SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY: THE IMPLICATIONS OF "EXTREME GENETIC ENGINEERING" FOR BIODIVERSITY AND THE CBD'S PROGRAMME OF WORK.
Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration
Date and Time
20 May 2008 18:15 - 19:45
Enabled by the convergence of biology, computing and engineering, synthetic biology refers to new technologies that permit the design and construction of any specified DNA sequence, allowing the chemical synthesis of entire genes or genomes and synthetic life-forms. Working virus genomes have already been constructed and this year the first bacterial genome was built from scratch. Within a decade, it may be possible to electronically specify the genome of a complex organism and receive it by mail-order a few days later. As gene and genome synthesis becomes cheaper and faster, it will become easier to synthesize some organisms than to find them in nature or retrieve them from samples stored in labs or freezers. Biological samples, once sequenced and made available in digital form, will move instantaneously across the globe to be reconstructed in labs thousands of miles away. What impact will synthetic biology have on biodiversity? Many leading energy and chemical companies are now working with synthetic biologists to design synthetic organisms that produce fuels, chemicals and plastics. Some are already in industrial use. What challenges and opportunities arise for the CBD's programme of work?