Team:BIOTEC Dresden/Ethics


Revision as of 19:11, 26 October 2010 by Vyctoryo (Talk | contribs)


Nowadays the production and use of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) let them be plants, animals or anything else are viewed with big precaution by most societies. There are multiple reasons why people are not accepting this products some of them accompanied by sound scientific arguments, whereas others by wrong understanding and fears fuelled by mass-media.

On one hand the people having nothing in common with biological sciences do not always know all the scientific background behind the problem, on the other hand, “bio people” in knowledge of the problem may be considered biased because their profession is their source of income, respect, it is also their belief and future. As society and science looks for compromise, there is a big effort all over the world to create the legislative frame which will ensure the careful manipulation of GMO’s in environment, medicine, industry.

Synthetic biology is also about genetic manipulation – combining genes or fragments of genes from all kinds of life forms, modifying them in order to produce enhanced organisms able to be used for the sake of the mankind. Regardless of how noble the aims can be, it is necessary to consider the ethical questions arising from it.

In the middle of all this fuss about gene manipulation here comes a synthetic biology competition among STUDENTS !! which offers the chance to apply into practice ambitious concepts derived from their imagination (which is sometimes OK and sometimes NOT ). This is an issue that may bother society, that’s why there stays a special requirement to accurately consider the ethical and safety aspects of each individual IGEM project.

In order to get a feeling of how society views genetic engineering, synthetic biology, the competition and our project in particular we conducted a small survey among young people of age 22-30, of German or other origin (ratio of about 1:1).

You can follow us through the questions... and comments (Time for FUN)

1. Do you regard genetic engineering as an absolute necessity for scientific research?


About 90% answered yes which is actually the only right answer. Biology can’t move forward without making mutants. At least this is the current state

2. Grade the areas below according to the need for approaches involving genetic engineering (you can use marks from 1 to 5, repeating marks allowed):

-medicine (research and therapy)

-environmental applications (e.g. fighting pollution, extracting salts from soil other)


-industry and energy

-other (you can also give your own application area)

Scores distributed approximately equally with most for medicine and least for farming. For us, It is hard to decide which ones are the most important but we are also for health and long life (pure egoists)

3. Is there an order for you in terms of ethics regarding gene manipulation performed on bacteria, plants, animals (except humans)? If yes give a score for each group (1 is least ethical).


-Bacteria -Plants A-nimals

Least ethical for animals but nobody cares how would a bacteria feel like.

4. Could you list one or two main potential risks (for health, environment) arising from the use of genetically modified organisms.

-for health:

-for environment:

Most of the answers were too general and focused around the words “uncontrolled”, “unpredictable” and “side effects”. Did Hollywood have its contribution?

5. Synthetic biology represents the design and construction of new biological entities such as enzymes, genetic circuits, and cells, or the redesign of existing biological systems for a specific use. Do you think there are any ethical restrictions to practicing it?


More than 70 % think there ARE ethical restrictions. Oh yes, there are! Ask Craig Venter.

6. If yes do you think the potential advantages are overweighting the possible ethical problems.


About 56% from the entire pool answered yes. Surely yes, but maybe we are to mad about IGEM for our opinion to be trusted.

7. How would you regard deliberate synthetic biology competitions among undergraduate students which include designing of genetically modified organisms with the aim to find solutions to various global problems.

-I approve -I disapprove

78% approved. Niiiice! We skipped telling that the team members SHOULD HAVE FUN doing their bacteria-Frankensteins! After all, it is kind of internal information. Still we have to be careful when walking home since there are 12% left which not really agree. Maybe we shouldn’t have weared all this time the IGEM badge?!

Do you think the outcome is greater than the risks?


87% think yes

9. Do you think that creation of bacterial based biosensors for testing isolated blood samples from humans for certain diseases is in contradiction with any known moral rules or is posing any significant risks?


If Yes, please list some of them

97% answered NO (except 1 person).

As expected! if it was a YES, we would have sent our T-shirts to the Jamboree (they are nice  ) or would have faked the answer to this question or would have deleted it at all. But no, IT IS HERE. Regarding the risks, I can only imagine glowing intestines, but don’t think too much over this… (these poor lab bacteria can’t leave their juicy LB).

10. If such biosensor systems would be much more sensitive than some of the currently used detection techniques and could make a big difference to the efficiency of disease diagnosis, would you grant its massive use along with the already established detection methods (considering that it is a transgenic organism)?

95% Yes. Straight way to thinking about a business

GO, IGEMolution! (our official phrase during the Bioolympics event , copyrighted, you can’t use it without permission)

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