Synthetic Biology Debate

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky October 30, 2008
Biopolitical Times

The ETC Group's Jim Thomas is a key figure in the campaign to alert the public and civil society to the perils of synthetic biology, and lead author of Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology. On November 17 in San Francisco, he'll confront pioneering synbio practitioner and "open source biotechnology" proponent Drew Endy. The debate is sponsored by the Long Now Foundation, a private organization founded by a group of techno-enthusiastic deep-thinkers.

Not sure what synthetic biology really is? You're not alone. A recent poll by the Woodrow Wilson Center found that nearly nine in ten Americans say they know little or nothing at all about it. But when it was explained to them in focus groups, most said the risks outweigh the benefits.

The short definition of synthetic biology: building artificial life forms from scratch. The short version of the problem: "Genetic engineering on steroids" - with no societal debate or regulatory oversight. For lots more, check out the ETC Group website.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: