh DziezaThe Daily BeastAugust 18th, 2013Kickstarter has backed away from crowdfunding genetically modified organisms that can be released from the lab, but the debate over who gets to grow what continues to rage.
A Kickstop for Synthetic Biology?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesAugust 7th, 2013Environmentalists voiced alarm and outrage when the “glowing plants” project promised to send synthetic seeds to thousands around the world as part of a fundraising effort on Kickstarter. The crowdfunding site has now changed its regulations; offering GMOs as a reward will no longer be permitted.
A Lab-Grown Burger Gets a Taste Testby Henry FountainThe New York TimesAugust 5th, 2013A hamburger made from bovine stem cells was fried, served and eaten in London in an odd demonstration of one view of the future of food. The $325,000 project was paid for by Google founder Sergey Brin.
Kickstarter Bans Project Creators from Giving Away Genetically-Modified Organismsby Duncan GeereThe VergeAugust 2nd, 2013Following the success of the "Glowing Plants" project, the crowdfunding website Kickstarter is clamping down on genetically-modified organisms.
U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Productsby Stephanie StromThe New York TimesJune 20th, 2013The Agriculture Department has approved a label for meat and liquid egg products that includes a claim about the absence of genetically engineered products.
De-extinction: A Lifeline or Pandora's Box?by Jamie Rappaport ClarkHuffington PostJune 6th, 2013As a biologist and a mother, I would much rather leave my son a healthy planet with an abundance of wildlife for him to enjoy and cherish than a couple of sad woolly mammoths on display.
Discussing "De-Extinction"by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJune 5th, 2013A one-day conference, "De-extinction: Ethics, Law & Politics," included advocates of the idea, as well as environmentalists, animal welfare experts and philosophers expressing a range of concerns.
Why Efforts to Bring Extinct Species Back from the Dead Miss the Pointby The EditorsScientific AmericanMay 27th, 2013A "de-extinction" project to revive long-gone species threatens to divert attention from the biodiversity crisis.
How are Humans Going to Become Extinct?by Sean CoughlanBBC NewsApril 25th, 2013Experiments in areas such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology and machine intelligence are hurtling forward into the territory of the unintended and unpredictable.
Earth Day in Biopoliticsby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 22nd, 2013In honor of Earth Day, let’s hope for a move away from “greenwashed” PR stunts and techno-fixes toward conservation, sustainability, and social responsibility.
Synthetic Biologists and Conservationists Open Talksby Ewen CallawayNatureApril 16th, 2013But worries persist about unintended consequences of tinkering with nature.
New “Semisynthetic” Anti-Malarial Drug is Unneeded and Sets Dangerous Precedent While Threatening Farmer Livelihoods[Press Release]SynBioWatchApril 15th, 2013A pharmaceutical giant announced that it will replace the entire world supply of the preferred anti-malarial treatment with a semi-synthetic product produced using synthetic biology - a controversial, unregulated biotechnology.
Microbes Can Mass-Produce Malaria Drugby Emily SingerMIT Technology ReviewApril 10th, 2013Drug makers can now brew large vats of the malaria drug artemisinin with synthetic biology techniques.
Should We Be Trying to Bring Extinct Species Back to Life?by Pete ShanksAlternetApril 8th, 2013Here's a look at greenwashing, guilt-tripping and the politics of "de-extinction."
GM Crops Evil, GM Children OK?by Chris BennettWestern Farm PressMarch 27th, 2013China is surging ahead with a research project aimed at identifying millions of genetic variations in order to boost intelligence.
Resurrected Mammoths and Dodos? Don't Count on itby David EhrenfeldThe GuardianMarch 23rd, 2013Let's focus on conserving living animals, not on an expensive quest to bring back extinct ones – or some variation of them.
A Stealthy De-Extinction Startupby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMarch 19th, 2013By reviving lost species, a new company could put a warm and fuzzy face on advanced reproductive engineering.
The Narcissism of De-Extinctionby Hannah WatersScientific AmericanMarch 15th, 2013If people had the ability to resurrect extinct species and reintroduce them to the wild, should we direct our energy and resources towards it?
Cloning All Over Again: Reviving the Idea of Re-creating Speciesby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMarch 7th, 2013An environmentalist-turned-techno-enthusiast, a synthetic biology champion, and a cloning expert are teaming up to promote what they call "de-extinction."
Monsanto, the Court and the Seeds of Dissent[Op-Ed]by George Kimbrell and Debbie BarkerLos Angeles TimesFebruary 19th, 2013Should Monsanto, or any corporation, have rights to a self-replicating natural product? On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will decide.
