Fwd: Kickstarter is funding the world’s first intentional release of synthetic organisms: help stop it!

Simon Fairlie chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
Tue Jun 4 01:10:47 BST 2013

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "ETC Group" <ETC_Group at mail.vresp.com>
> Date: 4 June 2013 00:53:08 BDT
> To: chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
> Subject: Kickstarter is funding the world’s first intentional  
> release of synthetic organisms: help stop it!
> Reply-To: "ETC Group"  
> <reply-73a2b3a73d-4d6a365db8-4930 at u.cts.vresp.com>
> [ click to view this email in a browser | forward this message ]
>  Help KickStop Synthetic Biology Kickstarter
> Dear friends,
> On June 7, the US crowdfunding site Kickstarter.com will hand over  
> more than $400,000 to a private biotech company to fund a large,  
> uncontrolled and unregulated release of organisms produced through  
> synthetic biology – an extreme form of genetic engineering. If,  
> like us, you thought Kickstarter was a platform to help artists  
> make art, their role in kickstarting serious genetic pollution may  
> surprise you. We are now launching a campaign to stop it and we  
> need your help.
> Specifically, we are asking you to help in 2 ways:
> 1) Put pressure on Kickstarter to drop this terrible project THIS  
> WEEK (before Friday 7 June) by signing an online petition and using  
> social media.
> 2) Support ETC's new “KickStopper” campaign with a donation.
> Below you will find background information on this new threat and  
> what you can do to help stop it – this week and in the longer term.
> Thank you.
> Pat, Silvia, Kathy Jo, Jim, Neth, Verónica and Joelle
> ETC Group
> -------------
> Kickstarting Synthetic Biology Pollution
> For the last month, the crowdfunding website Kickstarter has hosted  
> a project by 3 biohackers from California's Bay Area who are  
> associated with the private synthetic biology company, Genome  
> Compiler Corporation. They asked the public for money to carry out  
> a project to bioengineer a common weed to glow in the dark. What is  
> most alarming is that they also promised to send 100 seeds of their  
> bioengineered weed to anyone who backed the project with $40. To  
> date, they have more than 6,000 backers who have given more than  
> $40 – that’s 600,000 synthetically engineered seeds! – and have  
> raised more than $400,000.
> To ETC Group’s knowledge, this will be the first-ever release of an  
> organism avowedly produced through synthetic biology anywhere in  
> the world, and it won't be just one organism but hundreds of  
> thousands – sent through the mail and delivered across the USA.  
> There is a strong international consensus that synthetic organisms  
> are too poorly understood and their environmental impacts are too  
> uncertain to be released into the environment, deliberately or  
> otherwise.
> 116 Civil society organisations have called for a moratorium on any  
> release of synthetic organisms. The UN Convention on Biological  
> Diversity has urged countries to exercise precaution. Even the US  
> President’s advisors have cautioned against environmental release.  
> Yet, incredibly, the Kickstarter biohackers have said they will  
> design their synthetic organism in a way that evades existing  
> regulations – meaning, they will intentionally evade oversight,  
> assessment and monitoring.
> You can read more about the Kickstarter biohackers at http:// 
> www.etcgroup.org/kickstopper   or from this article in the  
> Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/l-jim-thomas/ 
> synthetic-biology-kickstarter_b_3247151.html
> Kicking Back
> ETC Group, working with Friends of the Earth and others, has  
> written to the biohackers, the US government and to Kickstarter to  
> ask them to stop the project on grounds of safety and precaution.  
> The folks at Kickstarter have existing ethical guidelines and have  
> discretion to stop a project that is too risky or that is primarily  
> aimed at awareness-raising (which is exactly what the biohackers  
> say is the goal of their project) . Kickstarter will not fund  
> projects involving sunglasses and energy drinks, but synthetic  
> organisms do not seem to trouble them! Kickstarter refused to  
> engage in discussion with us on the issues; we even applied to  
> Kickstarter to run a counter-project – the KickStopper! (See  
> below).They turned that down, too.
> There is now one week before Kickstarter hands money to the  
> biohackers to go ahead with their syn bio pollution project, and so  
> we are turning to you for help.
> Two things you can do:
> 1) Put Pressure NOW on Kickstarter to change their mind. Help them  
> see why it’s not in their interest to become the one-stop shop for  
> releasing biotech pollution. They could still pull the plug on the  
> project before next Friday.
> Petition:  Avaaz.org has set up a petition calling on Kickstarter  
> to see sense and stop funding the release of bioengineered  
> organisms. Please sign the petition and send it to all your  
> friends, colleagues and relations – share it on Facebook, twitter  
> and any lists you are part of.  http://www.avaaz.org/en/gm_on_steroids
> Email: We also encourage you to send your own messages of concern  
> to Kickstarter. You can email press at kickstarter.com or  
> support at kickstarter.com
> Social Media: You can post your concerns on Kickstarter's Facebook  
> page: https://www.facebook.com/Kickstarter
> Twitter: You can send tweets to the 3 founders of Kickstarter:
> @ystrickler  @perrychen or @cadler.  A possible tweet:
> @ystrickler @perrychen  @cadler Please stop @kickstarter from  
> funding uncontrolled release of risky synthetic biology organisms.
> 2) Back the KickStopper campaign Watch the video and donate.
> If Kickstarter doesn’t see sense by Friday, then ETC intends to  
> work with other partners to mount a longer term campaign to prevent  
> the Kickstarter biohackers from ever releasing the seeds they  
> develop. We are calling it KickStopper!
> Stopping the seeds won't be easy and unlike the biohackers we don't  
> have corporate backing and $400,000 in Kickstarter funds. We do  
> however have a good record of stopping other biotech seeds such as  
> Terminator (a.k.a. suicide seeds) – we just need a bit of cash for  
> a campaign.
> When Kickstarter rejected our KickStopper proposal, we set up a  
> crowdfunding project on Indiegogo.com. You can see the video  
> explaining the campaign and also donate here:
> http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/kickstopper-stopping-syn-bio- 
> pollution
> We have partnered with a group of amazing artist-activists and as  
> part of the campaign we intend to produce a comic book detailing  
> how we worked with others to stop the Kickstarter biohackers from  
> perpetrating the world’s first environmental release of synthetic  
> biology organisms. We will send copies of the book to those who  
> donate to the campaign – as well as stickers, t-shirts and other  
> fun perks.
> Please consider donating to KickStopper! Every dollar counts and  
> helps show that there is widespread opposition to the biohackers’  
> irresponsible plans.
> Let’s save the world from syn bio pollution before it starts.
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