Synthetic Biology: engineering life without risks?
The COMECE Working Group on Ethics in Research and Medicine publishes an Opinion on Synthetic Biology.
Synthetic Biology involves the engineering of biological components and systems that do not exist in nature and the re-engineering of existing biological elements. Synthetic Biology could soon have multiple industrial applications in the domains of health, energy, materials, environment and agriculture. This new technology therefore raises great expectations and some scientists even see it as this century’s industrial revolution.
Synthetic Biology will result in the acquisition of immense power of manipulation of living organisms which raises profound ethical questions. Many other unknown factors remain. The COMECE Opinion calls for an accurate evaluation of the real benefits as well as its possible consequences in terms of risks.
The COMECE Opinion defines the ambit of this research field and its industrial applications. It then discusses, among other things, the ethical implications of this technique of “creating life”, the benefits and risks involved, the question of responsibility as well as the need for dialogue between science and society in this regard.