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Gene Modified Algae are Safe? 23

Sapphire Energy is on to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel.
But efforts to genetically engineer algae, which usually means to splice in genes from other organisms, worry some experts because algae play a vital role in the environment. The single-celled photosynthetic organisms produce much of the oxygen on earth and are the base of the marine food chain.
Sapphire says it is not growing any genetically engineered algae in open ponds yet. When it is ready, it says, it will comply with all regulations.

Genetically engineered algae, whether in open ponds or enclosed bioreactors, are likely to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which now regulates genetically engineered microbes under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
In this context Craig Venter of Synthetic Genomics had this to say that no algae would escape from the labs. Nothing will go into the drains.

In the long run, Dr. Venter said, the algae should be given 'suicide genes' that would kill them if they escaped the lab or fuel production facility.
Fri August 06 2010 05:41:13 AM by Veronica gene modification  |  Sapphire energy  |  Synthetic Genomics  |  Craig venter 2352 views

Comments - 21

  • Pami wrote:
    Fri August 06 2010 06:34:39 AM

    Ya...Suicide genes are must and environenmental agencies should look into GMOs positively and grant permission without creating a frankenstien image upon Genetically altered algae thereby invoking public to protest against them!!

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  • Fri August 06 2010 11:42:49 AM

    Might the 'suicide gene' simply be the requirement for an extremely high concentration of CO2, not found in nature? Modified algae that thrives in a high CO2 environment, rapidly doubling as a result of reduction of quorum sensing, could be unable to compete in nature.

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  • Georgeonik wrote:
    Fri August 06 2010 08:15:21 PM

    Selective breeding is to me a more desirable method of finding a safe culture with the traits we need for the application. I would much rather focus on the mechanical aspects of growing algae so that we have the process which will promote growths at close to the theoretical limit of the organism without proprietary genetic strains. Open architecture, if you would.

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  • Manohar wrote:
    Fri August 06 2010 11:48:34 PM

    Regulation Regulation and regulation as Shankar has been repeatedly advocating is the key.
    In Pakistan, the technology to make a nuclear plant and a nuclear bomb has been sold to some one in Afganisthan by the former chief of one of Pakistan's plant.
    Bio terrorism. regulate or be prepared for bio terrorism.

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  • Andy wrote:
    Sat August 07 2010 02:18:30 AM

    I agree that regulations are essential and hope that it is those who know what they are talking about who write and enforce them - I wouldn't like regular politicians who don't know much about science of any kind to be responsible for some media friendly but ineffective or dangerous regulations.

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  • Andy wrote:
    Sat August 07 2010 02:22:47 AM

    Does anyone here know anything about this research into making short carbon chains by altering the genes in soybean roots: http://news.discovery.com/tech/gasoline-fuel-energy-air.html ? The article says that getting fuel from soybeans is a long way off, but if similar research is being done with algae, could the relevant genetically modified enzymes be put into algae DNA?

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  • Emily wrote:
    Sat August 07 2010 02:28:59 AM

    @ Shankar Veronica, Pami, Blake, Georgeonik


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  • Emily wrote:
    Sat August 07 2010 02:32:24 AM

    @ Andy
    This is for you too

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  • Arnoldboer wrote:
    Sat August 07 2010 09:14:37 PM

    How "stable" are algae? In other words; Is there a change that the GM-algae lose their suicide-gene due to evolution? Bacteria and virusses are known to be able to evolve very quickly. Does anyone of you know if this is also the case with algae?

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  • Sun August 08 2010 02:32:40 AM

    @ Georgeonik

    OPen architecture - i guess you mean no GM.
    The fact on the other side is that there is 1 billion population that go without food. There is a shortage of water. Water for cultivation.
    The population is increasing and our out put in agriculture is not matching upto it.
    That is why they say that let each nation decide the permission or non permission of GM products based on their own assessment of health and environment impacts.
    This will surely lead to poor countries opting for
    GM food. In fact rich countries will dump their GM produce in poor countries.

    Coming back to your idea of mechanical aspects of growing, the total need for land where algae will have to be cultivated is huge, unless the efficiency is increased by some means.

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  • Shankar wrote:
    Sun August 08 2010 03:25:03 AM

    Interesting question Arnoldboer !

