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The term "synthetic biology" could almost be calculated to elicit a strongly negative response by anyone with a belief in the beauty of naturally evolved DNA.

Bioethics is the study of ethical questions and problems within the field of biology.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI) published a report in December 2010 regarding the ethical ramifications of synthetic biology. This report was requested by U.S. president Barack Obama in response to the announcement in May 2010 of the first self-replicating synthetic genome, belonging to the organism Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0.

iGEM teams are required to document their safety practices and the ethical implications of their projects[1].

Objections to synthetic biology

According to the PCSBI, there were "...relatively few objections from religious or secular ethicists concerning the present status of the field"[2]. However, there are common concerns regarding the normal use (i.e. not abuses such as bioterrorism) that originate from both religious and secular philosophies. The phrase "playing god" is often used as a shorthand for decrying a particular experiment or procedure as being unnatural, and therefore unethical. Religion


The tools of synthetic biology can be considered "dual-use" technologies, which can be used for both productive, useful applications, but also for weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, synthetic biology's potential to benefit humanity must be weighed against the potential development of bioweapons. The creation of such bioweapons may be simply the construction of a previously eradicated disease such as smallpox[3], increasing the lethality of existing diseases[4]

Safety Guidelines[1]





  1. [igem]
  2. [pcsbi]
  3. [smallpoxguardian]
  4. Herfst S, Schrauwen EJ, Linster M, Chutinimitkul S, de Wit E, Munster VJ, Sorrell EM, Bestebroer TM, Burke DF, Smith DJ, Rimmelzwaan GF, Osterhaus AD, and Fouchier RA. Airborne transmission of influenza A/H5N1 virus between ferrets. Science. 2012 Jun 22;336(6088):1534-41. DOI:10.1126/science.1213362 | PubMed ID:22723413 | HubMed [birdflu]