Group calls for more oversight of synthetic biology

A group of 111 organizations recently called for more oversight of synthetic biology activities, including the establishment of greater government regulation.

The various watchdog, environmental and other groups released a report with specific recommendations to manage biological research that includes the building and remaking of organisms for commercial and scientific purposes, according to

The report, which called synthetic biology an "extreme form of genetic engineering," said that current practices for managing the field were wholly inadequate. The group, which includes the watchdog organizations ETC Group and Friends of the Earth, has called for the ban of synthetic biology practices that could manipulate the human genome or the genomes of organism that live in or on the human body.

The 111 want a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms and their products until their demands are met.

The group, led by ETC Group and Friends of the Earth, joined together after a 2010 presidential bioethics commission examined current synthetic biology practices and determined that no new regulations were required.

Brent Erickson from the Biotechnology Industry Organization dismissed the recently released report as absurd, though he said existing rules and regulations may need upgrading at some point.

"[With] the shrillness of its tone and its lack of objectivity, I don't' think it's really helpful to policy-makers and the public," Erikson said, reports. "It's not like we don't have experience in dealing with those organisms. There are a lot of safeguards in place."