Synthetic biology goes beyond transferring genes between species to constructing entirely new, self-replicating microorganisms that have the potential to convert any biomass or carbon feedstock into any product that can be produced by fossil carbons – plus many more.From the perspective of synthetic biology, the resource base for the development of marketable “renewable” materials (that is not from petroleum) is not the world’s commercialized 23.8 % of annual terrestrial biomass, but also the other 76.2 % of annual terrestrial biomass that has, thus far, remained outside the market economy. Synthetic biology has already attracted the attention of the United Nations and governments. The technology was on the agenda of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that met in Hyderabad, India in mid-October 2012, with governments agreeing to continue monitoring the technology and report back to future meetings of the CBD.
There is less than a day to go before the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com hands hundreds of thousands of dollars to a controversial project for the widespread and unregulated distribution of over half a million extreme-bioengineered seeds. Kickstarter, which stands to make over $22,000 from the project (1), has steadfastly refused to comment on its listing of a project to make and distribute ‘glowing genetically modified plants’ using Synthetic Biology.
2 May 2013 Dear Antony Evans,
Request to Cancel the Kickstarter Synthetic Biology ʻGlowing Plantsʼ project.
We are writing to express our concern, in the strongest possible terms, about the project you have listed on Kickstarter, which, as currently advertised, will likely result in widespread, random and uncontrolled release of bioengineered seeds and plants produced with synthetic biology techniques. We respectfully request that this project, which poses real world risks to the environment, be abandoned as currently described.
April 30, 2013
1400 Independence Avenue,
SW Room 1147
Washington DC 20250
Ms. Bethany Jones:
At the end of April 2013, ETC Group learned that three biohackers from Singularity University in California had mounted a project on the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter. It was a plan to carry out the worlds first environmental release of an avowedly Synthetic Biology organism - a glow-in-the dark arabidopsis plant. Shockingly the 'Glowing Plants' kickstarter project promised to mail up to 100 bioengineered seeds to anyone from the United States who gave them $40 online . To date over 4000 people expect to receive syn bio seeds in the post. Even more shockingly they claim that the US Government had agreed not to regulate, assess or monitor this widespread random and nation-wide release of synthetic organisms.
ETC Group is now mounting a counter-kickstarter campaign: - the Kickstopper! Read how you can be part of it.
Charlene Spretnak, host of All Together Now, talks with Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group, in Ottawa, about the push by many governments for “techno fixes” (instead of burning far less fossil fuel), such as “solar radiation management,” GHG sequestration, and weather modification — and the corporate push for various types of synthetic biology.
Frankly it was all a set up. In the delightfully romantic setting of an old Cambridge college in springtime, complete with free drinks and delicious food, the organizers of last weeks 'Future of Nature' Conference smiled on conspiratorially as their contrivances to introduce two awkward strangers played out over 3 days.
The strangers in this case were not so much boy-meets-girl as naturalist-meets-geek and what they purportedly had in common was biology. The Future of Nature had been billed as an encounter between the synthetic biology community (biotech scientists practicing an extreme form of genetic engineering that builds artificial organisms) and the conservation biology community who are still trying to hold back the frontier of wildlife destruction for non-engineered nature.
African Centre for Biosafety, ETC Group, FoodMattersZimbabwe and CTDT
Johannesburg, Harare, Mexico City 15 April 2013