MEDIA RELEASE: Precautionary Oversight for Synthetic Biology

Tuesday March 13, 2012 —

Today the Biotechnology Reference Group of The Canadian Council of Churches is one group within a broad coalition of 111 organizations from around the world who have endorsed The Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biology. This is the first global civil society declaration to outline principles to be established to safeguard public health and the environment from the novel risks of synthetic biology, to ensure open, meaningful and full public participation in decisions regarding its uses and to address the field’s economic, social and ethical challenges. “These principles should be adopted to protect public health and the environment from the risks posed by synthetic biology,” said Anne Mitchell, chair of the Biotechnology Reference Group.

The synthetic biology industry is expanding rapidly, with a market value in 2011 of over $1.6 billion that is expected to reach $10.8 billion by 2016. However, there has been little to no governance of the industry or assessment of the novel risks posed by synthetic organisms. Synthetic biology is “extreme genetic engineering” — not just reading and rearranging genetic code, but writing it to create new genes, genetic traits and possibly entire life forms from scratch. “Self-regulation of the synthetic biology industry simply won’t work. Current laws and regulations around biotechnology are outdated and inadequate, said Andy Kimbrell, Executive Director of the International Center for Technology Assessment.

“Until these governance principles are in place, we join the call for a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms and products,” added Jim Rusthoven, former chair of the Biotechnology Reference Group. Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, has stated that, “it is our obligation to safeguard the future, to be wise in our development and use of technologies which could threaten humans and the Earth.”

The full report will be available online at:

The Canadian Council of Churches is a non-profit organization of Christian unity in diversity. In existence for over 65 years, we are 23 denominations from the Anglican, Evangelical, Catholic, Historic Reform, Free Church, and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox traditions, representing in those 23 denominations 85% of the Christians in Canada.


If you would like more information about this event and endorsement, please contact Mr. Peter Noteboom via email at or call 416.939.3595.
Download Principles for Oversight of Synthethic Biology.

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