Synthetic biology is defined as the deliberate design and construction of customized biological and biochemical systems to perform new or improved functions. While the field is in its infancy, it is already producing results that may have far-reaching implications in fields such as biomedicine, agriculture, land and water decontamination – even nano-machines and novel approaches to information processing.
However, synthetic biology has become a controversial area, as concerns have been expressed in relation to the protection of human health and the environment. Such concerns arise mainly from governance issues associated with biosafety (protecting legitimate users and the environment) and biosecurity (protecting against intentional misuse).
The current IAP Statement addresses these and other key issues, promoting the idea that responsible research and innovation in synthetic biology should be encouraged and supported, and must not be stifled by excessive restrictions, while recommending a broad dialogue between scientists, social scientists, academies, non-governmental organizations and other interested stakeholders, including the general public.
A parallel ‘World View’ commentary on synthetic biology, written by IAP co-chair Volker ter Meulen, was published in Nature on 7 May 2014.