Our friends at the ETC Group led this victory at the recently ended UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Conference of the Parties in South Korea. Synthetic biology, a new extreme form of genetic engineering with researchers building unique organisms designed to facilitate the manufacture of various products, was previously unregulated. Now countries are urged to create regulations over this potentially disastrous Wild West of DNA manipulation.
Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 Countries
SynBio industry’s wild west days are numbered
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA– In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering. The landmark decision follows ten days of hard-fought negotiations between developing countries and a small group of wealthy biotech-friendly economies. Until now, synthetic organisms have been developed and commercialized without international regulations; increasing numbers of synthetically-derived products are making their way to market. The CBD’s decision is regarded as a “starting signal” for governments to begin establishing formal oversight for this exploding and controversial field.
“Synthetic Biology has been like the wild west: a risky technology frontier with little oversight or regulation,” Jim Thomas of ETC Group explained from CBD negotiations in Korea. “At last the UN is laying down the law.”
“This international decision is very clear,” Thomas added. “Not only do countries now have to set up the means to regulate synthetic biology, but those regulations need to be based on precaution and not harming the environment.”
“The good news is that precaution won the day.”
This decision comes at a critical time. The SynBio industry is bringing some of its first products to market, including a vanilla flavour produced by synthetically modified yeast and specialized oils used in soaps and detergents derived from synthetically modified algae. In December, bay area SynBio firm Glowing Plants Inc. intends to release synthetically-engineered glow-in-the-dark plants to 6,000 recipients without government oversight. The United States is not a signatory to the CBD, making it one of only three countries that will not be formally bound by this decision (the other 2 are Andorra and the Holy See).