Oct 302014
 

This was originally posted to All Africa. by Glenn Ashton Synthetic food has long been the subject of speculative fiction, from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” where poor quality artificial food spawned dissent, to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” where food was manufactured from coal and petroleum because fossil fuels had trashed global ecosystems. Today fiction manifests as reality. If genetic modification (GM) of our food were not enough, biologists continue to push the boundaries [More]

Oct 292014
 
What is Synthetic Biology?

Engineering Life and Livelihoods Full script: So here’s a thought experiment. What if living things were actually machines? The sort of machines that you could take apart, reprogram, and rewire to do something entirely new? If so, plants could just be rewired to glow like light bulbs or yeast tinkered with to produce vanilla. The biotechnology industry has actually spent years trying to think about life this way, and that is the impetus to a [More]

Oct 202014
 
Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 Countries

SynBio industry’s wild west days are numbered PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA– In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) today formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology (SynBio), a new extreme form of genetic engineering. The landmark decision follows ten days of hard-fought negotiations between developing countries and a small group of wealthy biotech-friendly economies. Until now, synthetic organisms have been developed and commercialized without international regulations; increasing [More]

Oct 152014
 
Northern “Syn Bio Club” Blasted for Impeding UN Talks Progress

Synthetic Biology States vs. the Rest of the World PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA–Tensions are rising at UN talks concerning oversight of synthetic biology technology, sometimes called extreme genetic engineering. A small club of wealthy nations with powerful biotech industries, (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland, Brazil and the European Union) have been clashing with developing countries from Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean over the need for international governance frameworks for synthetic biology. The [More]

Oct 082014
 
Synthetic Biology Could Open a Whole New Can of Worms

This article originally appeared at IPS News. by Desmond Brown PYEONGCHANG, Republic of Korea, Oct 7 2014 (IPS) - Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is the world’s leading producer of vetiver. In the southwest of the country, vetiver production is hard to ignore. Driving into Les Cayes, the largest town in the south, one is greeted by fields of vetiver on either side of the road. The same is true if driving from [More]

Sep 052014
 
These ice cream makers aren’t down with vanilla’s brand new invention

(This article originally appeared in Grist) by Madeleine Thomas Häagen-Dazs, the company known for its simple, less-ingredients-is-more approach to ice cream, recently confirmed that it doesn’t plan to use vanilla flavoring derived from synthetic biology — the process of  inserting computer-generated DNA into living cells to create products such as food additives. Nestlé (which produces Häagen-Dazs in Canada and the U.S.) and General Mills (which produces Häagen-Dazs outside of North America) confirmed their allegiance to natural vanilla [More]

Aug 292014
 
GMOs 2.0: Synthetic Biology – Impacts on Our Food, Farmers, Consumer Products & Health

A new generation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is quietly entering our food supply, cosmetics and household products.  What is Synthetic Biology and what are the real costs to our food, ecosystem and farmers locally and around the world? Where: Mill Valley Community Center, Cascade Room.  180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. When: Oct. 9, 2014; 7 – 9 pm. When: Free event. Donations appreciated at the door. RSVP: Click here to RSVP   Join us [More]

Jul 172014
 

[This article was originally published in The Ecologist.] Following The Ecologist’s revelation about Ecover’s use of synthetic biology to make laundry detergent, the company has put its trials on hold, writes Jim Thomas. But to regain public trust, the company must re-engage honestly with its critics, and its customers. A month ago, The Ecologist revealed that ‘eco-friendly’ soap maker Ecover was using an algae oil produced using synthetic biology (Syn Bio), sometimes called ‘extreme genetic engineering’. And now tens [More]

Jul 082014
 
What-Syn-a-Name?

This article originally appeared in the Guardian. Synthetic biology is attracting attention from both scientists and regulators. But there is little agreement on what it is. Can we find a road out of synthetic biology’s definitional quagmire? by Jim Thomas He was looking quite lost. An eminent scientist and UN delegate was stumbling over the meaning of a term that has been the subject of recent international debates: “synthetic biology.” Often called “extreme genetic engineering,” [More]