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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: Synthetic organisms can do some things we can't do in an other way and for some jobs like your project you would have to release them into the wild. Today this is not legal and this is fine, because we don't understand the technology well enough. Today the risks are very low but so are the benefits. This might change in the future, but until then, SynBio has to proof itself a lot in the lab and under safe conditions. We have to develop preventions mechanisms like predicting potential unintended reactions (this can and has to be done, in IT Security they don't test just if it works but also if it does something which was not intended under very rare circumstances), create a self controlling community which is aware of the risks and can act just in case, develop mechanisms to "remove" "buggy" organisms from our environment, talk to people who live in the environment we want to release GMOs and research how synthetic organisms combine with natural organisms. If we cannot do those kind of things I don't think it is responsible to release the organisms in the environment. But if we wait long enough the environmental problems will become so big that anybody with a solution will be a hero. Until then, we should have done our homework.

    Somehow your project reminds me of Wall-E :D

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