Comments on Relationship Synt. Biol. & Biodiv.
My name is Pedro Rocha, I am specialist in biotechnology and biosafety at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). I would like to thanks the moderators and the participants in this forum.
Regarding relationship between synthetic biology (SB) and biodiversity (BD) I agree with S. Strassheim´s comments regarding the difficulty of proposing clear ideas without a proper concept on SB. However, I would like to share some personal (not institutional) thoughts:
1. BD is quite broad in terms of products and processes, but interestingly science (in particular biotechnology) has shown that BD has limits, and those limits can be overpassed by SB.
2. SB does not necessarily use BD. Certainly, SB can modify and utilize genes, proteins, metabolites already existing in nature, but has the potential to generate novel processes and products (molecules, organisms, bio-nano-machines, even ecosystems) based on different “info-bio-chemistries”, as it has been proposed, for example, by the use of nucleic acid-like synthetic genetic polymers (XNA). Important to mention that SB not necessarily must be exclusively based on generation of LMOs.
3. By its nature, BD is completely different to SB. During billion years, nature by itself has developed both successful and unsuccessful biological processes and products. In contrast, SB is a relatively new technology in which successful and successful processes and products will be generated mainly as a consequence of a market-driven-force (I agree with M. Rosales). The main difference is that planning, execution and use of SB could be regulated and controlled while with BD, just the use can be regulated or controlled.
4. There is a main difference between BD and SB: Human beings discover BD processes and products, in contrast SB products are invented. The issue of intellectual property rights is essential to differentiate BD from SB, and surely will be taking into account in the technology regulation.
5. SB has the potential to use, generate, and modify so many different processes and products useful for many sectors. So, I agree with comments presented in this forum, in the sense that SB must be analyzed in a case-by-case basis. (C.Burgeff, B. Glandorf)
6. For the analysis of SB, particular relevance will take cases in which:
a. Physical biomaterials (such as DNA sequences, proteins, organelles, microbial shells, etc.) taken from biodiversity are being used or modified (issues such as ownership and authorization of the source of genetic/biological material, benefits sharing, etc)-Interesting message of J. Thomas-;
b. SB bioproducts would be kept confined or if release to the environment is planned, and risks of interaction between SB product and BD elements (issues analysed in a similar way to the current assessment carried out for LMO defined by CPB). If a particular SB project generates a novel LMO, certainly CPB must be taking into consideration. However, if no LMO is being generated by this technology and a different bio-chemistry is used for its creation may be could be interested to consider generating a different “tool” for SB analysis (as proposed by J.Oyunbileg ) because there are aspects of the SB developments that surely CPB either cannot be covered or are irrelevant. And remember, in future, SB not necessarily will be based exclusively on LMOs generation.
7. Proper communication of SB to the public must be addressed. Uses of SB products and processes could have risks, but up to now there is not a single report demonstrating that the products already generated are dangerous or causing damages to the environment, human or animal health. Perhaps, it could be possible to present SB as a way to increase BD and make a sustainable BD use in a safely manner, for example using different techniques and disciplines (genetic engineering, nanochemistry, nanoelectronics, etc.)
8. Again and again, research both in BD and SB must be reinforced. Bioprospection exercises could be seen with a different glass by having in mind SB perspectives and potentialities.
Hopefully, these ideas could contribute to the discussion. Thanks for reading.
posted on 2015-05-01 19:52 UTC by Dr. Pedro Rocha, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture