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Regulation of Synthetic Biology

BioBricks, Biopunks and Bioentrepreneurs

Alison McLennan

This book explores the interplay between regulation and emerging technologies in the context of synthetic biology, a developing field that promises great benefits, and has already yielded fuels and medicines made with designer micro-organisms. For all its promise, however, it also poses various risks. Investigating the distinctiveness of synthetic biology and the regulatory issues that arise, Alison McLennan questions whether synthetic biology can be regulated within existing structures or whether new mechanisms are needed.
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Chapter 4: New directions? The United States Presidential Commission’s investigation of synthetic biology’s risks, benefits and oversight

Alison McLennan


Chapter 4 considers the role and recommendations of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues’ inquiry into synthetic biology. The Presidential Commission published its findings in its report 'New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies'. Chapter 4 critiques the recommendations, which are based on the principles of ‘public beneficence’, ‘democratic deliberation’, ‘intellectual freedom and responsibility’, ‘responsible stewardship’ and ‘justice and fairness’. The Presidential Commission was successful in creating a deliberative public forum for debate of the issues surrounding synthetic biology. However, it could have gone further in its recommendations, which emphasised the similarity between synthetic biology and earlier biotechnologies. It could have given greater consideration to the distinctiveness of the technology and the intellectual property and biosecurity issues.

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