SynBioWatch to Hold Public Discussion on Synthetic Biology Risks

Posted by Doug Pet March 16, 2012
Biopolitical Times
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A coalition of social and environmental justice organizations collectively known as SynBioWatch will hold a public meeting in Berkeley, CA later this month to discuss  synthetic biology, an emerging form of genetic engineering that creates self-replicating organisms using synthetic DNA. The gathering will focus on a billion-plus dollar plan to expand the UC's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab into a major research facility for synthetic biology. The event, entitled, "Unmasking the Bay Area Bio Lab and Synthetic Biology: Health, Justice, and Communities at Risk," will feature a panel of distinguished local and international activists, scientists, and policy advocates.

The Alliance for Humane Biotechnology, Friends of the Earth, the International Center for Technology Assessment and the ten other organizations express major concerns about the risks that synthetic biology poses to worker safety, the environment, public health, local economies, and social justice. The event website reads:

The development of these high-risk genetic technologies is largely driven by the oil, chemical, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical industries, the military, and other federal agencies, in a rapid, high-profit commercial race. But the risks synthetic biology pose…are poorly understood, and lack adequate oversight, transparency or protections.

Given the gravity of these new techniques, the event's slogan, taken from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., seems more than fitting: "When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men."

More information on the event can be found on SynBioWatch's website and Facebook event page. The meeting will be held on Thursday, March 29 from 7-9:30 pm at the David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA) and is free and open to the public.