Perhaps the most immediate existential threat comes from risky biological experiments being carried out around the world. After the Anthrax Letters scare in 2001, an advanced type of biocontainment laboratory, the BSL-4 lab, began to mushroom across the globe, where the deadliest and most contagious pathogens are studied. Research in these new labs is creating novel, human-made pathogens that are more lethal than anything ever formed in nature. Because these new pathogens are being developed during a time where humanity is more connected than we’ve ever been before, an accidental release of one of them could drive humanity to extinction. But considering the stakes, there is an astounding lack of oversight of the fields of molecular biology, synthetic biology and virology. And because of the rise of corporate interests in the fields and the competition among groups from different universities and nations, no one is entirely certain just how many of these labs there are in the world. This is a problem, because each risky experiment potentially poses a new existential threat. Perhaps most unsettling of all, the biotech field has an unsettling track record of recklessness and accidents that some in the biosecurity field expect will result in catastrophe. It’s just a matter of time. (Original score by Point Lobo www.pointlobo.com.)
- Beth Willis, former chair, Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee
- Dr Lynn Klotz, senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Get Biotechnology on a shirt, mug, sticker and more!