Dozens of news articles (1, 2, 3, 4) are reporting on today's publication in Science of another step toward the creation of artificial life.
According to Wired News, J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute where scientists performed the study, said in a teleconference today, "We consider this the second in our three-step process to create the first synthetic organism…What remains now that we have this complete synthetic chromosome…is to boot this up in a cell."
Also reported by Wired are remarks by synthetic biologist Christopher Voigt, who explains that plans call for researchers to "scale up from the simplest organisms to the most complex: human beings." Voigt estimates "that a synthetic human genome - which could be used in human cloning research - could be created by 2014."
In response, the ETC Group renewed its call for a moratorium on the release and commercialization of synthetic organisms. From its press statement:
Venter is claiming bragging rights to the world's longest length of synthetic DNA, but size isn't everything. The important question is not 'how long?' but 'how wise?'
While synthetic biology is speeding ahead in the lab and in the marketplace, societal debate and regulatory oversight is stalled and there has been no meaningful or inclusive discussion on how to govern synthetic biology in a safe and just way. In the absence of democratic oversight profiteering industrialists are tinkering with the building blocks of life for their own private gain. We regard that as unacceptable.