March 25, 2011

President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues - The Ethics of Synthetic Biology

March 25, 2011 9:00 – 11:00 AM

In December of 2010 the Presidential Commission on Bioethics released a new report calling for enhanced oversight of synthetic biology. Join us at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on March 25, 2011 to discuss this new report with representatives from the Presidential Commission as well as representatives from the European Commission.

The Bioethics Commission’s report is the result of over six months of discussion and deliberation and advocates a principle of “prudent vigilance,” where benefits and risks are assessed both before and after projects are undertaken. However, the report mentions little about accountability. “For the Commission’s work to have lasting impact, progress towards these recommendations needs to be measured, data made publically available, and pressure maintained on the implementing parties,” said David Rejeski, Director of the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The United States is not alone in its effort to govern/regulate the emerging field of synthetic biology without stunting its progress. Under the auspices of the European Group on Ethics (EGE), the European Union published Opinion n* 25 – Ethics of Synthetic Biology, recommending that governance of such a complex and rapidly changing field requires a multi-pronged approach. The EGE has, for example, agreed that, apart from safety issues associated with synthetic biology, ethical, legal and political governance of this emerging field is needed in the EU and worldwide to ensure the interests of society are met. Such an approach encourages fair and rational discussions, both between the public and synthetic biology stakeholders and between countries.

Join us on March 25th for a transatlantic discussion of the implications and governance of synthetic biology.

Download the Bioethics Commission's report here.

Download the EGE report here.

At the end of the event there will be a short question and answer session. If you are viewing the webcast, please send questions to with "BIOETHICS QUESTION" in the subject line and the speakers will answer as many as possible.