We’re beginning to see the earliest signs of the “garage startup” genetic engineering company:
In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.
Regardless of what any particular hobbyist or entrepreneur is actually looking for, if you have enough people experimenting there is a good chance they will find something remarkable (what Nassim “black swan” Taleb calls “stochastic tinkering“). Unfortunately there is also a downside:
Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog organization, warned that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage.
Here’s hoping a balance can be struck between regulation and innovation.