I have a new essay, "Synthetic Biology 1.0", just published on Future Brief. Here are the first few 'graphs:
Open development of biological technology is crucial to US domestic security and to the health of our economy.
Misuse of this technology in bioterrorism is a clear threat. Our first response to recent domestic bioterror attacks, and to evidence of bioweapon programs abroad, has been to pursue safety in regulation. However, it is already clear that action to limit domestic access to materials and methods will produce only illusory safety. Reagents required for genetic manipulation are available from manufacturers outside the U.S. Synthetic genes can be ordered with equal ease from fabrication labs in Seattle and Tehran .
Beyond access to the infrastructure of sequencing and synthesis, which enables attempts at state-of-the-art genetic manipulation, the practical knowledge required to assemble objects and processes in cellular and molecular systems is proliferating globally. Moreover, biological technologies are being developed globally, and they will be as useful worldwide in developing new crops, drugs, and industrial products as they will be in producing weapons. These factors considerably expand the scope of our security problem.
Ensuring domestic physical security and economic competitiveness requires a long-term plan to integrate public and private sector interests. Serious consideration should be given to the role of government in establishing the design and production infrastructure for biological engineering. In particular, investing in engineering tools as a goal of federal research policy will enable safer and more rapid progress in all areas of biology...
Follow the link to Future Brief for a PDF. The link only just went live today, and there is already some nice commentary over at WorldChanging.