09 June 2007

Privatizing Synthetic Life

"Scientists working to build a life form from scratch have applied to patent the broad method they plan to use to create their "synthetic organism"."

"Dr Craig Venter, the man who led the private sector effort to sequence the human genome, has been working for years to create a man-made organism."

"The J Craig Venter Institute's US patent application claims exclusive ownership of a set of essential genes and a synthetic "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" made using those genes."

Those for say: "The effort could result in "designer microbes" that produce biofuels such as ethanol, and hydrogen. They could also be engineered to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere."

Those against say
: "The company was pressing ahead with its work despite the fact the public had not had the chance to debate the "far-reaching social, ethical and environmental implications". And that "these monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms.""

I say: There is no stopping this now. If the 20th century was the century of physics, the 21st century is going to be the century of biology with outbursts in genetic sciences. Expect more tinkering.

Scientists had already assembled the first synthetic virus in 2002.

image 1
image 2

4 Comments:

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

Moussa,

I have never been so freaked out by anything like image 2.. i clicked on the link and....

and...

ya mama!

anyway, my nightmares are going to last weeks.

Matthew said...

"If the 20th century was the century of physics, the 21st..."

Why am I scared by this Moussa?

Twentieth-century Physics produced acid rain, melting polar ice-caps, perhaps a second ice age...

Heaven help us what they'll do to us with state-controlled biology and geneticism!

M Bashir said...

IBJ: it is freaky, I fealt the same while uploading it, but then that's the point

Mathew: so far, we are being treated with pills (chemicals with their side effects) for illnesses, just imagine side effects of genetical treatments ...

Matthew said...

Moussa,

Your brilliant wit is true to a certain extent. Your statement suggests both a sense of scientific wonderment and a sense of the problematic...

Palestinian refugee children might find it harder to access these pills you mention, and at the moment the big pharma companies are trying to remove the capacity for third world countries to produce cheaper, generic medicines on things like HIV/AIDS vaccines.

The secrets of DNA have been available I remember reading since the 1950's (source - Barry Jones, "Sleepers Wake").

Barry Jones is a former liberal left politician and critic of state funding for science:

So how many years did it take to produce IVF? Two decades. How many to manufacture virus? - six decades.

Maybe we're a century or two early for talking about genetic revolution, given the imperatives and political economy of global health care!

 

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