Experts say synthetic biology makes bioterrorism more accessible
by Brandon Lucas
Biodefense and counter-terrorism experts Patrick Rose and Adam Bernier said on Monday that advancements in synthetic biology could give more options to organizations that want to develop and pursue biological weapons.
The pair published a two-part series on CBRNePortal explaining that advancements in synthetic biology and “DIYbio” have made biological weapons more accessible to non-state and terrorist organizations.
“The emergence of synthetic biology and DIYbio has increased the likelihood that Al Qaeda will succeed in developing biological WMDs,” Rose and Bernier said. “The low cost and significantly reduced level of necessary expertise may change how many non-state actors view biological weapons as a worthwhile investment.”
They said the international community should begin to develop a policy that would protect against the intentional misuse of synthetic biology.
“A successful attack with a potent biological weapon, where no pharmaceutical interventions might exist, will be deadly and the impact of such an attack will reverberate around the globe because biological weapons are not bound by international borders,” Rose and Bernier said.
Even in the absence of biological attacks, Rose and Bernier said there are many organizations that are actively seeking biological weapons, including the global Al Qaeda network.
The principal message from Al Qaeda Central and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has included the call to use biological WMDs to terrorize Western nations,” Rose and Bernier said. They said that before the U.S. war on terror, Al Qaeda had built a bio-laboratory, and had started “collecting scientists” to run it.
Rose and Bernier reported that 33 biological terror attacks have occurred globally since 1971, with the majority of biological attacks taking place during 2001.
[Note: Here’s an interesting item sent in my Google e-mail alerts! There have been a number of similar “cautions” about “synthetic biology” (“genetic engineering on steroids”; also nanotechnology that is “synthetic biology on steroids”!) for a while now, but nothing seems to change. Aside from the obvious INTENTIONAL applications of synthetic biology and nanotechnology to terrorism, what about how many “novel” diseases that could be “created” and accidentally infect people and pollute the animals and environment around the globe? If their “creations” are genetically unique then you can’t even test for them. iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation): http://www.igem.org/Main_Page) supplies synthetic biology “kits” to high school and college students around the globe to “do their own thing” with all sorts of genetically engineered bacteria, viruses, etc. Indeed, it is simple for anyone to just go on the internet and buy “DIY” (do-it-yourself) synthetic biology kits and supplies to try it out in your garage (or cave). E.g., see: http://diybio.org/; also, http://singularityhub.com/2010/08/03/making-the-modern-do-it-yourself-biology-laboratory-video/; or just Google it yourself: “synthetic biology” “DIY” = 132,000 hits: https://www.google.com/#q=%22synthetic+biology%22+%22DIY%22. What about unethical and illegal use of synthetic biology in genetically engineering human sperm, oocytes and embryos -- even using coerced/forced surrogacy? What about illegal trafficking of products and applications of synthetic biology and nanotechnology? And speaking of the “singularity”, what about the deep connection between synthetic biology and TRANSHUMANISM? Google Web search: “synthetic biology” “transhumanism” = 711,000 hits: https://www.google.com/#q=%22synthetic+biology%22+%22transhumanism%22. Pandora is long out of the box. Terrorists can find this stuff all over the globe now. The article first appeared here. Hello? Anybody home? -- DNI]