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Could Venters Artificial Life have Green Applications?

Of course this is still breaking news, but Craig Venter’s team announcement that they had created artificial life in the lab will potentially have ramifications across a range of areas. One could take a calm approach and say that, similar to the furore over the ‘Dolly the Sheep’ cloning in the 1990’s, that it will be sometime before the full ‘commercial’ application of this new technology will actually become available. Not to mention that the kinks (of which there are bound to be to, particularly when they try to move from a simple basic life form to something more elaborate, and potentially useful) in the system will have to be worked out.

The synthetic (genome-wise) cell has many potential applications for the green and sustainability area. From the potential to create a cell system that would for example ‘eat’ the oil spill that is wrecking havoc off the US coast or similarly breakdown green house gases such as methane, to the potential applications as an alternative fuel source. So many applications and way too many for Craig Venter to develop alone. One suspects the licensing potential behind this development is huge. I saw Venter speak at a high-tech conference in MIT many years ago and he definitely has the drive and the commercial acumen to turn this discovery into a multi-billion dollar operation. Which many suspect was the whole plan all along.

Yet, with many great breakthroughs, it may be some time before its full potential, and pitfalls, are known. One only has to look at the long road for GM crops to know this won’t always be an easy sell with a Western population that is probably more uneasy about science than it has been in a long time. The debate, and the arguments, start here…

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