Synthetic Biology and the “Bioeconomy”: Feeding Fuel to the Fire of Landgrabs and Biodiversity Lossby Eric Hoffman and Jeff ConantGlobal Forest CoalitionFebruary 14th, 2013The new industrialists want to use synthetic biology techniques to turn microbes into “living chemical factories” engineered to produce biofuels, bio-plastics, industrial chemicals and oils, and even medicines.
Interview with George Church: Can Neanderthals Be Brought Back from the Dead?by Philip Bethge and Johann GrolleDer SpiegelJanuary 18th, 2013The English translation of the interview in which George Church of Harvard University explains how genetic technology and synthetic biology might permit the creation of a Neanderthal-like clone that could be gestated by a woman.
A Rebuttal to Mark Lynas’ GMO Reversalby Jason MarkEarth Island JournalJanuary 11th, 2013Organic farmer, writer, and environmental policy advocate delves into Lynas' rationale for turning pro-GMO and finds scientific, environmental, economic, and social reasons not to agree.
Eric Hoffman on a Very Discreet Newcomer: Synthetic Biologyby Eric HoffmanA World of ScienceJanuary 11th, 2013An interview on the dangers of synthetic biology published in UNESCO's Natural Sciences Sector's quarterly journal.
UK Government's Enthusiasm for GM Not Matched in Developing Nationsby John VidalThe Guardian January 4th, 2013Across the world, countries are turning their backs on GM crops; perhaps the coalition in the UK could learn something from them.
Biotech's 10 Biggest PR Disasters of 2012GMWatchDecember 31st, 20122012 was the year the lights came up on the biotech industry. Its claims, its tactics and its products all came under scrutiny and some of its biggest PR fairytales bit the dust. Here are some prime examples.
FDA Moves Closer to Approval of GMO Fish, Critics Outragedby Carey GillamReutersDecember 21st, 2012A controversial genetically engineered salmon has moved a step closer to the consumer's dining table after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the fish didn't appear likely to pose a threat.
With Animals Under Threat, Brazilian Team Aims to Clone 8 Wild Speciesby Jenny BarchfieldThe Washington PostNovember 15th, 2012Cloning can’t be a substitute for protecting endangered animals, but Brazilian researchers are turning to it nonetheless to help offset the perilous decline of several animal species.
Bill McKibben on Real Time With Bill Maherby Osagie K. ObasogieBiopolitical TimesOctober 18th, 2012Bill McKibben discusses the radical implications of climate change and the troubling proposal made by some to "alter [human] behavior and physiology" to deal with these changes.
Vote for the Dinner PartyIs this the year that the food movement finally enters politics?by Michael PollanNew York TimesOctober 10th, 2012California’s Proposition 37, which would require that genetically modified foods carry a label, has the potential to change the politics of food not just in California but nationally too.
Craig Venter’s Bugs Might Destroy the Worldby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesJune 22nd, 2012A recent article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine hypes Craig Venter and synthetic biology as green solutions to the world’s woes. The real story is what the article missed.
Bay Area Artist Looks to Biopolitical Issues for Inspirationby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJune 7th, 2012Bay Area artist Doug Minkler addresses concerns about synthetic biology and the corporatization of scientific research in his socially conscious posters.
Is International Governance on the Horizon for Synthetic Biology? by Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMay 31st, 2012New developments at the international level mark a potential victory for progressives concerned about synthetic biology.
Why Amyris Is Giving Up on Biodiesel, For NowNew data show that its products cost more than $30 a gallon to make.by Kevin BullisTechnology ReviewMay 9th, 2012Synthetic biology company Amyris, a leader in the field, gives up its biofuels business, and shifts its approach to cosmetics.
Artificial DNA Presents Real Dangersby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMay 2nd, 2012The creation of “artificial DNA” has generated substantial media buzz. The untold story behind the hype is about the new risks synthetic biology presents.
Playing God?by Steven T. JonesSan Francisco Bay GuardianApril 3rd, 2012SynBioWatch raises concerns about the risks posed by a planned new synthetic biology lab in Richmond.
SynBioWatch to Hold Public Discussion on Synthetic Biology Risksby Doug PetBiopolitical TimesMarch 16th, 2012A social and environmental justice coalition, SynbioWatch, will hold a public meeting to discuss the possible dangers associated with synthetic biology.
Environmental Groups Call for Tighter Regulation of ‘Extreme Genetic Engineering’by Brian VastagWashington PostMarch 13th, 2012A global coalition of 111 organizations released the first global declaration outlining principles that must be adopted to protect the environment from risks posed by synthetic biology.
With Prevalence of Nanomaterials Rising, Panel Urges Review of Risksby Cornelia DeanNew York TimesJanuary 25th, 2012A National Academy of Sciences committee called for further study of the minuscule substances, which are found in products from makeup to paint and drive a $225 billion market.
