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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  • MR T

    • +2
    Jul 12 2012: A cost benefit analysis is required based on experiments done in large aquariums with current simulation. It is an absolute necessity to make sure these organisms have very little chance, through mutation, by the selective pressure of a lack of plastic, to adapt their biology to consume a different food source that may result in competition with other species.

    The problem with this is: Small organisms don't live long so removing their reproductive capability may result in faliure to remove plastic. Keeping a reproductive capability may remove more plastic but as small organisms have short generation times there is increased probability of evolutionary adaptation to a new food source. Perfecting a balanced organism that exists somewhere in the midst of this dichotomy will be very difficult indeed.

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