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DIY biotech a glowing minefield for USDA

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  • Biotechnology has become cheap enough to give rise to a do-it-yourself movement. Will USDA try and keep the DIY genie in the bottle?

The anti-GM crowd fears the “hopeful monster” that might escape from an unregulated lab. Corporations and agribusiness fear being left in the cold — paying tens of millions for GM crop testing, while DIYers are wearing a golden grin. Tom Philpott, writing in Mother Jones, makes this prediction: “I imagine that synbio's current reputation as a democratic technology dominated by well-meaning amateurs will last just long enough to convince people that it requires little or no regulation. While this laissez-faire regime congeals into a settled fact, big agrichemical, pharmaceutical, and life-sciences firms will quietly take it over…” Granted, Philpott is an ardent opponent of GM crops, but considering the regulation chaos of a DIY Wild West, his guess is as good as any other.

In June, Scientific American interviewed Kyle Taylor, one of the three Kickstarter biohackers. “Academia has its playground that it plays in, industry has its playground that it plays in, and I think that leaves a gap for the DIYbio community to come in and do the sorts of projects that aren’t on the radar of either,” says Taylor.

“I think good stewardship is key, and I think that’s the conversation I would like to have. What is good stewardship?”

Indeed. What is?

 

Twitter: @CBennett71

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Lethe (not verified)
on Sep 30, 2013

Yikes. Biohackers. Who knew? Um, I'm all about the rogue genius thing, but, um, we're talking about DNA here. I am shocked, shocked to find that biohacking is going on all up in here. Here's my good friend T all worried about Monsanto messing with her popcorn, and I'm finding out that her next door neighbor could be brewing the next plague in the basement. Well, if it glows in the dark, though, maybe we'll be able to avoid it?

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