Cloning vs. Conservation[Opinion]by John RennieSmart PlanetDecember 20th, 2011Cloning is a dangerous and misguided substitute for the preservation of biodiversity.
Bioengineers Debate Use of Military Moneyby Erika Check HaydenNature NewsNovember 22nd, 2011US Department of Defense’s call for greener ways to make explosives worries synthetic biologists.
New Buzz around Biological Hazardsby Emily BeitiksBiopolical TimesNovember 1st, 2011Recent reports highlight emerging biological engineering risks that might not be all that different from threats of bioterrorism, though the context of development surely differs.
Lab Fight Raises U.S. Security Issuesby Jennifer GollanNew York TimesOctober 22nd, 2011Biosafety expert Paul Rabinow resigned from the UC Berkeley-led Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, and asserted that the Center is not doing enough to prevent a biological disaster.
Yet Another Idea for Using Biotechnology to Rescue Endangered Speciesby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 8th, 2011Scientists have reprogrammed skin cells from two endangered species into stem cells, and hope to use them to generate gametes, which has provoked press speculation.
Is Public Health and Safety Being Considered in the Construction of LBNL's New Biolab in Berkeley?by Jeremy Gruber, Tina Stevens, and Becky McClainThe Berkeley Daily PlanetAugust 8th, 2011Experiments at the planned UC Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute raise concerns about worker safety, public health and environmental safety.
New rules urged on hybrid animal-human experimentsby Ben HirschlerReutersJuly 21st, 2011A group of leading British researchers say that scientific experiments that insert human genes or cells into animals need new rules to ensure they are ethically acceptable.
Programming a Fetus for a Healthier Lifeby Shirley S. WangWall Street JournalJuly 5th, 2011A study just getting under way is taking "early intervention" to a new extreme: targeting fetuses still developing in the womb.
EU talks over cloned meat collapseby Alistair DriverFarmers GuardianMarch 29th, 2011EU talks on the regulation of food from cloned animals have collapsed again, leaving the issue clouded in doubt.
EU institutions clash over animal cloning regulationsby Jennifer RankinEuropeanVoice.comMarch 24th, 2011Only days are left to break the cloning deadlock, while Members of Parliament demand a ban on food from offspring of clones.
The Sins of Syn Bioby Jim ThomasSlateFebruary 2nd, 2011How synthetic biology will bring us cheaper plastics by ruining the poorest nations on Earth.
Pigging out on genetically modified porkby Christina StevensGlobal NewsJanuary 24th, 2011Genetically engineered pork may one day become a part of your local grocer's food list. But who's to decide whether or not this product should be on the shelves?
Poor countries urged to get ready for synthetic biologyby Mico TatalovicSciDev NetJanuary 17th, 2011Will synthetic biology products be developed and commercialised before there is regulation and understanding of their environmental and societal impacts?
The Corrupting Influence of the Business of Biotechby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 23rd, 2010Many scientists seem oblivious of the potential that industry funding offers for conflicts of interest.
Europeans Want Regulation for Biotechby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 18th, 2010The latest Eurobarometer report on biotechnology shows that Europeans, in general, support medical uses of technology as long as they are carefully regulated.
New ETC Report on Synthetic Biology & the Global Biomass Grabby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 3rd, 2010"The New Biomassters" considers the wider implications of the proposed new bioeconomy, which will exploit the people of the global South.
Environmentalists Try to Ban Release of Synthetic Life Forms into The Wild [UK]by Steve ConnorThe IndependentMay 24th, 2010Environmentalists last week sought to use the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to push for moratorium on release of synthetic life forms into the wild.
Tragedy on the Pharmby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 24th, 2010Cows genetically modified to produce human follicle stimulating hormone died unexpectedly from vastly enlarged ovaries, unleashing a storm of controversy in New Zealand.
Emerging Technologies and a Sustainable, Healthy, Just WorldThe Case of Human Reproductive and Genetic Technologiesby Marcy Darnovsky and Jesse ReynoldsBiodiversity: The Newsletter of the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity (Winter 2010)Environmentalists are in a position to play a critically important role in determining how powerful, emerging technologies are ultimately developed, used, and regulated.
Caruso and Darnovsky on Synthetic Biologyby Jesse ReynoldsBiopolitical TimesNovember 17th, 2008If you are doing some crash preparation to attend tonight's debate on synthetic biology with Drew Endy and Jim Thomas, here are two resources to bring you up to speed.
Synthetic BiologyVenter's Trillion-Dollar Dream Spotlights Dangers of "Self-Regulation"Genetic CrossroadsJune 29th, 2007Yesterday's announcement that biotech entrepreneur Craig Venter is one step closer to constructing a self-replicating artificial life form should be a wake-up call. Venter's move to construct a synthetic bacterial species paves the way for the deliberate or accidental creation of pathogens of unprecedented virulence.
