Saturday, May 20, 2006

Synthetic Biology & best practices

There is a Synthetic Biology conference going on in Berkeley (webcast here) and they are going to talk about the subject of best practices in one of the days. There is a document online with an outline of some of the subjects up for discussion. In reaction to this, a group of organization published an open letter for the people attending the meeting.
From the text:
We are writing to express our deep concerns about the rapidly developing field of Synthetic Biology that is attempting to create novel life forms and artificial living systems. We believe that this potentially powerful technology is being developed without proper societal debate concerning socio-economic, security, health, environmental and human rights implications. We are alarmed that synthetic biologists meeting this weekend intend to vote on a scheme of voluntary self-regulation without consulting or involving broader social groups. We urge you to withdraw these self-governance proposals and participate in a process of open and inclusive oversight of this technology.

Forms of self-regulation are not incompatible with open discussion with the broader society nor with state regulation. Do we even need regulation at this point ?