The White House on Thursday said the controversial field of synthetic biology, or manipulating the DNA of organisms to forge new life forms, poses limited risks and should be allowed to proceed.
An expert panel convened by President Barack Obama advised vigilance and self-regulation as scientists seek ways to create new organisms that could spark useful innovations in clean energy, pollution control and medicine.
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues “concluded that synthetic biology is capable of significant but limited achievements posing limited risks,” it said in its first report.
“Future developments may raise further objections, but the Commission found no reason to endorse additional federal regulations or a moratorium on work in this field at this time.”
The 13-member panel of scientists, ethicists and public policy experts was created by Obama last year.
Its first order of business was to consider the issue of synthetic biology after the J. Craig Venter Institute announced in May it had developed the first self-replicating bacteria cell controlled by a synthetic genome.
Critics said the discovery was tantamount to “playing God,” creating organisms without adequate understanding the ramifications, and upsetting the natural order.