Tell Ecover: Synthetic Biology is Not “Natural”
June 2, 2014
San Francisco, Calif.– In an open letter released today 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women’s health and farming groups called on leading “natural” cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.
Consumer, environmental, farming groups say synthetic biology is not natural or sustainable
San Francisco, Calif.– In an open letter released today 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women’s health and farming groups called on leading “natural” cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—June 2, 2014
Some years ago, bread companies got the word that customers wanted more fiber in their bread. Instead of making more of their bread with whole grains, a few companies actually put in wood pulp and labeled it as “fiber”. Today, in San Francisco, a group of synthetic biology companies and a representative from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are holding a meeting called the SynBioBeta Cultured Food Forum about how to market foods and food additives made from extreme forms of genetic engineering as “natural” and “sustainable.”
Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Aventis and Amyris Biotech founder Jay Keasling have announced that they intend to replace the entire world supply of the World Health Organization’s preferred anti-malarial treatment derived from botanical artemisinin with a semisynthetic product which employs synthetic biology, a controversial, unregulated biotechnology.
The scientific charge to read a human genome started gaining traction 25 years ago. Now it may be time to think about writing one.
Conceived in the mid-1980s, launched in 1990, and completed to first draft in 2000, the Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the largest international science collaborations in modern history. Costing approximately $3 billion, it was also one of the most expensive. The HGP was visionary, initiated even before the first bacterial genome (much smaller) had been sequenced. It transformed biology into a digital information science, yielding ongoing returns that include new insights into the molecular basis of life, cancer, and evolution, and also practical applications, like rapid genetic tests for important diseases.
Today a broad coalition of 111 organizations from around the world released The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology, the first global civil society declaration to outline principles that must be adopted to protect public health and the environment from the risks posed by synthetic biology, and to address the field’s economic, social and ethical challenges. Until these governance principles are in place, the coalition calls for a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms and products.
Synthetic biology, an extreme form of genetic engineering, is developing rapidly with little oversight or regulation despite carrying vast uncertainy. Standard forms of risk assessment and cost-bene#t analyses relied on by current biotechnology regulatory approaches are inadequate to guarantee protection of the public and the environment. “e Precautionary Principle is fundamental in protecting the public and our planet from the risks of synthetic biology and its products.
Advocates for women’s health and opponents of the commercialization of human genes by corporate research interests won a small victory August 13, 2012. California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed the sale of human eggs for research purposes. Brown acknowledged that the health risks of the egg extraction procedure would be compounded if women were paid to allow their eggs to be harvested. Brown said “Not everything in life is for sale, nor should it be…. In medical procedures of this kind, genuinely informed consent is difficult because the long-term risks are not adequately known. Putting thousands of dollars on the table only compounds the problem.”
Contact Governor Brown today and urge him to: VETO AB 926!!
AB 926 will expand the market in human eggs by paying young women to “donate” their eggs for research. But egg harvesting involves serious health risks! Tell Governor Brown that if California approves paying women to risk their health and fertility it should take steps to provide evidenced based informed consent, one that is the product of long term follow up and study. In the meantime: DEFEAT AB 926!
The unanimous Supreme Court decision [pdf] (June 13, 2013) that human genesmay not be patented was greeted with unbridled enthusiasm by the large coalition of plaintiffs and supporters. Early reactions concurred that the decision is indeed a momentous one.
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 human genome, announced his creation of a microbe that earned the name Synthia: “the first self-replicating species on the planet whose parent was a computer.” Between Chakrabarty’s oil-eating microbe and the birth of Venter’s Synthia, a wave of gene therapies, pharmaceuticals, genetically engineered crops, and manufactured biofuels have transformed science, medicine, industry, and quite possibly, global ecology.
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.
Synbio Forum Livestream (No Longer Active)
March 29, 2012
March 28, 2012 — Synbiowatch, a newly formed coalition of labor, environmental, and bioscience watchdog groups, has come together to host a public forum on March 29 called Unmasking the Bay Area Bio Lab and Synthetic Biology: Health, Justice, and Communities at Risk, at the David Brower Center in Berkeley. The event, a first of its kind, will address community concerns about the rapid growth of private biotech labs in the San Francisco Bay Area, and specifically the planned expansion of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) to the industrial city of Richmond.
Climate Connections, March 21, 2012 – At the sprawling Claremont Hotel tucked into the misty, eucalyptus-clad hills above Berkeley, California last month, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu engaged a room packed with executives from the energy, chemical, and pharmaceutical sectors, as well as researchers and administrators from nearby public institutions UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. Chu, who directed Lawrence Berkeley National Labs (LBNL) before joining Obama’s cabinet, highlighted the crucial role that government labs have long played in advancing industry – developing light steel for auto manufacturers like Ford, designing better batteries for electric vehicles, and unlocking the secrets of more efficient solar panels for both civilian and military uses, for example. However, Chu’s purpose was not to sing the praises of government labs. To the contrary: bemoaning “literally hundreds of unsold public patents” sitting on the shelves of government labs waiting for the private sector to build them out into industrial applications, Chu’s message was clear: government is not doing enough to meet the needs of the private sector.
No one disputes that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus that’s coming to Richmond will generate jobs and tax revenues.
But concerns persist about the work that will be done there, especially in synthetic biology, and the risks posed to the surrounding community.
The San Francisco Bay Area is at ground zero in the explosion of Synthetic Biology Labs and other related facilities. According to a recent survey by the Wilson Center there are already 37 such sites in the Bay.
Synbiowatch held a press conference on March 28 at the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley. View the video archive of the Press Conference here.
Jaydee Hanson: Framing the Next Issues and Avoiding Old Problems
Cold Evil | Technology and Ethics in the 21st Century | Andrew Kimbrell
Nearly 15,000 gene patents no longer valid as a result to today’s ruling
Today, the Supreme Court declared that Myriad Genetics’ patenting of DNA violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against patents on laws of nature and natural phenomena. The decision positively impacts tens of thousands of people. Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) have worked for nearly 20 years to oppose the patenting of DNA and worked closely with Breast Cancer Action, one of the plaintiffs in the case. CFS submitted legal briefs at all three stages of the case, including the Supreme Court.