An Open Source biotechnology website called BioForge was just launched by Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS). The 'kernel' contributions
are two new technologies for the genetic modification of plants. The research was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The BIOS launch coincides with
an attempt by Canada to overturn an international moratorium on Terminator GM sterilization technology at a UN meeting in Bangkok - and to "block
consensus" on any other option.
A paper appearing in this week's edition of Nature is antiseptically entitled: "Gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria." But the
information that lies within may herald a revolution in biology.
The paper describes two new technologies: TransBacter, a method for transferring genes to plants, and GUSPlus, a method of visualizing where the genes
are and what they do. Behind the research, which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, is a team of scientists who want to provide the
technologies as a "kernel," modeled on the Linux movement, as the beginning of perhaps the first practical offering in open-source biology.
Researchers who want to develop technologies based on this kernel can use it as they wish if they agree to a flexible license issued by Biological
Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS. The initiative is being spearheaded by Richard Jefferson, also founder of Cambia, an agricultural life science
institute in Canberra, Australia.
For the vision to become reality, BIOS plans to reach out to these entities with its BioForge website, which it launched Wednesday. Scientists can
deposit and obtain scientific information on the site.
"This is important, fundamental agricultural technology moving into the commons," said John Wilbanks, executive director of Science Commons, a group
working to make it easier, and legal, to share scientific data. "This is the type of tool that, in increasing numbers, is being patented. To use the
operating system metaphor, this is Print-F for plant genomics. Imagine trying to build any piece of software if the print function required a patent
Jefferson is interested in seeing small-time farmers, rather than big companies, benefit from his efforts.
Leaked Terminator Documents
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
In fact, "gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria" is really old news, and old biotechnology.
Biotechnology includes genetic modification of food, gene therapy, stem cell therapy, vaccine development and the like. Biotech is expensive, because
the rights to access information cost a lot - and the rights to use the patented technologies cost even more.
Currently, most scientific knowledge is owned privately by international corporations under copyright or as Intellectual Property Rights.
Making scientific information Open Source brings scientific knowledge into the public domain, or as Wilbanks tells it, into the "commons."
I believe in protecting the commons, Open Access and Open Source, yet somehow I cannot get the image of a Trojan Horse out of my head. The timing is
suspicious - Canada intends to overturn an international moratorium on Terminator GM sterilization technology at a UN meeting in Bangkok this week -
and to "block consensus" on any other option.
So is BIOS's new Open Source website a controlled trade-off, or straight-up good news? ...I don't know.
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[edit on 10-2-2005 by soficrow]
[edit on 12-2-2005 by soficrow]