Without key research into these risks and appropriate federal oversight, certain synthetic organisms might survive and flourish in natural environments, wreaking havoc on local ecosystems, according to a new Commentary piece in the journal Nature (“Four Steps to Stop a Synthetic-Biology Disaster,” March 1).
The article — written by Genya V. Dana, Todd Kuiken and David Rejeski of the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Allison A. Snow of Ohio State University — highlights the need to proactively address environmental risks so that the potential benefits of synthetic biology can be realized.
“No one yet understands the risks that synthetic organisms pose to the environment, what kinds of information are needed to support rigorous assessments, or who should collect such data,” the authors write.
And while similar questions were raised about genetically modified crops, the products of synthetic biology “will be altered in more sophisticated and fundamental ways