Garage Biology Project: Melamine-detection Bugs

Worried about whether your yogurt is safe?  Drop in some of  Meredith Patterson's home-brew bugs and see if they turn green.  The AP has a short story about Patterson and DIYBio: "Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home".  No surprise that it is a bit short on details.

This story made it as far (temporarily) as the front page of The Huffington Post, which I find interesting.  I wonder whether the editors put it there out of genuine interest or to scare the crap out of their readers.

It's only been eight years since I first speculated about garage biology (PDF), and only three since the topic appeared in Wired (Splice it yourself).  iGEM has only been around since 2004.  Biology, for the most part, remains Open (See, "Thoughts on Open Biology"):

As in 2000, I remain today most interested in maintaining, andenhancing, the ability to innovate.  In particular, I feel that safe and secure innovation is likely to be best achieved through distributed research and through distributed biological manufacturing.  By "Open Biology" I mean access to the tools and skills necessary to participate in that innovation and distributed economy.

I find myself a bit surprised to feel a bit surprised that this is this is all going just as I expected (PDF).  (Aside: if there isn't a name for that, there should be; I predicted X, and not only am I surprised that it is coming true, I am surprised to feel surprised that it is coming true...because I really believed it was going to come true.  I think.)  From the AP story:

[Patterson]  learned about genetic engineering by reading scientific papers and getting tips from online forums. She ordered jellyfish DNA for a green fluorescent protein from a biological supply company for less than $100. And she built her own lab equipment, including a gel electrophoresis chamber, or DNA analyzer, which she constructed for less than $25, versus more than $200 for a low-end off-the-shelf model.

Frankly, I don't know whether to feel relieved or uneasy.  That ambivalence will probably characterize my response to this technology from here on out.  Whether we like it or not, we are about to find out what role garage biology will play in our physical and economic security (Journal article, PDF).