Friday, May 21, 2010

Synthetic #Bacteria Spells Doomsday for Natural Lifeforms?

Creating living organism using synthetic DNA opens Pandora's Box--putting natural lifeforms on notice for their "inferiority" and giving any disgruntle genetic engineer the opportunity to endanger the Earth with uncontrollable epidemics. Look for a lively debate on whether limits should be imposed on synthetic biology in a manner similar to the debate that closed down human cloning efforts. R.C.J.

Here's what the Hastings Center says: Craig Venter Group announced that it had created the first viable cell with a synthetic genome and President Barack Obama called on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to "undertake, as its first order of business, a study of the implications of this scientific milestone." President Obama wrote, "It is vital that we as a society consider, in a thoughtful manner, the significance of this kind of scientific development. Synthetic biology certainly raises deep philosophical and moral questions about the human relationship to nature,” according to Gregory Kaebnick, a Hastings Center scholar who is managing the project. “It’s not clear what the answers to those questions are. If by ‘nature’ we mean the world around us, more or less as we found it, we may well decide that synthetic biology does not really change the human relationship to nature—and may even help us preserve what is left of it.” Nor is it clear that the questions raised by synthetic biology are new ones. According to Thomas H. Murray, president of The Hastings Center and the project’s principal investigator, “We have come up against similar problems in other domains—most notably, in work on nanotechnology and gene transfer technology—but synthetic biology poses them especially sharply and pressingly"...
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