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  • 01 Sep 2022 GS Paper 3 Science & Technology

    Day 53: Synthetic biology has been described as a disruptive technology at the heart of the Bioeconomy, capable of delivering new solutions to global healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and environmental challenges. Discuss. (250 Words)



    • Briefly define Synthetic biology.
    • Describe the applicability of Synthetic biology.
    • Discuss the challenges of Synthetic biology.
    • Conclude suitably.


    The term ‘synthetic biology’ was first used by Barbara Hobomin in 1980, to describe bacteria that had been genetically engineered using recombinant DNA technology. 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 synthesis new sequences of DNA from scratch. The term was used to describe the synthesis of unnatural organic molecules that function in living systems.

    Application of Synthetic Biology

    • Standardized Biological Parts: identify and categorize standardized genomic parts that can be used (and synthesized quickly) to build new biological systems.
    • Applied Protein Design- redesign existing biological parts and expand the set of natural protein functions for new processes. For e.g., Modified rice to produce beta-carotene (a nutrient usually associated with carrots), that prevents Vitamin A deficiency.
    • Natural Product Synthesis- engineer microbes to produce all of the necessary enzymes and biological functions to perform complex multistep production of natural products. For e.g., Microorganisms harnessed for bioremediation (use of living microorganisms to degrade environmental contaminants into less toxic forms) to clean pollutants from water, soil and air.
    • Synthetic Genomics- design and construct a ‘simple’ genome for a natural bacterium. For e.g., Yeast engineered to produce rose oil as an eco-friendly and sustainable

    Uses of Synthetic Biology in Preserving Biodiversity and Ecosystem:

    • This technology could be helpful in use for sustainable production of bioenergy, drugs, and food.
    • Interesting application of synbio is its usage for the capture of carbon dioxide from industrial emissions.
    • Further, the captured gas is then recycled to fuels using microorganisms. Potentially, such transformations comprise benefits ranging from protecting threatened species to providing synthetic alternatives to wildlife products. This technology would help us resolve some of society’s most imperative problems from infectious disease to drug development to sustainability.
    • It's helping scientists find the right answers, faster and in a more efficient way and driving them towards the path of innovation.

    Concerns related to Synthetic Biology:

    • Economic concerns: It can create a surge in the economy causing a shift towards biotechnology-based economies. This will affect the rural economy and low-income tropical countries. Natural products are usually grown and harvested in low-income countries; this could be displaced by advancements in synthetic biology
    • Environmental concerns: When a new species is created or when a species is intensely modified, the activity of species and their coexistence with other organisms is unpredictable.
    • Ethical concerns: There is a risk that knowledge from synthetic biology will be misused, for example, in biological terrorism or warfare. To adequately address this concern, bioethics will need to broaden its scope, contemplating not just the means by which scientific knowledge is produced, but also what kinds of knowledge should be sought and disseminated.

    Way Forward

    To be able to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals, there is a need to walk extra miles beyond reducing emissions.

    The need of the hour is to reinstate ecological balance and cut down pollution and plastic waste from our industrial processes and day-to-day activities.

    It's just a part of the solution to the most severe threats to the environment including reducing chemical and plastic pollution, and cling carbon dioxide from the environment, but we as an individual also need to fulfil our responsibility toward the environment.

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