Team:KU Leuven/Human Practices

From 2013.igem.org

iGem

Secret garden

Congratulations! You've found our secret garden! Follow the instructions below and win a great prize at the World jamboree!


  • A video shows that two of our team members are having great fun at our favourite company. Do you know the name of the second member that appears in the video?
  • For one of our models we had to do very extensive computations. To prevent our own computers from overheating and to keep the temperature in our iGEM room at a normal level, we used a supercomputer. Which centre maintains this supercomputer? (Dutch abbreviation)
  • We organised a symposium with a debate, some seminars and 2 iGEM project presentations. An iGEM team came all the way from the Netherlands to present their project. What is the name of their city?

Now put all of these in this URL:http://2013.igem.org/Team:KU_Leuven/(firstname)(abbreviation)(city), (loose the brackets and put everything in lowercase) and follow the very last instruction to get your special jamboree prize!

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Top-down and regulations

We noticed after speaking to the general public and the farmers about our project that they were convinced that the government would have performed a thorough and sufficient safety assessment of our BanAphids before approval and allowing their release on the market. This is an excellent example of top-down structured human practices, where the government is the central decision maker, formulating regulations.

As the impact of synthetic biology is exponentially increasing and our project being part of that, we evaluated our project against the background of the scientific literature on biosafety, biosecurity and justice in synthetic biology. This normative evaluation shows that we actively reflected on the potential impact of our project. To give this top-down approach a strong foundation, we used the work of the philosopher Hans Jonas to further elaborate on the notion of responsibility.

Nevertheless, the top-down structure which operates from a third person perspective sometimes fails because scientists or the general public have the feeling that they are not being heard and they feel restricted by laws and regulations. A prime example of this is the Monsanto matter we have all heard so much about this year. Monsanto is a sustainable agricultural company that manufactures GMOs. This year the public has spoken up, such as Millions Against Monsanto, and appealed to the Senate to amend the 2013 Farm Bill that would have guaranteed US states the right to enact mandatory GMO labelling laws. The fact that this amendment was rejected is a statement to how the top-down structure can fail sometimes and that a new approach is vital.

New additional approach: Bottom-up or ethics from within!

In order to improve communication between different stakeholders and achieve reciprocal understanding in early stages of the project, we decided to develop a new additional approach from which the government, scientists, the public and even the industry can benefit.

This new approach is bottom-up structured where the dialogue between philosophers, scientists and the general public is central. And with the help of a unique collaboration between a philosophy student who joined the KU Leuven iGEM team and the general public we have developed a new and strong framework for this approach.

What are the strengths?
- Dialogue: Through dialogue we involve all stakeholders from the beginning of the process.
- Ethics from within: No third person or ‘outsider’ standpoint, but constant dialogue.
- Recognition: By bridging the gap between the government, the scientists, philosophers and the general public, all parties receive proper recognition.
- Philosophers: By using the work of well-known philosophers, our new developed approach gets a strong foundation. 


- Input: By actively seeking the opinion of local industries, private and industrial end-users and the general public, their inputs shape the improvements of our project. What we learned here influenced our project design and led to the creation of two different systems, the spray or honedew system and the sticker system. This early dialogue approach led to a lot of positive media attention and a high acceptance of our project by the future customer.

This new additional approach is unique within the iGEM competition and we consider this approach a new starting point for human practices.