| | english | español | français |
  Home|Synthetic Biology|Open-Ended Forum|Online Discussions   Printer-friendly version

Online Discussions

New! The documents for the meeting of the AHTEG on Synthetic Biology, including a synthesis of submissions and online discussions, are now available at https://www.cbd.int/doc/?meeting=SYNBIOAHTEG-2015-01.

This page contains transcripts of the online discussions of the Open-ended Online Forum on Synthetic Biology. As established in decision XII/24, the objective of the Online Forum was to support the work of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Synthetic Biology by providing information that is relevant to its mandate.

There are currently no further activities foreseen under the Online Forum. Please refer to the calendar of activities for information on other activities on synthetic biology in the context of decision XII/24.


   
Only registered experts can post messages in this forum.

Please Sign in

For general inquiries about this Forum, please contact the Secretariat.

Search the discussions:

Filters
Keywords Author Topic

Topic 1: How to address the relationship between synthetic biology and biological diversity

Discussions will be held: 27 April – 11 May 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Under the Convention biotechnology is defined as “...any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use”. Synthetic biology falls within the scope of this broad definition.

There are several applications where synthetic biology and biological diversity may intersect, such as, bioenergy, agriculture and chemical production, amongst other things. Such usages may impact biodiversity, either positively or negatively, at various levels including at the level of genes, species and ecosystems.

In this discussion, participants are invited to consider the relationship between synthetic biology and biological diversity in the context of the three main objectives of the Convention, namely:
  • The conservation of biological diversity
  • The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

Topic 2: Similarities and differences between living modified organisms (as defined in the Cartagena Protocol) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques

Discussions will be held: 27 April – 11 May 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, LMOs are defined as “any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology”.

Furthermore, ‘Modern biotechnology’ is defined in the Cartagena Protocol as:

“The application of:

  1. In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, or
  2. Fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family,
that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.”

To help focus the discussion, you may refer to the guiding questions below in preparing your interventions.

For the purpose of this discussion, “components” are parts used in a process (e.g. a naked DNA molecule), and “products” are the resulting output of a process (e.g. a chemical fragrance). Moreover, both “components” and “products” are NOT living entities.

  • What are the similarities and differences between LMOs, as defined in the Cartagena Protocol, and the living organisms that are currently being developed through synthetic biology?
  • Taking into account the previous question, would your evaluation of the above similarities and differences between LMOs and living organisms developed through synthetic biology change when considering the foreseeable technological developments of synthetic biology?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the components and products of “modern biotechnology”, as defined in the Cartagena Protocol, and the components and products of synthetic biology?
  • How do the different areas of synthetic biology, including DNA-based circuits, synthetic metabolic pathway engineering, genome-level engineering, protocell construction and xenobiology, overlap or differ from modern biotechnology as defined in the Cartagena Protocol?

Background documents for this discussion:
 
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
 
TS82-CPB
Pages 84-90
(CBD Technical Series No. 82)
 

Topic 3: Operational definition of synthetic biology, comprising inclusion and exclusion criteria

Discussions will be held: 27 April – 11 May 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Operational definitions are important tools in scientific assessments and decision making in that they describe a concept or experimental procedure in a way that it can be unequivocally measured. There is currently no internationally agreed definition of ‘synthetic biology’ as indicated in a report that was recently published by the CBD Secretariat which further elaborates that:

“… key features of synthetic biology include the ‘de novo’ synthesis of genetic material and an engineering-based approach to develop components, organisms and products. Synthetic biology builds on modern biotechnology methodologies and techniques such as high throughput DNA technologies and bioinformatics.”

To support of the work of the AHTEG, in this discussion, participants of the Online Forum are invited to make proposals for an operational definition of synthetic biology that:
  1. Is based on scientific concepts;
  2. Is applicable to components, organisms and products of synthetic biology;
  3. Comprises measurable inclusion and exclusion criteria; and
  4. Accounts for current and foreseeable technological developments of synthetic biology, both at the level of research and commercialization.

