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Should We Fear DIY Biologists' Use of Cutting-Edge Gene-Editing Technology?

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The reality is that the techniques and expertise needed to create a deadly insect or virus are far beyond the capabilities of the typical DIY biologist or community lab. Pursuing such a creation would go against the culture of responsibility that DIY biologists have developed over the past five years. CRISPR-Cas9 is a fast-moving technology that may well become more popular with DIY biologists in the coming months and years. Such people could just as easily be scientists working in government, university or commercial labs as DIY biologists.

The current culture of responsibility among DIY biologists, their collaborative style of working and the fact that community labs are open spaces in which everyone can see what is going on reduce, if not eliminate, doomsday scenarios of mutant organisms escaping from basements and causing harm.

The concern about Zayner’s project arises not because it gives people outside conventional labs more capabilities than they would otherwise have had. DIY biologists already use various tools to assemble DNA fragments in bacteria and yeast-the microorganisms that he supplies in his kits.

With the ready availability of tools such as CRISPR-Cas9 and crowdfunding, a more-decentralized governance is needed for everyone, not just DIY biologists.

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Article originally posted at www.scientificamerican.com

Post Author: Carla Parsons

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