An increasing number of people – many with no formal biological training – are genetically engineering common microbes in community labs and kitchens, posing potentially serious risks to the environment and human health and raising serious ethical questions. These individuals regard the living world as suitable for hacking, like the entirely artificial digital world. They also believe that voluntary codes of conduct are sufficient to regulate their activities, despite the fact that digital subcultures create harmful viruses for entertainment! And our regulator – the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) – has so far failed to address the risks posed by these techniques or even decide if they will be regulated.

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