May 18, 2006

Global Coalition Sounds the Alarm on Synthetic Biology

Demands Oversight and Societal Debate

A coalition of thirty-eight international organizations including scientists, environmentalists, trade unionists, biowarfare experts and social justice advocates called for inclusive public debate, regulation and oversight of the rapidly advancing field of synthetic biology - the construction of unique and novel artificial life forms to perform specific tasks. Synthetic biologists are meeting this weekend in Berkeley, California where they plan to announce a voluntary code of self-regulation for their work. The organizations signing the Open Letter are calling on synthetic biologists to abandon their proposals for self-governance and to engage in an inclusive process of global societal debate on the implications of their work (see attached Open Letter).

"The researchers meeting in Berkeley acknowledge the dangers of synthetic biology in the hands of 'evildoers,' but they naively overlook the possibility - or probability - that members of their own community won't be able to control or predict the behavior of synthetic biology or its societal consequences," said Jim Thomas of ETC Group.

"Scientists creating new life forms cannot be allowed to act as judge and jury," explains Dr. Sue Mayer, Director of GeneWatch UK. "The possible social, environmental and bio-weapons implications are all too serious to be left to well-meaning but self-interested scientists. Proper public debate, regulation and policing is needed."


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