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Bioethics Essay

Do the potential contributions to society warrant the potential risks inherent in synthetic biology?


By the conclusion of this research and writing activity, you should have :

    • researched the field of synthetic biology and its potential as a transformative technology
    • presented a clear and strong thesis statement about synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
    • used rhetoric and detail to present a strong argument that supports your thesis
    • explained synthetic biology concepts thoroughly and accurately
    • properly cited trustworthy research references
    • Define and properly use synthetic biology terms:
    • Abstraction DNA Synthesis iGEM
    • Define and properly use molecular genetics terms:

Biosafety Levels



Synthetic biology has emerged only recently as an engineering discipline. At this point, the field has more potential than accomplishment. Some people see an incredible potential that includes cures for diseases, biosynthetic fuels and houses that are grown from gourds. Other people question the safety of a process that involves altering genomes. There are some key enabling technologies, like DNA synthesis, that will make the building of biology easier — so easy that anyone could biohack the living world. But what happens then? Asked another way: what can you envision as the best and the worst outcomes for our world if we get good at coding cells in scalable, reliable and robust ways. And are there things we can do to tip the balance towards better outcomes?

Your Assignment

Investigate synthetic biology using some or all of the following resources:

PART 2: Write an Essay

Then write an essay in which you address this question: Do the potential contributions to society warrant the potential risks inherent in synthetic biology?

As you write the essay be sure to:

  • Provide an overview of the field of synthetic biology.
  • Describe some of synthetic biology’s potential benefits.
  • Describe some of synthetic biology’s potential risks.
  • Take a stand on the balance of risk to reward and explain your argument.
  • Examine the Bioethics Essay Grading Rubric.