Cynthia, the artificial cell

Cynthia, the artificial cell

By Pedro Rivera Ramos

In the Science Express magazine of May 20, 2010 and with the work "Creation of a bacterium controlled by a chemically synthesized genome", the group of 24 highly paid researchers from the Venter Institute, claimed to have given life to the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI -syn 1.0, controlled by a fully synthetic genome. Naturally, this "logical" step towards the subsequent creation of eukaryotic cells, characteristic of multicellular organisms, is not aimed - the techno-enthusiasts hastened to deny - at producing living beings as complex as humans.

But the large funding for research in the field of synthetic biology comes mainly from corporations such as British Petroleum, Dupont, Chevron, Cargill, Shell and others, which are the ones that will ultimately decide whether the capitalist business will be limited only to the production of industrial products, CO2 capture and sequestration, biomedical applications or commercial production of artificial life.

Apart from the technological boast that Dr. Venter is getting used to in the scientific community, the development of the synthetic genome has renewed the debate on the ethical, scientific, philosophical and social implications that this type of research entails. Needless to add, how terrible it would be if technologies of this nature ended up in the wrong hands or were incorporated for an eventual biological warfare. That is why it is necessary to insist on demanding, as the ETC Group did once it learned of the existence of “Sinthia”, an urgent moratorium on the release and commercialization of artificial organisms.

To increase our reasonable ethical concerns and about the imminent dangers of this supposed "scientific step", on June 28, 2012, it is discovered that the first genetically modified human beings had already been born in the United States. There were thirty babies (half of them were already three years old) and two contained genes from three different parents.

So we are witnessing the uncontrolled growth of a pseudoscience, which, based on a controversial interpretation of freedom in scientific research, has put itself at the service entirely of excessive profit and personal ambitions and powerful private interests. Here, the rigor and precautions that should exist in all scientific activity are skipped, mainly when what is being manipulated are living beings, that if the "certainty" fails, very common when money is the one that imposes the rules and objectives, implications for all humanity could prove disastrous.

Precisely those powerful economic interests that are behind all this dangerous technology, make it possible for the few uncomfortable voices that arise from science, appealing to ethics, the common good and caution or demonstrating with their studies the risks to which we are exposed , they are immediately attacked by an impressive battery of men of "science", very well paid for this "commendable" work. Such is the recent case of Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, who in 2012 found tumors in rats that consumed transgenic corn or were exposed to a pesticide from the Monsanto company. Also in the past the same discredit was suffered by Rachel Carson when she published her work "Silent Spring" in 1962.

Pedro Rivera Ramos [[email protected]]