WASHINGTON, D.C. - Research and development in synthetic biology is an evolution of biotechnology innovation that should be supported and encouraged by federal regulatory policies. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today welcomed the report, “New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies,” and recommendations of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood stated, “The President’s Bioethics Commission report appropriately emphasizes that synthetic biology holds the potential to invent solutions for clean energy and chemical production with unparalleled speed and efficiency. It also correctly recognizes that government oversight of this emerging field should foster and promote innovation while practicing prudent vigilance. Synthetic biology offers the United States the opportunity to establish a leadership position in a growing sector that can revitalize our traditional industries and at the same time stimulate economic growth in rural America.
“Through this report, the commission has demonstrated that it understands that synthetic biology is not something radically new, but is part of an ongoing evolution of biotech innovation that has safely and successfully produced public benefits for the past 20 years. The report appropriately urges that a fact-based system is the appropriate standard for evaluating bioethical issues.
“While the technology holds great potential, the ethical and regulatory issues raised by the development, use, and potential misuse of synthetic biology have been the subject of multiple studies. The regulatory framework developed over the 40-year history of the biotechnology industry is generally applicable and relevant for the products of synthetic biology. Voluntary regulatory guidelines have been established and industry is responsibly adhering to these guidelines. BIO members are aware of the potential low levels of risk associated with synthetic biology technologies and would welcome opportunities to work with other stakeholders to evaluate these voluntary guidelines to determine whether they should become mandatory.
“Additional regulation in specific areas can be carefully designed and established. BIO member organizations are concerned with safety and public perception. Therefore, BIO would endorse the formation of an inter-agency group to help develop strategies and guidelines that would ultimately provide a higher level of safety and security at all levels.”
For additional information about synthetic biology, please read the fact sheets “Synthetic Biology Explained,” available at http://bio.org/ind/syntheticbiology/whatis.pdf, and “Current Uses of Synthetic Biology for Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals,” at http://bio.org/ind/syntheticbiology/Synthetic_Biology_Everyday_Products.pdf.