US government report recommends a “principle of regulatory parsimony” for synthetic biology

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 22 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7374
  1. Bob Roehr
  1. 1Washington, DC

The US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues “chose a middle course to maximise public benefits while also safeguarding against risks” in making its recommendations on the regulation of synthetic biology, said the commission’s chairwoman, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania. Its report was released on 16 December.

Synthetic biology goes a step beyond genetically modifying organisms—where a gene might be transferred from one organism to another or even to a different species—to digitising that genetic information. It holds the potential to use that digital database to assemble a genome one base pair at a time to create an organism from scratch.

Potential applications range from creating new drugs …

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