Saturday, 13 October 2012

COP 11 biodiversity: Synthetic biology or extreme genetic engineering is dangerous to biological diversity as it involves digital genetic wrting

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: In Genetic Engineering, a gene or two are
manipulated. What if scientists indulge in digital writing of genetic
code and tinker with plants and animals?

Environment activists warn that synthetic biology or extreme genetic
engineering is a fast emerging threat to biodiversity, as it will
change the genetic make-up of species concerned. Extreme genetic
engineering involves digital writing of genetic code
while conventional genetic engineering or modification tinkers with a gene or
two.

The CBD Alliance, which is fighting against synthetic biology, has
accused the 11th Conference of Parties (COP) to United Nations
Convention on Biological Diversity of burying this important agenda
during the discussions. It hides one of the most important issues
under consideration at COP 11: whether the CBD should accept synthetic
biology as a new and emerging issue or put the brakes on this risky
and rapidly developing technology.

“Synthetic biology is the use of computer assisted, biological
engineering to design and construct new synthetic biological parts,
devices and systems, and to redesign existing biological organisms.
The technology works with hundreds of genes at a time to create novel
synthetic organisms that never existed before,” says Eric Hoffmann of
the Friends of the Earth.

The synthetic biology industry was reportedly worth 1.1 billion US
dollars during COP 10, is worth 2.1 billion US dollars today, and is
expected to be worth 4.5 billion US dollars by COP 12, two years
hence, he said.

Eric Hoffmann said synthetic organisms released into the environment
could lead to genetic contamination, passing on synthetic genes and
novel traits to natural organisms. These contaminated synthetic
organisms could create or become new class of invasive species, taking
over entire ecosystems, or could pump pollutants directly into the
environment.

He demanded moratorium on the environmental release and commercial use
of synthetic biology.

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