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Past Activities 2014-2016

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Topic2. Similarities and differences between living modified organisms (as defined in the Cartagena Protocol) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques [#6837]
Dear participants,

Is a pleasure for me to see all your different points of view. First let me say that actually I work at CONABIO, a Mexican government institution where I am a member of the team that works on risk assessment and biosafety. I had been working by nine years in biosafety and risk assessment, in Colombia (the country where I was born) during six years and the last three in Mexico.

I understand the comments of some of you about the difficulty of participate in the three forums that actually are online, but I encourage you to share your points of view about the topic 2. I am sure that this is a fruitful work.

Now, as a result of your previous interventions I think that is important to clarify two ideas:

1) Some of you suggest that the discussion about effects on biodiversity would be centered on products of synthetic biology. In this point I think that is important to define clearly the terms: component and product. I have the idea that many of you think in product as an organism but certainly is possible to obtain different kind of products by synthetic biology, not only organisms.
The Dr. Hideyuki Shirae`s definitions would help us but I think that would be interesting to know another points of view.

2) If the adopted position is focus on products as I saw in several interventions, is important discuss about the products that have “components”, which refers to “molecules derived from oligonucleotides which at least contain more than one unnatural form nucleotides and/or chemically synthesized molecules”  as Dr. Shirae said. It is possible to define clear limits to said that those products have or have not to fall inside Cartagena Protocol?

I will be waiting for your feedback,

Best regards,

M. Andrea
posted on 2015-04-29 10:31 UTC by Ms. María Andrea Orjuela Restrepo, Mexico
This is a reply to 6837 RE: Topic2. Similarities and differences between living modified organisms (as defined in the Cartagena Protocol) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques [#7151]
There are some aspects that should be emphasised in addition to those mentioned so far. We all will agree that  Synthetic Biology works with new techniques that allow faster and more radical changes of the genome. This is very relevant in the context of the Cartagena Protocol:

There will without doubt be more and more new organisms / products within shorter periods of time. For biodiversity this implies that the number of different technically derived organisms being released into the environment within the next few years could increase dramatically. Therefore, also the likelihood of negative consequences will increase stochastically.

The quality of the risks will also change. The level of technical intervention at the level of the genome and cell regulation and the pattern of heredity can be much more radical than thus far. Some of the organisms will have new genetic conditions or biological characteristics that cannot be compared with those from existing biodiversity. Gene synthesis might also be used to replace a whole genome or chromosome without the changes being too obvious. And genome editing might be used to change genetic conditions in way that may make it difficult to distinguish the relevant organism from those (for example) derived from classical breeding. Thus experts used to working with categories such as 'familiarity' and 'comparative assessment' might find it difficult to apply those categories in this context. Some of the organisms will have new biological qualities that did not exist before (and thus comparative assessment can not be applied) and in the same way, new organisms may appear unchanged in their genetic condition even though their genome has been completely replaced by synthetic DNA. 

Further, we have to be aware that Synthetic Biology can not only interfere with the structure of the genome, but also with the pattern of heredity as shown in recent articles on mutagenic chain reaction (the article of Gantz & Bier, 2015 was referenced already). It can produce biologically active substances such as synthetic DNA or miRNA that can be sprayed as a chemical, but will interact with organisms (intentionally or unintentionally) at the level of the genome.

This shows that in this context we have to take the process as a starting point for any risk assessment and regulation, and also have to take into account biologically active compounds and products that are not LMOs.
posted on 2015-05-10 19:03 UTC by Mr. Christoph Then, Testbiotech