Jim Thomas's blog

The National Academies’ Gene Drive study has ignored important and obvious issues

The National Academies’ Gene Drive study has ignored important and obvious issues

Jim Thomas

‘Gene drives’ seem to be the ultimate high-leverage technology. Yesterday’s report from the US National Academies begun the job of describing what is at stake, but it missed some important questions.

Jim Thomas is programme director at the ETC Group

Why Synthetic Artemisinin Is Still a Bad Idea - A Response to Rob Carlson

Why Synthetic Artemisinin Is Still a Bad Idea - A Response to Rob Carlson

Background: At a recent Synthetic Biology Conference in Cambridge UK, Synthetic Biologist Jay Keasling announced that the consortium he was working with now intend to replace the entire global supply of artemisinin (an anti-malarial compound) with their new synthetic-biology derived version.

Using Conservation for Synthetic Biology.

Using Conservation for Synthetic Biology.

Frankly it was all a set up. In the delightfully romantic setting of an old Cambridge college in springtime, complete with free drinks and delicious food, the organizers of last weeks 'Future of Nature' Conference smiled on conspiratorially as their contrivances to introduce two awkward strangers played out over 3 days.

The strangers in this case were not so much boy-meets-girl as naturalist-meets-geek and what they purportedly had in common was biology. The Future of Nature had been billed as an encounter between the synthetic biology community (biotech scientists practicing an extreme form of genetic engineering that builds artificial organisms) and the conservation biology community who are still trying to hold back the frontier of wildlife destruction for non-engineered nature.

A Mammoth Distraction - Syn Bio and 'De-extinction'.

A Mammoth Distraction - Syn Bio and 'De-extinction'.

 

The distracting allure of a technofix is a common trick deployed by those pushing risky technologies. Nuclear power we are told might just solve climate change,  GM food could feed the hungry, "DDT is good for you" etc. But the latest eyecatching technofix under discussion at a conference in Cambridge this week is a real dodo: 'Synthetic Biology' we are now told will reverse extinction of species and conserve biodiversity. Really ?

The Big Fix - 9 Tech controversies to watch for in 2009

The Big Fix - 9 Tech controversies to watch for in 2009

Written for The Ecologist - February 2009

available online at http://www.theecologist.org/pages/archive_detail.asp?content_id=2053

Somebody somewhere has to have a cunning plan to fix our environmental problems and save the world – right? Jim Thomas sorts through the big tech ideas you’ll be reading about this year 

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