Friday, December 17, 2010

Presidential Report on Synthetic Biology

From the

Paul Root Wolpe Discusses PCSBI Report on Syn Bio

The President's Commission on Bioethical Issues released the Executive Summary of its Report on the Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies. (To read the full report, click here.)
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The Report suggests five ethical principles that should inform our ethical evaluation and oversight of emerging technologies, and then makes 18 recommendations for public policy around synthetic biology. While The Report specifies synthetic biology, it is clear that the recommendations could, and are meant to, apply to many other emerging biotechnologies as well.
The Report first rightly points out that, despite some of the media hype around the creation of an "artificial cell" by the Venter Institute last May, the cell did not "amount to creating life either as a scientific or a moral matter." The creation of a synthetic genome is a fine technological achievement, but it does not immediately require any change on our basic ethical oversight of biotechnology.
The five ethical principles articulated by The Report include (1) public beneficence, (2) responsible stewardship, (3) intellectual freedom and responsibility, (4) democratic deliberation, and (5) justice and fairness. These principles are used as categorical rubrics under which the 18 recommendations are described.

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