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  • Georgeonik wrote:
    Sun August 08 2010 03:30:29 AM

    @ MiaFranceska

    NO GM! Please don't confuse observation with personal opinion. GMO is already here to stay. We are living in the middle of the single greatest extinction event in history. We are the experiment. It is currently under way. Has sustainability now become a politically incorrect question? How many humans on planet Earth is going to be enough? Unfortunately, the poor countries will again bear the greatest burden of pain and catastrophe. A few feet of ocean rising will cover most of Bangladesh. Where will they go? Where can they go? Every dire, worst case scenario on the current global warming prediction list has been too conservative. The numbers are much worse than we speculated they should be at this time in the curve. Look at the big powers circling the oil supplies. How long before war touches everyone? Should we just keep making humans as fast as we can? Maybe we should just go ahead and pave the planet now.

    My vision is for a distributed system of algae reactors. A model "T" for the production of algae oil and by products. It must use water like a scrooge. It must be simple and dependable and available to everyone. They must be able to occupy non agricultural land. A very important by product of algal production might well be purified water for consumption, not agriculture.

    Western society is totally unprepared for a future with out the incredible number of products that are made from or dependent on oil. That is why the United States is fighting in the mid-east. That is the cost of empire. Americans are reluctant to see themselves as an empire. We are not comfortable with empire but an empire we are. The planetary question we must all deal with is not the sword but the hand that wields it. The greatest challenge of this century won't just be climate change and oil shortages but the rights of the individual against the new super-constitutional rights of global corporations. Make no mistake. Money is the hand that holds the sword. Our current form of predatory capitalism is like a bad parasite. A good parasite does not kill the host! Sadly, as I watch the Wall Street gambling houses running wild I wonder how long they can keep the train on the tracks. Algae and its production might well become an issue of personal survival in a very uncertain world.

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  • Krupali wrote:
    Tue August 10 2010 10:15:51 PM

    Genetically engineered algae, whether in open ponds or enclosed bioreactors, are likely to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which now regulates genetically engineered microbes under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

    Still, there has been at least one case in which genetically modified algae seem to have fallen between the regulatory cracks.

    When Mera Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Hawaii, wanted to test the feasibility of producing human pharmaceuticals in genetically engineered algae in 2005, none of the three federal agencies that regulate the various areas of biotechnology ? E.P.A., the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department ? claimed jurisdiction.

    Steven G. Chalk, acting deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy at the Energy Department, said any federally financed project, like Sapphire?s New Mexico demonstration, would have to undergo an environmental assessment. But risks would be assessed case by case, he said, not for all conceivable genetically modified algae.


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  • Richard wrote:
    Wed August 11 2010 03:32:33 PM

    Looks like GM will go out of control sooner than later.

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  • Larsyn wrote:
    Wed August 11 2010 04:32:58 PM

    Every product produced from algae should be labeled GMO or NO GMO. Let the public choose.

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  • Shankar wrote:
    Wed August 11 2010 10:39:29 PM

    @ Krupali and others

    Algae are attracting attention because the strains can potentially produce 10 or more times more fuel per acre than the corn used to make ethanol or the soybeans used to make biodiesel.

    Moreover, algae might be grown on arid land and brackish water, so that fuel production would not compete with food production.

    And algae are voracious consumers of carbon dioxide, potentially helping to keep some of this greenhouse gas from contributing to global warming.

    Everyone is now trying to domesticate algae by gene modification or genetic engineering.

    The objective is to make it a crop.
    All that I am saying is that in the attempt to domesticate, we shouldnt land up with demons.

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  • Mahesh wrote:
    Thu August 12 2010 08:09:27 AM

    I strongly suggest all to stay with nature, as GM can pose problems on any day...

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  • Natalia wrote:
    Thu August 12 2010 03:14:01 PM


    Cant agree more !

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  • Shankar wrote:
    Thu August 12 2010 03:20:13 PM

    of 12 March 2001
    on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms and repealing

    This is what i have been able to lay hands on for Europe. For usa or other countries, if any of you have any pl post here.


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  • Arden wrote:
    Sat August 14 2010 10:45:47 AM

    Am sure there must be some risk assesment guidelines for usa too.

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  • Alice123 wrote:
    Mon December 10 2012 08:12:22 AM

    gone are the days of formal two-section also known as three-fragment works with utilizing brings together good north face apex bionic warm enough quite possibly cravats which has a ushanka since the fluffy winter layer.

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