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11/08/2007

Craig Venter on the ethics of creating synthetic organisms

Craig Venter and Carl Zimmer on bloggingheads.tv

Over at Bloggingheads.tv Carl Zimmer interviewed Craig Venter recently about a wide range of topics, from personal genome sequencing to Venter’s work on synthetic biology. Venter tells Zimmer that the reports a few months back that his team was right on the verge of creating a synthetic microbe were wrong, stating flatly, “We don’t have a synthetic organism.” He did say he’s “confident” it could happen in the next “several months.” Zimmer also asked Venter about the ethics of creating synthetic life (that link should play the relevant 4 minute portion of the video — it starts at 40:05). Venter’s answer is interesting in that he says his team takes the ethical questions “extremely seriously,” but he also sidesteps a bit by comparing the potential problem of a synthetic pathogen to that of naturally emerging diseases. “If you’re dying from a virus I don’t think it matters a whole lot whether it’s man-made or occurring because of overpopulation and unhealthy conditions,” Venter says and then he shifts the conversation toward the lack of funding for research into new antivirals and antibiotics.

-Greg Dahlmann

Earlier on blog.bioethics.net:
+ What is Craig Venter up to now?
+ Venter team claims to have created a synthetic chromosome

screen grab from bloggingheads.tv

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