ETC Group Report on Extreme Genetic Engineeringby Jesse ReynoldsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 31st, 2007Our friends at the ETC Group recently released an informative report on the rapidly emerging field of synthetic biology.
Calls for a Moratorium on Food from Cloned AnimalsGenetic CrossroadsOctober 20th, 2006A coalition of health, environmental, animal safety, consumer and religious groups has filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration aimed at the agency's pending decision on allowing meat and milk from cloned animals into the U.S. food supply.
FoE Condemns Athletic "Gene Doping"Genetic CrossroadsMarch 31st, 2005Friends of the Earth President Dr. Brent Blackwelder testified before the US House Government Reform Committee hearings on steroid use in baseball to urge they consider action to ban athletic "gene doping."
Humans 2.0Will Your Grandchildren Be Genetically Modified?September 28th, 2004A conversation with Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben, and Marcy Darnovsky about the social and political implications of the new human biotechnologies, later broadcast on KPFA Sunday Salon.
Posthuman Enough?by Richard B. NorgaardBioScienceMarch 30th, 2004Will we say "enough" and set up the controls necessary to prevent the transformation of a portion of the human population into superpeople?
Too Clever Too Fast Too Happyby Bill McKibbenThe GuardianMay 3rd, 2003But what if, instead of crudely cheating with hypodermics, we began literally to programme children before they were born to become great athletes?... And as we move into the new world of genetic engineering, we won't simply lose races, we'll lose racing : we'll lose the possibility of the test, the challenge, the celebration that athletics represents.
Bill McKibben in ConversationApril 30th, 2003The Center for Genetics and Society presented an evening with Bill McKibben, renowned author of the new book Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, along with Anuradha Mittal, Marc Lappe, and Marcy Darnovsky.
Designer Genesby Bill McKibbenOrionApril 30th, 2003Once you accept the idea that our bodies are essentially plastic, and that it's okay to manipulate that plastic, there's no reason to think that consumers would balk because "genes" were involved instead of, say, "toxins." Especially since genetic engineering would not promote your own vanity, but instead be sold as a boon to your child. The vision of genetic engineers is to do to humans what we have already done to salmon and wheat, pine trees and tomatoes.
Germline Warfareby Ralph BraveThe NationApril 7th, 2003Bill McKibben's "Enough" is reviewed by Ralph Brave at The Nation.
Human Cloning and Genetic TechnologyThe Global Challenge to Social Justice, Human Rights and the EnvironmentFebruary 25th, 2003The Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Center for Genetics and Society, and the Worldwatch Institute presented a briefing and discussion in Washington.
The Science and Politics of Genetically Modified Humansby Richard HayesWorldwatchJuly 1st, 2002Will new genetic technologies be carefully controlled for their benefits—or will they inadvertently destroy civil society? Say hello to the post-human ideology.
The Genome as CommonsThrough all the trials and tribulations of human history what binds us in the end is our common humanityby Tom Athanasiou and Marcy DarnovskyWorldWatchJuly 1st, 2002Perhaps we must put the human genome itself on this endangered commons list, and note that if this genetic commons too is lost to partition and privatization, if it too becomes the privilege of the affluent, then none of us on either side of the divide can be sure of retaining the "humanity" we like to think we've achieved.
Why Environmentalists Should Be Concernedby Bill McKibbenWorldWatchJune 30th, 2002Humans have dangerously destabilized the Earth's ecological system. If we now begin altering our evolved interdependence with nature, we will only accelerate the destabilization.
Environmental Leaders on Cloned and Genetically Modified HumansLetter to the US Senate from Environmental Leaders Concerning Cloning and Inheritable Genetic Modification February 6th, 2002Nine prominent environmental leaders delivered this public letter to the US Senate, calling for a ban on human reproductive cloning and inheritable gene modification.
E Magazine Cover Story: "Designing People"Genetic CrossroadsJanuary 7th, 2001
The Quiet Campaign for Genetically Engineered Humansby Richard HayesEarth Island Journal, Spring 2001
Interview with Richard Hayes by Casey WalkerHuman Genetic Engineeringby Casey WalkerWild Duck ReviewMay 31st, 1999
Designer Peopleby Sally DeneenE MagazineThe Human Genetic Blueprint Has Been Drafted, Offering Both Perils and Opportunities for the Environment. The Big Question: Are We Changing the Nature of Nature?

ESPAÑOL | PORTUGUÊS | Русский

home | overview | blog | publications| about us | donate | newsletter | press room | privacy policy

CGS • 1936 University Ave, Suite 350, Berkeley, CA 94704 • • (p) 1.510.665.7760 • (F) 1.510.665.8760