Craig Venter “Joining 3.5 Billion Years of Microbial Invention”

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 02008 by Stewart Brand
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Craig Venter

Decoding and recoding life

To really read DNA accurately and understand it thoroughly, you need to be able to write it from scratch and make it live, Venter explained.

His sequencing the first diploid human genome (with the genes from both parents) last year showed there is much more genetic variation between humans than first thought. His current goal is to fully sequence 10,000 humans and bring the price for each sequence down to $1,000. With that data, his says, “We’ll begin to really learn what’s nature and what’s nurture…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

  • This sounds great. I’m glad to see the progess that has been made. And happy the public is being told about it.


  • J.L. Johnson

    Sixty percent of my body mass is water.

    Of what remains, only one-tenth is “human”.

    I feel less like a homeowner and more like a tenant in a very large apartment building.

    The Buddhists are right… my sense of “self” is highly exaggerated, if not an outright illusion.

    In the modern quest to understand the Sacred Universe, Venter’s research is every bit as significant as deep space astronomy and particle physics.

  • scratchmark

    When this new wave of bio- manipulation hits the media, I urge you to beware of ‘scary memes’.
    I hope that Venter, Enriquez et al will think to consult with some branding experts before some of these new ideas (and species) hit the mainstream.
    I keep thinking back to an image that just scared the hell out of a misinformed public- namely that iconic photo of the mouse with the ear growing on its back. Many of us know that what was really happening there was quite benign- an early experiment in tissue engineering on a collagen scaffold, if memory serves- but that image, and images like it became frankenstein-ish deathcards for genetic engineering in the eyes of the lay population.
    People like Venter and Enriquez are on the noble mission of actually trying to save the world with biotechnology, which people like me eagerly applaud- just please, make sure that when the banner flies, it shows the world a kinder face this time.

  • Taking Craig Venter’s remarks at Politics and Prose serioiusly (That he feels it is his obligation to educate the world out of its superstitions about genetic engineering), I want to invite him to discuss lateral gene transfer in Nature and other ‘normalizing’ insights into genetic modification and synthetic life in a national sustainable agriculture publication.

    Although I’ve made several requests to his media person at his Rockville offices (and pushed those requests through a call to his personal assistant), I have yet to receive as much as an acknowledgement of my request, let alone an interview appointment.

    I certainly know that the man is busy, but, at the same time, I think that addressing the ‘natural farming’ community is a great opportunity for throwing some light into some dark corners of misunderstanding.

    Any have any suggestions for me?


    -Allan Balliett

  • Bruno Grieco

    A couple of remarks regarding Craig Venter’s speech :

    I’m not sure the presented population growth graph holds. As we saw in “The Depopulation Problem” lecture, and I carefully checked the brazillian rates after that speech, tendencies seem to be quite the opposite. Also, I’m not sure that GMOs are the answer for the food problem. AFAIK, there isn’t a food problem. The world currently produces enough food for all. What happens is that not every one may afford it. It’s a social problem, not a scientific one.

    Craig presented a “software” analogy for his research:”The software produces it’s own hardware”, “soon garage biohackers will be around” etc. But I see no resemblance of the Bio Industry with the Software Industry to support this analogy. Software Industry was mainly a part of Engineering until the PC revolution in the 80s. To study software you needed a Mainframe computer available only in universities and large companies. What boosted it was the availability of home PCs. After that, another revolution stroke. Richard Stallman (someone who LongNow should really invite) created the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project.

    Free software is one of the cornerstones of aiding developing countries. Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is based on it. It’s an immediate way of returning to society the benefits of scientific investments.

    Unfortunately there is no such project equivalent in Bio Research. Attempts to create public domain bioproducts have failed miserably. An university in Canada who publically released the rights for GM lab rats have suffered boycott from funding societies. Tagged genes have been patented by other universities and are sold only with royalty based contracts.

    So, are GM vegetables a cure for hunger ? I don’t think so. Monsanto “license” their seeds on a crop basis. You can not spare some corn seeds, obtained from this crop for the next one because it will be considered “piracy”. The cost/benefit for developed countries is worthwhile, but not for the poor countries. GMOs will probably do more harm to their thriving economy than good. Not to mention the loss of genetic variety. A plague that sucessfully attacks a GMO will probably wipe out the whole food surplus.

    Folowing this same line of thinking, the same applies to the energy problem. Having a CO2 metaboliser bacteria is FANTASTIC. Licensing it’s use is TERRIBLE.

    Let’s consider a completely fictious scenario: Developed countries fully embrace this technology and convert their power plants to CO2 processing facilities; There will be an immense fossil fuel surplus, that will be considered dirty, hence it’s price will fall. This surplus would be an excelent resource of energy for poor countries, that would be able to invest in cheap petrochemical plants and industries. But that would be considered unnaceptable, and those countries would be forced to use a more expensive sollution. We already have a war going on to secure the oil monopoly. We might as well have another to prevent those countries from using the oil nobody wants.

    It’s not that I am against the Biological researches going on, although I see deep ethical problems with Embryonic Stem Cell Research, my point is that I disagree on the way this new technology will be returned to the general public.

    I’m not sure humanity’s future will be only garanteed by investing in high tech science. In my point of view, most of this research targets the individual per se, it proposes a better life for you and a better life for your community by improving it’s members lifes. There isn’t much research on the other way around. Mostly because it’s hard to sell such idea.

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  • May

    “CO2 metabolising” bacteria – Call me old fashioned but is this process still called photosynthesis?
    Like algae and other plant species are programmed to perform?

  • His current goal is to fully sequence 10,000 humans and bring the price for each sequence down to $1,000. The new MMORPG of atlantica power leveling is hot now, we are providing the cheap atlantica power leveling service for you. With that data, his says, “We’ll begin to really learn what’s nature and what’s nurture.”

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