Genetic Engineering: Try this at home

Thinking you might like to start the new year with a new hobby? Tai Chi, passe? Stamp collecting for kids? How about trying your hand at a bit of genetic engineering and becoming a Biohacker? Apparently you can, and plenty of people are, trying it at home, tinkering away trying to invent new species and strains in their garages and kitchens.

Using homemade lab equipment and consulting Dr Google, these home-made genetic scientists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering an area normally reserved for serious academics with degrees longer than your arm in state of the art shiny laboratories.

Yahoo News says that a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where anyone can use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive.

Cofounder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs or biohackers will pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow. Now there is a useful product from genetic engineering it’s exactly this sort of thinking that demonstrates the need for amateurs to be working in the field.

Predictably a biotechnology watchdog organization has warned that do it yourself genetic engineering could result in some sort of doomsday scenario. They claim that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage. Yeah, but dude, glow int he dark tattoos, I think the price is worth it.