Ron Bailey, my hero and yours, reminds people to CALM DOWN:
In any case, many lab-crafted creatures would likely be obliterated by competing organisms honed by billions of years of evolution in the wild. In the future, synthetic organisms could be equipped with suicide genes where their survival is dependent on some chemical that is only available in the lab. For example, if synthetic microbes are created to treat some kind of pollution, they would be supplied with the chemical onsite and once their work was done, they would be starved of it. In addition, future synthetic lifeforms should be “watermarked” like Venter’s new microbe so that their creators can be held accountable for them.
The good news is that a robust and expansive commercial and nonprofit biotech research establishment will enable the growth of a resilient and responsive public health infrastructure. It will give us the capability to quickly detect and contain outbreaks by rapidly devising and deploying new diagnostics, drugs, vaccines, and other treatments. Thus will a dynamic biotech industry protect us against bioterrorism, biohacking, accidents, and the unintended consequences of deliberate releases of both natural and synthetic microbes.
The benefits of synth-bio are going to be enormous. Most of the danger in genetic modification and testing currently occurring comes from the fact that we can’t control most of what we’re doing with natural bits and pieces – genetic work with Nature’s tools is imprecise and haphazard. Artificial nucleotides and other gizmos make the whole process safer, not more dangerous.
AboutPop Bioethics, written by Kyle Munkittrick, is an effort to study the ethics of the continuing evolution of the human species via the lens of pop culture and be somewhat entertaining in the process.