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Synthetic Biology Raises Its Profile, and New Concerns

GenomeWeb this week reported on the findings of a new poll designed to gauge public awareness of synthetic biology. Conducted by Scientific Blogging, the poll of 1,001 American adults found that 90 percent of them think the public should be better informed about emerging technologies like synthetic biology and nanotechnology. About 22 percent of respondents had heard of synthetic biology, up from 9 percent last year. However, said Geoff Garin, of Scientific Blogging, “Regardless of their awareness of synthetic biology, or where they come down on the risk-benefit tradeoff, a strong majority of adults think this research should be regulated by the federal government.” He suggested that narratives about synthetic biology, such as the one recently published in the New Yorker, can help demonstrate that “brilliant people working on synthetic biology are motivated by values—just as citizens concerned about the technology are motivated by values in forming their opinions of the work.”

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