So if we can design crops that reduce pesticides, grow more effectively in poor soil, bring nutrients such as vitamins A to populations with high incidences of blindness, or even just taste better, why are we hesitating? Why isn’t there a wide consumer acceptance of genetically modified (GM) foods?
Synthetic biology will be one of the driving technological forces of this century. By transforming the complexity and diversity of life into a technology malleable by man, it simultaneously offers some of science’s highest hopes and gravest threats. Like splitting the atom, synthetic biology holds a great wealth of power that must be wielded with care.
Bioengineer Drew Endy is the leading enabler of open-source biotechnology. Technology historian Jim Thomas is the leading critic of biotech, based with ETC Group in Ottawa. Moderated by Stewart Brand, they will meet to discuss how the emerging and potentially revolutionary capabilities of synthetic biology can be utilized safely, equitably and openly.
Synthetic biology is swarming ahead all over the world, at a self-accelerating pace far greater than Moore’s Law, with a range of impacts far greater than genetically engineered food crops. Jim Thomas raises the question: "Is Synthetic Biology reckless or wise from the perspective of ‘the long now?’. I feel the synthetic biology community is driven by immensely short term assumptions and motivations, and as a result the medium term prospect for this platform holds both predictable problems and nasty surprises."
Skeptic Check: OMG, GMO? — You are what you eat. But what does that mean if your food is genetically engineered? Chances are it has been if you’ve ever munched down on corn or soybean. The prospect of eating GM food makes some folks afraid, but is their fear warranted? Discover what experts say about the safety of genetically engineered foods … whether the technology delivers on the promised increase in yield … and the argument for and against labeling. Also, why some say the issue is not food safety, but the unethical business practices of multinationals. A filmmaker reports from the fields of India. Plus, GM crops off this planet: the role of synthetic biology in terraforming Mars. It’s Skeptic Check … but don’t take our word for it.
New York Times columnist Mark Bittman talks about taxing unhealthy foods. His article in the Times’ Sunday Review on July 24, “Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables,” looks at why it’s so difficult to market healthy foods successfully.