Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kofi Annan urges restrictions onf biotechnology

Reuters is reporting on a speech by Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, in which he
warned of “catastrophic” results if recent advances in biotechnology, including gene manipulation and work with viruses, fell into the wrong hands.
He also said
“We lack an international system of safeguards to manage those risks,” he said. “Scientists may do their best to follow rules for responsible conduct of research. But efforts to harmonize these rules on a global level are outpaced by the galloping advance of science itself.”
He even suggests that the time is ripe for international governing bodies much like was done for nuclear energy in the 1950s. Is this a ploy to use the current animosity towards biotechnology in Europe to give the UN something new to do? Clearly, the US would not sign on to such things with the current administration (or probably any administration). But I certainly find it interesting that he is pushing this. I wonder if he is specifically worried about synthetic biology too or if this is just more concern for genetic engineering in general.


  1. A US Federal Board recently recommended that the government regulate gene sequences of pathogens rather than simply regulating the pathogens themselves... I was surprised you missed that one! Your old boss sat in the committee!
    Check out the article at

    If someone can put a genome together from scratch, they can certainly sequence it!

  2. Oohhh ... I completely missed this. If only I could have been a fly on the wall in the discussions to put this out. I would predict that this is going to be one of those things where people ten years from now say "What were they thinking." Apparently, rather than simply tyr and come up with words creating specific legislation about synthetic biology, they have decided to take the general approach and say the government should start regulating DNA sequences. I hope that this is just a misquote of somethig Claire said, but if true could be a very slippery slope.

  3. Between fears of bioterror and the dogmas of the Religious Right (which even the Democrats pander to), the future of biotech in the US doesn't look that promising. And the Green paranoia about "Frankenfood" and opposition to animal research in Europe doesn't give me much hope either. Personally, I suspect that China will emerge as the biotech leader -- and I doubt they will give two beans about what the UN says.