Topic 4: Potential benefits and risks of organisms, components and products arising from synthetic biology techniques to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and related human health and socioeconomic impacts relevant to the mandate of the Convention and its Protocols

Discussions will be held: 25 May – 8 June 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Building on the views shared during the previous round of discussion, and in particular the interventions posted under topic 1 on the relationship between synthetic biology and the conservation of biodiversity (available here), participants are invited to consider, within the mandate of the Convention and its Protocols:

  1. What are the potential benefits and risks of organisms, components and products arising from synthetic biology techniques to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity?
  2. What are the potential benefits for and risks to human health that could arise from the components, organisms and products of synthetic biology?
  3. What are the potential socioeconomic impacts (positive and negative) from the components, organisms and products of synthetic biology?

To assist in the discussion, the Secretariat made available the relevant sections of the CBD Technical Series no. 82 on Synthetic Biology as background documents (pages 25-37 and pages 41-50).

When sharing your views, you are kindly asked to be concise and focused on the task at hand. Whenever possible, participants are kindly asked to avoid lengthy introductions and unnecessary repeating of what has already been posted in previous rounds.

This Forum is closed.
Thread
Replies
Last Post
    Closing of the discussion
0
    Opening of the discussion on topic 4
56
    On Topics 4 & 5
0
    On the current Topics
0

Topic 5: Best practices on risk assessment and monitoring regimes currently used by Parties to the Convention and other Governments

Discussions will be held: 25 May – 8 June 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Taking into account, among other things, the following background documents for this discussion:

  • Summary and Comparative Analysis of Nine National Approaches to Ecological Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms in the Context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Annex III
  • CBD Technical Series 82 (pages 37-38): Adequacy of current methodologies for environmental risk assessment

Participants are invite to provide information on best practices on risk assessment and monitoring regimes that are currently used by Parties to the Convention and other Governments.

This Forum is closed.
Thread
Replies
Last Post
    Opening of the discussion
31
    On Topics 4 and 5
0
    On Topic 4 - Potential Risks & Benefits
3
    On Topic 4
0

Topic 6: Adequacy of existing national, regional and/or international instruments to regulate the organisms, components or products derived from synthetic biology techniques

Discussions were held: 22 June – 6 July 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Building on the views shared during the previous rounds of discussion, and in particular the interventions posted under topic 2 on similarities and differences between living modified organisms (as defined in the Cartagena Protocol) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques, I would like to invite you to consider, within the mandate of the Convention and its Protocols:

  1. Which national, regional and international instruments exist that regulate the organisms, components or products derived from synthetic biology techniques?
  2. Are these instruments adequate to address the potential impacts on the objectives of the Convention and its Protocols?

To assist in the discussion, the Secretariat has made available the relevant sections of the CBD Technical Series no. 82 on Synthetic Biology as background documents.

Background documents for this discussion:
 
TS82-CBD
Pages 76-111
(CBD Technical Series No. 82)
 

Topic 7: Degree to which the existing arrangements constitute a comprehensive framework in order to address impacts of organisms, components and products resulting from synthetic biology, in particular threats of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity

Discussions were held: 22 June – 6 July 2015
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

Building on the views shared during the previous rounds of discussion, and in particular the interventions posted under topic 2, and, in particular, taking into account the discussions under topic 6 on "The adequacy of existing national, regional and/or international instruments to regulate the organisms, components or products derived from synthetic biology techniques", I would like to invite you to consider, within the mandate of the Convention and its Protocols:

  1. To which degree do existing arrangements, i.e. the national, regional and international instruments that apply to the organisms, components or products derived from synthetic biology techniques, constitute together a comprehensive framework to address impacts of organisms, components and products resulting from synthetic biology, in particular threats of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity?

To assist in the discussion, the Secretariat has made available the relevant sections of the CBD Technical Series no. 82 on Synthetic Biology as background documents.

Background documents for this discussion:
 
TS82-CBD
Pages 112-113
(CBD Technical Series No. 82)