Thursday, October 02, 2008

New Life in the Lab

This article brings us up to date on what's going on in synthetic biology, the field of creating/building/modifying living organisms to serve particular functions. Proponents argue a lot of the world's big problems can be solved by microbes performing functions like targeting cancer cells in the body or converting waste to fuel. Others point out the field raises a lot of questions about patent law, the consequences of accidental releases, etc. A poll shows that only about 1/3 of U.S. adults have heard of this work, and about 2 percent have read enough to understand it.
COMMENT: While the field does offer a lot of promise, it's not like the Large Hadron Collider fuss, where the measurable risk was very close to zero. The release or evolution of synthetic critters (and microbes can evolve pretty darn fast) does demand some safeguards and ethical standards, and a broadly accepted "code of conduct" for synthetic biology has yet to be put in place.

No comments: