The Synthetic Biology Biology 2.0 conference on the 21st May in Berkeley, USA has released a public statement in support of self-governance of the emerging nanobiotechnology industry. In the lead up to the conference 35 civil society groups, including Friends of the Earth International, signed an open letter (available below)outlining urgent concerns surrounding synthetic biology. However the declaration by the synthetic biologists failed to address key concerns, including the ethical problems of nanobiotechnology, broader environmental risks and the socio-economic and human rights implications of its use.
The synthetic biologists called for enhanced tools for monitoring DNA synthesis orders to better detect those that could be used to make bioweapons. However they did not propose a mechanism to oversee the use of such monitoring, or to assess its adequacy as a safeguard.
Synthetic Biology is a new area of science made possible by recent breakthroughs in genetic engineering and nanotechnology. It encapsulates the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems. It is a powerful new technology that raises profound ethical questions as well as posing very obvious and serious risks of bioterrorism among otherthings.
All 3 days of the conference were recorded and will be viewable
online at Or to read or participate in a discussion forum of participants prior to the Synthetic Biology conference visit http://openwetware.org/wiki/Synthetic_Biology You can also listen to a recent MIT “town hall