Human Practice

Ethical issues are important in the new field of synthetic biology. In literature the four issues of Bhutkar are often used. These four issues, safety, security, the playing God issue and intellectual property are also used as guidelines in this project. In order to gain more knowledge about the opinion of the Dutch people we gave out a survey. This survey was put on our website and handed out to friends and family, a convenience sampling. We did try to reach a mixed public. From our survey it appeared that most people do not mind that bacteria are modified for research nor for our project. Some concerns to exist, mostly about safety risks, 40%, but also about security risks, 30%. Women are more concerned about using genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) than do men, also younger and less educated people tend to be more concerned about the security issues. Overall, most people do approve the usage of modified bacteria for our project, however they expect the researcher and developers to consider the safety risks very carefully. Ethical issues surrounding our project also concern the Dutch. Most people find the risk of bacteria ending up in the natural environment and maybe transferring genes to other bacteria or other unwanted side-effects, the most prominent ethical risks of our project. Also the concentrated amounts of heavy metal in side the bacteria concerns the public. Adding a death gene to the bacteria makes it more controllable and careful removal of the bacteria decreases the risks of the concentrated amounts of heavy metals. From our survey we found that our project is morally correct, however, safety issues should be considered carefully. Read more about the ethical issues of synthetic biology and our project and the results of our survey here.

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