Synthetic Organism

I want to start this year by selecting one of the new discoveries last year that I think will have a great impact in 2011, the creation of a first synthetic life form by biologist Craig Venter and his team. The team did not create life itself, as many have feared they might be playing “God”. But, by the result of their research, they have found that organism can be built by designers and engineers, instead of just evolved. They created a new organism from existing bacterium and used it to reprogram another bacterial cell. In synthesizing DNA and combining standard genetic building blocks, they designed a biological machine in the same way as other people designed a car, a plane or a bridge. Ethicists and environmentalists warned of a negative impact of this kind of genetic engineering, but I think this new technology can also do something good for humankind. It can be used to create new drugs and biofuels that can supplement petroleum-based industry. Since it is a new technology, the United States Bioethics Commission recommended self-regulation by synthetic biologists and gave green light to Synthetic Biology. Researchers in this field will be given training in Ethics. The creation of synthetic organism will have tremendous impact in creating new industries and new economies for the world in 2011 and beyond. Over 50 environmental groups had earlier called on the US. federal officials for a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organism until the risks are understood and regulations developed. I disagree with them. Why wait? In life, we always have to balance risks and benefits of any new technological discovery. Also, there is no need for new regulations on the manufacturing of new synthetic organism once the government and scientist give people information on the results of research and development of genetic engineering. People themselves can then make up their own mind about the risk factor. Then, they can make an informed decision on how to use synthetic organism to improve our life on earth.

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