Health & Safety

Dec 172012
Appeals court backs scientist in Pfizer retaliation case

Note: Microbiologist Becky McClain, infected by a genetically engineered virus in a Pfizer lab, became the first whistleblower in the nation to try to shed light on the threats of biotechnology to workers and the public. Now, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, has validated her claims that Pfizer “acted willfully, maliciously, or with reckless indifference” concerning allegations that her free-speech rights had been violated and she had faced retaliation for [More]

Nov 132012

Note: We post this article about a fire at a biolab in West Berkeley because it  serves as a reminder of the fallibility of human engineering. While such labs may be considered safe under ‘normal’ conditions, normal conditions are increasingly rare in this, the Age of Disasters. — Synbiowatch Cross-posted from Berkeleyside Berkeley firefighters put out a two-alarm roof fire in West Berkeley on Monday afternoon at a biology lab space leased by the Lawrence Berkeley [More]

Oct 262012

Cross-posted from The Atlantic The U.S. government is surreptitiously collecting the DNA of world leaders, and is reportedly protecting that of Barack Obama. Decoded, these genetic blueprints could provide compromising information. In the not-too-distant future, they may provide something more as well—the basis for the creation of personalized bioweapons that could take down a president and leave no trace. By ANDREW HESSEL, MARC GOODMAN and STEVEN KOTLER This is how the future arrived. It began [More]

Oct 052012

By  Andy Coghlan, cross-posted from New Scientist THE next time humans set foot on an alien world, they may not travel alone. Small, lightweight “bug boxes” packed full of engineered microbes could make life on hostile planets a lot more liveable. Pioneering settlers on a distant world will require food, fuel and shelter if they are to survive, but bringing bulky supplies from Earth is far too costly. Synthetic biology offers another option. Microbes weigh [More]

Sep 272012
UN: 'More should be done' to prevent bio-terrorism

Cross-posted from the BBC By Katia Moskvitch Technology reporter, BBC News, Cambridge A UN official delivered the warning at the BioDesign Forum on synthetic biology being held in the UK. Piers Millet from the UN’s Biological Weapons Convention said there was no global organisation to ensure biotech was not used for “nefarious” purposes. But international bodies did exist to watch out for nuclear and chemical weapons, he told the Cambridge meeting. “If you look at the history [More]

Sep 262012
Pentagon behind on predicting chemical, biological threats

By Kevin Baron  Monday, September 24, 2012   Share Cross-posted from Foreign Policy   The Pentagon does not have a clear idea of how adversaries could misuse modern biotechnology and chemical advances, according to the Defense Department’s chief chemical and biological defense official. It turns out the Pentagon can move people faster than the speed of sound but not necessarily faster than the speed of biotechnology developments. Gerald Parker, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for chemical and [More]

Sep 042012
Weird Science: The Promise and Peril of Synthetic Biology

By Jeff Conant, from Earth Island Journal, Autumn, 2012 In 1971, a microbiologist named Ananda Chakrabarty patented a bacteria genetically engineered to degrade and destroy crude oil. The next year scientists created the first synthesized gene, a bit of yeast RNA ushered into existence virtually from scratch. These discoveries, among others, raised the curtain on the science of biotechnology. Forty years later, in 2010, biologist Craig Venter, already known as a key figure behind the mapping of the [More]

Apr 052012
Video: The Bay Area Bio Lab & Synthetic Biology, False Solutions

A Risky Development: The University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and the US Department of Energy have unveiled plans to build a high profile biotech laboratory in the East Bay. The lab and associated commercial activity will focus on developing biofuels and other products using synthetic biology: an extreme form of genetic engineering that creates artificial life. Ground Zero for Syn Bio: Already a multi-billion dollar field, synthetic biology is fast becoming the next [More]

Feb 132012
Health And Safety Threatened At Pfizer: Stop Injuring Biotech Workers

On September 29, 2011 injured workers including former Pfizer injured molecular biologist bitotech scientist Becky McClain held a rally for justice outside the Groton, CT laboratories where she was contaminated. Speakers including McClain discussed the issues that are faced in this industry and the lack of proper oversight and protection for the workers and the public at Pfizer. She also reports that OSHA officials did not properly protect her and the public and still have not [More]