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I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)

Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers), October 6, 2007
Posted: October 19th, 2007

Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth. The announcement ... will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species. A team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome. Using lab-made chemicals, they have [created] a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code. The DNA sequence is based on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium which the team pared down to the bare essentials needed to support life, removing a fifth of its genetic make-up. The wholly synthetically reconstructed chromosome, which the team have christened Mycoplasma laboratorium ... is then transplanted into a living bacterial cell and ... in effect becomes a new life form. The new life form will depend for its ability to replicate itself and metabolise on the molecular machinery of the cell into which it has been injected, and in that sense it will not be a wholly synthetic life form. However, its DNA will be artificial, and it is the DNA that controls the cell and is credited with being the building block of life. [Venter] has further heightened the controversy surrounding his potential breakthrough by applying for a patent for the synthetic bacterium. Pat Mooney, director of a Canadian bioethics organisation, ETC Group, said the move was an enormous challenge to society to debate the risks involved. "Governments, and society in general, is way behind the ball. This is a wake-up call - what does it mean to create new life forms in a test-tube?" He said Mr Venter was creating a "chassis on which you could build almost anything."

Note: For an abundance of reports highlighting the dangers posed by genetic modification, click here.

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