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Current Activities of the Online Forum on Synthetic Biology

Background

At their thirteenth meeting, in decision XIII/17, Parties commended the work of the online forum and the AHTEG, and welcomed the conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Group as a basis for further discussion. The COP also acknowledged that the outcome of the work of the AHTEG on the operational definition is “synthetic biology is a further development and new dimension of modern biotechnology that combines science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the understanding, design, redesign, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials, living organisms and biological systems”, and considered it useful as a starting point for the purpose of facilitating scientific and technical deliberations under the Convention and its Protocols.

Furthermore, COP extended the mandate of the AHTEG on synthetic biology, as established in decision XII/24, with new terms of reference as annexed to decision XIII/17, and extended also the open-ended online forum to support the work of the AHTEG.

In light of these decisions, the Secretariat has developed this page to implement the decision and to host online discussions of the forum.

   
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Topic 4: Gathering information on risk management measures, safe use and best practices for safe handling of organisms, components and products of synthetic biology

Discussions will be held: 18 September - 2 October 2017
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

This discussion will focus on the gathering of information on risk management measures, safe use and best practices for safe handling of organisms, components and products of synthetic biology

To help focus the discussion, you are invited to consider the following guiding questions in your interventions:

  1. To what extent are current risk management measures and best practices that are in use for “traditional” LMOs also sufficient to living organisms developed through current and near future applications of synthetic biology?
  2. To what extent are current risk management measures and best practices also sufficient to the safe handling and use of the components (e.g. a DNA molecule) and products (e.g. a chemical substance produced by an organism) of synthetic biology?
  3. Do you foresee a need for adapting safety measures in the future as developments in the field of synthetic biology are made?
  4. Can you provide concrete examples of existing applications of synthetic biology to which risk management measures may not be sufficient to ensure the safe handling and use of living organisms developed through synthetic biology?
  5. What specific new areas of research are needed, if any, in order to ensure the safe use of current and near future applications of synthetic biology?

You are also welcome to submit guidelines and guidance on risk management measures that may be applicable to organisms, components and products of synthetic biology

Background document for this discussion:
 
Synthesis of views (Updated 29 August 2017)
Synthesis of views
(Updated 29 August 2017)

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    SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY & RISK
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Topic 3: Identifying any living organisms already developed or currently under research and development through techniques of synthetic biology which do not fall under the definition of living modified organisms under the Cartagena Protocol and evaluating the availability of tools to detect and monitor the organisms, components and products of synthetic biology

Discussions will be held: 4-18 September 2017
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

The third round of discussions will be on “Identifying any living organisms already developed or currently under research and development through techniques of synthetic biology which do not fall under the definition of living modified organisms under the Cartagena Protocol" and "evaluating the availability of tools to detect and monitor the organisms, components and products of synthetic biology”.

In order to facilitate and focus our discussions, participants are invited to consider the following questions in their interventions:
  • Since the last assessment made by the AHTEG on synthetic biology, have there been any living organisms already developed or currently under research and development through techniques of synthetic biology which do not fall under the definition of living modified organisms under the Cartagena Protocol?
    • If so what are they and what are that characteristics that differentiate them from organisms that fall under the definition of living modified organisms under the Cartagena Protocol
  • What tools are available to detect and monitor each of the organisms, components and products of synthetic biology?
    • If no tools are available which need to be developed in order to facilitate the detection and monitoring of each of the organisms, components and products of synthetic biology

Background document for this discussion:
 
Synthesis of views (Updated 29 August 2017)
Synthesis of views
(Updated 29 August 2017)

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    Limitations within the Topic 3 question and further comment
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Topic 2: Further analysis of evidence of benefits and adverse effects of organisms, components and products of synthetic biology vis-à-vis the three objectives of the Convention

Discussions will be held: 17-31 July 2017
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

This discussion will focus specifically on existing evidence of benefits and adverse effects of the organisms, components and products of synthetic biology with the inclusion of references (journal articles, websites, etc.) to support the claims of evidence.

In order to facilitate a common understanding during the discussion, the term “organisms” refer to living entities, while the terms “components” and “products” refer to non-living entities.

Contributions are to be structured in a way that facilitates the work of the AHTEG by clarifying which benefits or adverse effects are being discussed and then to further specify if organisms, components and/or products of synthetic biology are being discussed.

Furthermore, please ensure that your intervention is linked to the CBD objectives by clearly identifying if the evidence that you are talking about is related to:
  1. The conservation of biological diversity
  2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
  3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

Background document for this discussion:
 
Synthesis of views
Synthesis of views

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Topic 1: Reviewing recent technological developments within the field of synthetic biology to assess if the developments could lead to impacts on biodiversity and the three objectives of the Convention, including unexpected and significant impacts

Discussions will be held: 3-17 July 2017
Discussions open and close at 1:00 a.m. GMT

The topic of this discussion (to be held from July 3rd to 17th) will be:

“Review recent technological developments within the field of synthetic biology to assess if the developments could lead to impacts on biodiversity and the three objectives of the Convention, including unexpected and significant impacts”.

Participants are invited to focus the discussion over the next two weeks on the following three guiding questions:
  1. What are the potential negative impacts, including unexpected and significant adverse effects, of the most recent technological developments in synthetic biology on biodiversity and the three objectives of the Convention?
  2. What research and cooperation activities are being conducted on the possible benefits and potential adverse effects of organisms, components and products of synthetic biology on biodiversity to fill knowledge gaps and identify how those effects relate to the objectives of the Convention and its Protocols?
  3. Are there other recent technological developments that have taken place within the field of synthetic biology that need to be considered in this discussion?

Background document for this discussion:
 
Synthesis of views
Synthesis of views