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Policy on Synthetic Biology


Synthetic biology UPSC: Relevance

  • GS 3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.


Synthetic biology policy: Context

  • Recently, Department of Biotechnology has released a draft foresight paper on synthetic biology and has stressed upon the need for a national policy that can consolidate India’s stand on the issue.


What is synthetic biology?

  • Synthetic biology meaning: Synthetic biology refers to the science of using genetic sequencing, editing, and modification to create unnatural organisms or organic molecules that can function in living systems.
  • Synthetic biology enables scientists to design and synthesise new sequences of DNA from scratch.


Synthetic biology applications

  • The applications of synthetic biology ranges from developing synthetic organisms for vaccination to creating natural products in a lab such as vanillin, (the organic compound extracted from vanilla seeds), which can now be grown in yeasts with additional plant genomes.
  • Pharmaceutical industry: Synthetic biology can be used to make natural compounds such as artemisinin that is used for the treatment of malaria and Car T cell therapy for cancer treatment.
  • Fashion industry: Some companies are exploring the possibility of dyeing jeans without producing hazardous waste.
  • Agriculture: Companies are also delivering fixed nitrogen to plants instead of using fertilisers, engineering microbes to create food additives or brew proteins.


Policy on synthetic biology: Why needed?

  • Rapid growth: Synthetic biology is rapidly evolving with new discoveries happening every year; thus, it is time to create a policy for synthetic biology now more than ever. Soon we will start to see some products and we need to be ready with the regulatory framework.
  • Risk vs benefits: There is also a need to look at the benefits of the products and the risk it poses to biodiversity.


Synthetic biology in India

  • India is rich in biodiversity. Though a benefit, synthetic biology can also have adverse impacts such as escaping into the environment and recombining with existing biodiversity.
  • All these prospects have to be studied before devising a policy on synthetic biology.


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