Frankenstein’s bacterium: It’s Alive!

The monster’s brain was replaced with that of another and he did its bidding, not his own. The “new” bacterium recently conceived in the laboratory doesn’t think like its host but is chemically a slave to a manufactured DNA “brain”. And soon, it will be infinitely programmable.

So what does this mean for you? That all depends.

Venter’s claim is that bacteria could be created to soak up carbon dioxide, which could help in the fight against global warming. Most people would agree that’s a good thing. New life-saving drugs could also be artificially created — a good thing as well. However, artificially-created bacteria could also be used to make things like biological weapons.

The sky’s the limit, actually, according to bioethics expert Pat Mooney. He claims that Venter has created a “chassis on which you could build almost anything. It could be a contribution to humanity such as new drugs or a huge threat to humanity such as bio-weapons.”

Apparently this five year project has been partially financed by the US Department of Energy in the quest for a new environmentally friendly fuel. That seems to be a good thing, right? And of course the US Gov would never explore the bio-weapons potential of such a tool. Never!

“We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before,” Venter said.

Who owns DNA? Venter thinks he should, and has applied for a patent for his “Synthia” (c) bacterium. Get ready for a new kind of ethical debate started many years ago in Mary Shelley’s scary fiction likely headed toward nano-fact on a global scale.

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