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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  May 2006

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE May 2006

Subject:

Sounding the Alarm on Synthetic Biology,

From:

Carmelo Ruiz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 19 May 2006 05:53:00 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (418 lines)

--- [log in to unmask] wrote:

> 19th May 2006 NEWS RELEASE
> 
> Global Coalition Sounds the Alarm on Synthetic
> Biology,
> 
> Demands Oversight and Societal Debate
> 
> Today, a coalition of thirty-five international
> organizations  
> including scientists, environmentalists, trade
> unionists, biowarfare  
> experts and social justice advocates called for
> inclusive public  
> debate, regulation and oversight of the rapidly
> advancing field of  
> synthetic biology - the construction of unique and
> novel artificial  
> life forms to perform specific tasks. Synthetic
> biologists are  
> meeting this weekend in Berkeley, California where
> they plan to  
> announce a voluntary code of self-regulation for
> their work (1). The  
> organizations signing the Open Letter are calling on
> synthetic  
> biologists to abandon their proposals for
> self-governance and to  
> engage in an inclusive process of global societal
> debate on the  
> implications of their work (see attached Open
> Letter).
> 
> "The researchers meeting in Berkeley acknowledge the
> dangers of  
> synthetic biology in the hands of 'evildoers,' but
> they naively  
> overlook the possibility - or probability - that
> members of their own  
> community won't be able to control or predict the
> behavior of  
> synthetic biology or its societal consequences,"
> said Jim Thomas of  
> ETC Group.
> 
> "Scientists creating new life forms cannot be
> allowed to act as judge  
> and jury," explains Dr. Sue Mayer, Director of
> GeneWatch UK. "The  
> possible social, environmental and bio-weapons
> implications are all  
> too serious to be left to well-meaning but
> self-interested  
> scientists. Proper public debate, regulation and
> policing is needed."
> 
> In the last few years, synthetic biologists, by
> re-writing the  
> genetic code of DNA, have demonstrated the ability
> to build new  
> viruses and are now developing artificial life
> forms. In October last  
> year, synthetic biologists at the US Center for
> Disease Control re- 
> created the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed
> between 50-100 million  
> people (3) and last month scientists at the
> University of Wisconsin- 
> Madison created a new version of E. coli bacteria
> (4). Meanwhile,  
> genomics mogul Craig Venter, whose former company,
> Celera, led the  
> commercial race to sequence the human genome, now
> heads a new  
> company, Synthetic Genomics (5), that aims to
> commercialize  
> artificial microbes for use in energy, agriculture
> and climate change  
> remediation. It is one of around 40 synthetic
> biology companies  
> undertaking gene synthesis and/or building
> artificial DNA.
> 
> "Biotech has already ignited worldwide protests, but
> synthetic  
> biology is like genetic engineering on steroids,"
> says Dr. Doreen  
> Stabinsky of Greenpeace International. "Tinkering
> with living  
> organisms that could be released in the environment
> poses a grave  
> biosafety threat to people and the planet," adds
> Stabinsky.
> 
> In October 2004, an editorial in the journal Nature
> warned, "If  
> biologists are indeed on the threshold of
> synthesizing new life  
> forms, the scope for abuse or inadvertent disaster
> could be huge."  
> The editorial suggested that there may be a need for
> an "Asilomar- 
> type" conference on synthetic biology - a reference
> to an historic  
> meeting in 1975 where scientists met to discuss
> biosafety risks  
> associated with genetic engineering and opted for
> self-governance  
> which ultimately pre-empted and avoided government
> regulation.  
> Following the Asilomar model the "Synthetic Biology
> Community"  
> intends to use their second conference (Synthetic
> Biology 2.0, 20-22  
> May 2006) to adopt a code of self-governance for
> handling the  
> biosafety risks.
> 
> According to the Open Letter, the effect of the
