Civil Society Submission to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Synthetic Biology

In accordance with CBD Decision X/13, paragraph 4, the following paper is submitted to

the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice for its consideration.
This submission examines the potential impacts of synthetic biology and its relevance to
the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity: the conservation and
sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from
the utilization of genetic resources.
 
Synthetic biology broadly refers to the use of computer-assisted, biological engineering to
design and construct new synthetic biological parts, devices and systems that do not exist
in nature and the redesign of existing biological organisms. While synthetic biology
incorporates the techniques of molecular biology, it differs from recombinant DNA
technology.
 
SBSTTA must not defer its consideration of synthetic biology as a new and emerging issue
requiring governance. Synthetic biology is a field of rapidly growing industrial interest. A
handful of products have reached the commercial market and others are in pre-commercial
stages. OECD countries currently dominate synthetic biology R&D and deployment, but
basic and applied research is taking place in at least 36 countries worldwide. Many of the
world’s largest energy, chemical, forestry, pharmaceutical, food and agribusiness
corporations are investing in synthetic biology R&D. Current applications of synthetic
biology focus on three major product areas that depend heavily on biomass feedstock
production processes: 1) biofuels; 2) specialty and bulk chemicals; 3) natural product
synthesis.  
 

AttachmentSize
PDF icon cbdsynbiocsosubm.pdf1.99 MB
Sources: 
The International Civil Society Working Group on Synthetic Biology Consisting of: Action Group On Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), Econexus, Friends of the Earth USA, International Centre for Technology Assesment, The Sustainability Council of New Zealand

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