Synthetic biology report issued

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has created its first report on the field of synthetic biology.

The study was requested by President Obama after the first “synthetic cell” was created by the Rockville, Maryland based J. Craig Venter Institute in May, the Washington Post reports.

While the commission recommend government oversight, it also hopes to ensure it does not overreact with scientific restrictions.

The report, which was released on Thursday, is 188 pages in total and was praised by technology advocates and criticized by those seeking tougher government oversight.

“Synthetic biology, as exemplified by the creation of the first synthetic genome to be injected into a living cell, is a significant breakthrough that holds out great promise,” Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania and head of the 13 member commission, said, according to the Washington Post. “We have an unprecedented opportunity to recommend to the government that its oversight be ongoing but that it not overreact with a moratorium that would stifle scientific process.”

The field of synthetic biology includes the creation of viruses, algae, bacteria and other organisms in a lab for possible applications to science. While promising for many purposes, the field has generated concerns that scientists may accidentally create organisms that will upset delicate ecosystems or create new diseases.

The report received both praise and criticism.

“(The report was) well reasoned, balanced and thoughtful,” Trade group BIO said in a statement, according to the Washington Post.

“Our main concern is the potential environmental impacts of synthetic biology,” Friends of the Earth member Eric Hoffman said, according to the Washington Post. “We think it is a potentially very dangerous technology.”