“Agriculture as we know it needs to disappear. …We can design better and healthier proteins than we get from nature.” – J Craig Ventor
There is a new class of agricultural genetically modified organisms filling test tubes in research labs of biotech, agribusiness, chemical, pharmaceutical and food companies. They are called synthetically modified organisms, a function of synthetic biology (which encompasses much more than just agriculture).
Think of them as GMOs on synthetic steroids. This is taking biotechnology into the realm of the extreme. It is cutting edge technology – cost to the environment, wildlife and human health unknown.
No doubt there will be untold profits for the multinational corporations involved in this research and product development but for most of us, seems to me all we’ll get is more ruined ecosystems, contaminated wildlife and sick people. We sustainable-types may win the GMO labeling battle, but around the bend there will be a another new technology, and another. They just keep coming.
In his article for Council for Responsible Genetics (CRC)/Genewatch, author Eric Hoffman writes:
Synthetic Biology – Extreme Genetic Engineering
In the second decade of the 21st century, we are likely to see even more radical changes on the horizon, this time via a rapidly growing field known as synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is a broad term used to describe a collection of new biotechnologies that push the limits of what was previously possible with “conventional” genetic engineering. Rather than moving one or two genes between different organisms, synthetic biology enables the writing and re-writing of genetic code on a computer, working with hundreds and thousands of DNA sequences at a time and even trying to reengineer entire biological systems. Synthetic biology’s techniques, scale, and its use of novel and synthetic genetic sequences make it, in essence, an extreme form of genetic engineering.
Synthetic biology is a nascent but rapidly growing field, worth over $1.6 billion in annual sales today and expected to grow to 10.8 billion by 2016.3 Many of the largest energy, chemical, forestry, pharmaceutical, food and agribusiness corporations are investing in synthetic biology research and development or establishing joint ventures, and a handful of products have already reached the cosmetic, food, and medical sectors with many others not far behind. Much of this focus is being placed on agriculture applications to become the next wave of GMOs – let’s call them synthetically modified organisms (SMOs).
Additional sources for articles about synthetic biology: