FOEA Emerging tech Project

Australia must support a precautionary approach to synbio at COP12

As global governments meet to discuss synthetic biology (synbio) at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting (COP12) in South Korea, Friends of the Earth is calling for a moratorium on the commercial release of synthetically modified organisms (SMOs) until a legally binding international framework for synbio is developed and implemented. Synbio is an extreme version of genetic engineering. Instead of swapping genes from one species to...

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Glow in the dark synbio plants

In April 2013, a group of ‘bio-hackers’ from California used the social media fund-raising website Kickstarter to raise almost half a million dollars to commercialise a synthetic biology plant that glows in the dark. In exchange for seed funding the ‘glowing plant project; promised to send 100’s of thousands of bioengineered seeds to over 6000 random individuals across North America – in effect a large unregulated release of a synthetic...

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Spraying sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere

Human inaction on climate change has led to some crazy ideas and suggestions − most notably geoengineering − the large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract climate change. Geoengineering ideas include seeding blooms of ocean algae with iron nanoparticles; reflecting the sun’s warming rays back into space with lots of tiny mirrors; and covering the Sahara desert with trees. But at the top of this list of insane ideas...

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Carbon nanotubes in agriculture

Scientists have discovered that carbon nanotubes can boost plant growth if they are treated to be more soluble and are absorbed by plants. One research group has even produced ‘bionic plants’ by inserting carbon nanotubes into plant chloroplasts, suggesting that this may enhance photosynthesis. Carbon nanotubes have also been touted as potential directed delivery systems for pesticides, fertilisers, and other chemicals because of their ability...

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Synthetic DNA

Life on Earth has relied on four DNA subunits – G, T, A and C – for billions of years. However, US scientists have now created two new letters of the DNA alphabet ‘X’ and ‘Y’, encoded into living, breathing – and dividing – E. coli cells. Lead researcher Floyd Romesberg claims it’s all perfectly safe, preferring to think “If you read a book that was written with four letters, you’re not going to be able to tell many interesting stories. If...

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Underground coal gasification

As governments around the world wrestle with the problem of how to urgently reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, some genius has just come up with an idea of how to create a whole lot more! Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is a process where coal and gas reserves – previously deemed unreachable – are set alight underground and the emissions captured. Whilst not exactly new, pilot projects of this crazy technology have recently been promoted...

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