> Asilomar declaration  
> was to delay the development of appropriate
> government regulation and  
> to forestall discussion on how to address the wider
> socio-economic  
> impacts. Asilomar proved to be the wrong approach
> then, and Synthetic  
> Biology 2.0 is the wrong approach now.
> 
> "We scientists must come to terms with the fact that
> science can no  
> longer claim to be living in an abstract realm
> disconnected from the  
> rest of society," said Alexis Vlandas of
> International Engineers and  
> Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES).
> 
> The signatories to the Open Letter urge the
> synthetic biologists  
> meeting in Berkeley to withdraw their declaration of
> self-governance  
> and join in seeking a wider, inclusive dialogue.
> 
> ENDS
> 
> For further information:
> 
> North America:
> 
> Jim Thomas - ETC Group, email: [log in to unmask], ph:
> +1 613 2412267
> 
> Pat Mooney - ETC Group, email: [log in to unmask] ,
>  cell: +1 613  
> 2610688
> 
> Hope Shand - ETC Group, email: [log in to unmask] ph:
> +1 919 960-5767
> 
> Edward Hammond - Sunshine Project (biological
> weapons expert)
> 					email: [log in to unmask], cell: +1
> 510 717 7772
> 
> Beth Burrows - Edmonds Institute: email:
> [log in to unmask], ph: +1  
> 425-775-5383
> 
> 
> 
> Europe:
> 
> Dr Sue Mayer - GeneWatch UK, email:
> [log in to unmask],
> 				ph: +44 1298 871898 (office); mobile: + 44 7930
> 308807
> 
> Alexis Vlandas - International Network of Engineers
> and Scientists
> 				email: [log in to unmask], ph:
> +44 7747 036446
> 
> A background note for press is available from the
> ETC Group at  
> www.etcgroup.org and at www.etcblog.org
> 
> Notes to Editors:
> 
> 1.     Go here to read about Synthetic Biology 2.0
> Conference and  
> proposals for self-governance:
> http://syntheticbiology.org
> 
> 2.     Tumpey, TM et al (2005) Characterization of
> the Reconstructed  
> 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic Virus.  Science 310:
> 77 - 80.
> 
> 3.     Posfai, G et al (2006) Emergent Properties of
> Reduced-Genome  
> Escherichia coli. Published online April 27 2006;
> 10.1126/science. 
> 1126439 (Science Express Reports).
> 
> 4.     http://www.syntheticgenomics.com/
> 
> 
> Text of Open Letter:
> 
> An Open Letter from Social Movements and other Civil
> Society  
> Organizations to the Synthetic Biology 2.0
> Conference May 20-22, 2006  
> Berkeley, California concerning the "community-wide
> vote" on  
> Biosecurity and Biosafety resolutions (to be
> implemented Jan 1, 2007.)
> 
> We are writing to express our deep concerns about
> the rapidly  
> developing field of Synthetic Biology that is
> attempting to create  
> novel life forms and artificial living systems. We
> believe that this  
> potentially powerful technology is being developed
> without proper  
> societal debate concerning socio-economic, security,
> health,  
> environmental and human rights implications. We are
> alarmed that  
> synthetic biologists meeting this weekend intend to
> vote on a scheme  
> of voluntary self-regulation without consulting or
> involving broader  
> social groups. We urge you to withdraw these
> self-governance  
> proposals and participate in a process of open and
> inclusive  
> oversight of this technology.
> 
> Asilomar 2.0? In 1975 a group of scientists convened
> at Asilomar to  
> try to address the safety hazards associated with
> genetic  
> engineering. The Asilomar meeting promoted
> self-regulation that had  
> the result of preempting public debate and
> preventing government  
> action. Synthetic Biology 2.0 follows down the same
> self-regulation  
> road. The scope of discussion at Asilomar was
> narrowly limited to  
> questions of safety hazards - explicitly excluding
> broader socio- 
> economic and ethical issues. The effect of the
> Asilomar declaration  
> was to delay the development of appropriate
> government regulation and  
> to forestall discussion on how to address the wider
> socio- economic  
> impacts. Asilomar proved to be the wrong approach
> then, and Synthetic  
> Biology 2.0 is the wrong approach now.
> We recognize that you are justifiably concerned
> about certain risks  
> of Synthetic Biology, but society requires strong
