Saturday, December 27, 2008

DIY: Genetic Engineering

Shaun Saunders sends in this article from It would seem that the next big thing to come out of a garage as Apple and HP had done in the past, is genetic engineering done by hobbyists out of their home made "kitchen" labs.

Take Meredith L. Patterson - for example. A computer programmer by day, she conducts experiments in the dining room of her San Francisco apartment. Patterson is among a new breed of techno rebels who want to put genetic engineering tools in the hands of anyone with a smart idea. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering - a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.

Critics of the movement worry that these amateurs could one day unleash an environmental or medical disaster. Defenders say the future Bill Gates of biotech could be developing a cure for cancer in the garage.

Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog organization, warned that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage. "Once you move to people working in their garage or other informal location, there's no safety process in place," he said.

Shaun said when he said "Now this IS pulp SF coming to life!" And I have to agree, it has some very exciting potential in the real world and most definitely the science fiction world.

But before anyone get hysterical here you have to understand that perishingly few "engineered organisms can survive outside their artificially created environment. Those that could are even harder to weaponize. The anthrax scare of our near past is a prime example. This is an organism that could live outside but the real problem was it was vastly more difficult to weaponize than to engineer.

The argument for terrorism is again either misdirection or ignorance. Why do I say that? Because the evidence is staring you right in the face. People with little or no formal education are able with home made equipment and a little reading can start studying and experimenting with the expenditures of a few tens of dollars. The jinn is already out of the bottle. And it's the weaponizing that is again the key here. Just like the truck driver that built a fully functional atom bomb from pictures and material he read. So if it is that easy, why are we not seeing atom bombs going off all over the place? Easy.... weaponized nuclear material. Vastly harder and expensive to produce. But why would I say this concern is misdirection....simple. Since 911 our government has spasticly concerned itself with border control and terrorist infiltration and what do we hear as of late? That we are so unprepared for a cyber attack that the United States could be brought to it's knees by a concerted effort. People, we have dived under the covers and covered our heads, but our asses are hanging out there.

No comments: