Jim Thomas's blog
Written for The Ecologist 01/10/2008
Available online at http://www.theecologist.org/pages/archive_detail.asp?content_id=1978
If there is a video gamer in your life, chances are that you have heard of Spore, the latest creation from the super successful inventor of ‘The Sims’.
Apparently in some places they call Hong Kong "Disneyland". What better place than among the sci-fitowers of this gotham-city landscape for the brave new pioneers of Synthetic Biology to gather, plan and celebrate the next stage of artificial life. For the next few days Synthetic Biology 4.0, the fourth global congress of syn bio leaders, will be meeting at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology to discuss synthetic organisms, whole genome construction, next generation biofuels and all manner of biohackery.
Henry Ford dreamed of making plastic cars out of soy. Now Dow, DuPont and other chemical giants are also dreaming of a ‘green’ future. But, as Jim Thomas argues, bioplastic is not the eco-solution it’s cracked up to be.
Article from New Internationalist Magazine September 2008 issue - available online here
Can science save the planet or should we avoid putting our faith in high-tech fixes to deliver us from the ecological mess we‘ve made? Jim Thomas and Paul Fitzgerald push each other’s buttons.
Read the debate here in the latest issue of New Internationalist Magazine: http://www.newint.org/features/special/2008/08/01/technofixes/
Mapmaking and conquest has a disturbingly close history. As indigenous people learned, the innocuous mapmaker may be followed by weapons, property claims and exploitation. So too for the recent rash of science projects using mapping
Can you spot the missing vowel in this Washington Post headline?!
Scientists in Maryland yesterday said they had built from scratch an entire microbial chromosome, a loop of synthetic DNA carrying all the instructions that a simple cell needs to live and reproduce...
Now that you can drive your ‘nano’ car, listening to your ipod ‘nano’ while wearing ‘nano’ sunscreen and ‘nano’ clothing, the UK’s largest organic certifier has just introduced the perfect nano-antidote - a ‘nano-free’ standard for consumer products. The Soil Association – one of the world's pioneers of organic agriculture announced today that it is has banned human-made nanomaterials from the organic cosmetics, foods and textiles that it certifies.
What do ocean-going yachts, space-traveling bacteria and synthetic life have in common? J. Craig Venter, of course. The self-styled genome tycoon has been busy pushing the boundaries on what may appear at first glance to be unrelated enterprises. Nothing could be further from the truth. A suite of recently uncovered patent applications lodged by Venter and his colleagues reveal not only an attempt to grab ownership over much of synthetic biology (see news release) but also a breathtakingly bold business plan for producing millions of new synthetic organisms per day. At the heart of this are plans for a new, automated process enabling rapid assembly of complete synthetic genomes - plans that, if realised, could render current genetic engineering techniques quaint and obsolete. Venter calls it "homologous in vitro recombination" or "combinatorial genomics." ETC suggests it might be properly dubbed "shotgun synthesis" and it has the potential to blast apart current biotech practice.
The BP-Berkeley deal, the new joint Bio Energy institute, and also the recent job hop by John Menlo of BP fuels to Amyris Biotech - are all extra strings tying the interests of the Syn Bio community as a wholeever closer to the interests of big business. It should be noted that in each of thse cases CEO Keasling plays a central role. The same man who claims to be developing Synthetic Biology to serve the worlds poor (via synthetic artemisinin) seems to be rather busy these days serving the fabulously rich.