Science in Society Archive

Help KickStop SyntheticBiology Kickstarter

Sign a petition or donate to the ETC group to block the crowd funding project from releasing untested GM plants into the environment

A public crowd-funding campaign has been launched by a starter Biotech company Genome Compiler, to create bioengineered glow-in-the-dark plants that will be given away to donors. This will be the first organism created by synthetic biology techniques to ever be released into the wild and most astonishingly, it will bypass any regulatory approval procedures in the process.

 A new campaign has now been launched by ETC group to petition against the fundraising project and to gain funding for longer term campaign project against the ‘biohackers’ to try and block the project before the end of this week (Friday 7thJune).

Kickstarter is a US-based company that provides a website for creative projects to receive crowd funding to raise money for their work such as film, music and art projects, at least until last week. Now they have allowed 3 researchers from Singularity University, California associated with Genome Compiler Association, to raise money for creating glow-in-the-dark plants they claim could be developed to make natural lighting in the future.

Those who donate $40, will be given 100 bioengineered seeds of the Arabidopsis plant to grow themselves. So far, there are 5000 backers, which means over 500,000 seeds will be released into the wild without a single piece of regulation required to test the safety of this organism. For $10,000 donations, they will encode a 40 character message chosen by the donor, to be translated into DNA and inserted into a plant, customised to the donor.

Synthetic biology is a very new and developing field that remains largely unregulated with the risks of introducing novel DNA sequences entirely unknown (see Synthetic Biology, Should We Be Afraid?, SiS 56.) Areas of risk include:

· Differences in physiology of natural and synthetic organisms, in the production of toxic substances or other harmful metabolites

· How escaped microorganisms might alter habitats, food webs or biodiversity;

· The rate at which the synthetic organism and its genetic material evolves,

· Horizontal gene transfer.

I-SIS supports the ETC Group in preventing the release of this untested organism in the wild.

Article first published 06/06/13

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There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

savannah webb Comment left 7th June 2013 14:02:11
ban gmo's, what else can i say.

John Comment left 7th June 2013 14:02:04
The release of such synthesised plants into the open should not be allowed before rigorous testing has been done to ensure public safety. Any other approach would be madness.