TED Conversations

Philipp Böing

Founder: Darwin Toolbox, SynBioSoc / UCL iGEM organizer, University College London

TEDCRED 200+

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Should Synthetic Organisms be released to clean plastic pollution from the ocean?

The Problem: Microplastic pollution in the ocean.
Proposed Solution: Engineered Organisms that can collect the pollution into recyclable pieces. (the science behind this: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/igem2012 )
A video explanation: http://youtu.be/rEDLg03teOk

Should Synthetic Organisms be released to clean plastic pollution from the ocean? Is synthetic biology the only solution to plastic pollution? Can we anticipate and prevent any negative repercussions? Do the potential risks outweigh the benefits? Who could profit from this? Who calls the shots?

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  • Jul 12 2012: I think that to do that would simply result in replacing one problem with another.My view is that 'bio-engineering' and 'genetic-engineering' endeavours do not, and cannot fullty take into account the impact to the bio-sphere that introducing the product(s) of these efforts into it may have in the long run. Our planet is a vastly complex system of life forms, atmospheric patterns, oceanic currents and geological activity that we can barely understand. Introducing man-made life forms into this complexity can and likely will have some form of negative impact that will offset the natural cycles, and I think that every time we do so, we take a huge gamble with the Earth's systems that sustain us.
    So, no, I believe that introducing synthetic organisms to clean-up our garbage in the oceans is a wrong approach. In the end, human muscle power and machinery is always the better solutioin.

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