After genome pioneer J Craig Venter announced the creation o ‘synthetic’ life, the scientific world is vigorously debating the merits and demerits of Craig’s seemingly dramatic work.
Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania said that Venter and his team’s achievement “undermines a fundamental belief about the nature of life that is likely to prove as momentous to our view of ourselves and our place in the Universe as the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, Darwin and Einstein”.
The US government’s reaction was more guarded with President Barack Obama announcing that the White House bioethics committee would submit a report within six months about the “genuine concerns” raised by this development.
India’s premier geneticist Dr P M Bhargava, who set up the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, was categorical that Venter, though a fine scientist, had this time around overstated his work’s significance.According to him, Venter’s team took a cell, removed its DNA and replaced it with a host of other material. This can at best be called a massive bit of genetic engineering.