> mandatory measures  
> in accordance with the precautionary principle to
> curtail these  
> risks.  As the chair of the recent Boston 'Town Hall
> Meeting'  
> speaking about the recent proposals said: "I don't
> think this will  
> have a significant impact on the misuse of this
> technology." We agree  
> that these proposals will be ineffectual. Moreover,
> the social,  
> economic, ethical, environmental and human rights
> concerns that arise  
> from the field of synthetic biology go far beyond
> deterring  
> bioterrorists and  "evildoers." Issues of ownership
> (including  
> intellectual property), direction and control of the
> science,  
> technology, processes and products must also be
> thoroughly considered.
> 
> Society - especially social movements and
> marginalized peoples - must  
> be fully engaged in designing and directing dialogue
> on the  
> governance of synthetic biology. Because of the
> potential power and  
> scope of this field, discussions and decisions
> concerning these  
> technologies must take place in an accessible way
> (including  
> physically accessible) at local, national and global
> levels.
> 
> In the absence of effective regulation it is
> understandable that  
> scientists are seeking to establish best practices
> but the real  
> solution is for them to join with society to demand
> broad public  
> oversight and governmental action to ensure social
> wellbeing.  
> Moreover, in the years since Asilomar, science has
> become more  
> strongly linked to commercial interests, so this can
> appear as an  
> industry saying that it should only police itself.
> We urge you  
> therefore to withdraw your declaration of
> self-governance and join  
> with us in seeking a wider inclusive dialogue.
> 
> List of Organizations Signing the Open Letter
> 
> Accion Ecologica (Ecuador) - www.accionecologica.org
> California for GE Free Agriculture -
> www.calgefree.org
> 
> Centro Ecologico (Brazil)
> 
> Clean Production Action - www.cleanproduction.org
> 
> Corporate Europe Observatory -
> www.corporateeurope.org
> 
> Corporate Watch (UK) - www.corporatewatch.org
> 
> Edmonds Institute - www.edmonds-institute.or/
> 
> ETC Group - www.etcgroup.org
> 
> Farmers Link - www.farmerslink.org.uk
> 
> Friends of the Earth International - www.foe.org
> 
> Foundation on Future Farming (Germany) - www.zs-l.de
> 
> Foundation Science Citoyennes (France) -
> www.sciencescitoyennes.org
> 
> Gaia Foundation - www.gaiafoundation.org
> 
> GeneEthics Network (Australia) - www.geneethics.org
> 
> Genewatch (UK) -www.genewatch.org
> 
> GRAIN - www.grain.org
> 
> Greenpeace International - www.greenpeace.org
> 
> Henry Doubleday Research Association (UK) -
> www.gardenorganic.org.uk
> 
> Indigenous People's Biodiversity Network
> 
> International Center for Technology Assessment -
> www.icta.org
> 
> International Network of Engineers and Scientists
> for Global  
> responsibility - www.inesglobal.com
> 
> Institute for Social Ecology -
> www.social-ecology.org
> 
> Institute for Bioethics, Culture and Disability -  
> www.bioethicsanddisability.org
> 
> International Union of Food and Agricultural Workers
> - www.iuf.org
> 
> Lok Sanjh Foundation (Pakistan) - www.loksanjh.org
> 
> National Farmers Union (Canada) - www.nfu.ca
> 
> Oakland Institute - www.oaklandinstitute.org
> 
> Polaris Institute - www.polarisinstitute.org
> 
> Pakistan Dehqan Assembly
> 
> Practical Action - www.practicalaction.org
> 
> Quechua Ayamara Association for Sustainable
> Livelihoods, (Peru) -  
> www.andes.org.pe
> 
> Research Foundation for Science, Technology and
> Ecology (India) -  
> www.navdanya.org/
> 
> Soil Association - www.soilassociation.org
> 
> Sunshine Project - www.sunshine-project.org
> 
> Third World Network - www.twnside.org.sg
>  

====== 

"BALADA TRANSGENICA: Biotecnología, Globalización y el Choque de Paradigmas", por Carmelo Ruiz Marrero (251 páginas, $17.00)

Presentación en BORDERS de PLAZA LAS AMERICAS el jueves 18 de mayo a las 7 pm.

PUEDEN COMPRAR EL LIBRO POR INTERNET ACCEDIENDO A LA PÁGINA WEB DE ASÍ QUE SÍ (http://www.asiquesi.com/catalogo.html) Y DE LA LIBRERÍA NORBERTO GONZÁLEZ (http://www.libreriang.com/libreria/)

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