In Paul B. Thompson & David M. Kaplan (eds.), Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics. Springer (2014)

Catherine Elizabeth Kendig
Michigan State University
Synthetic biology is a field of research that concentrates on the design, construction, and modification of new biomolecular parts and metabolic pathways using engineering techniques and computational models. By employing knowledge of operational pathways from engineering and mathematics such as circuits, oscillators, and digital logic gates, it uses these to understand, model, rewire, and reprogram biological networks and modules. Standard biological parts with known functions are catalogued in a number of registries (e.g. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Registry of Standard Biological Parts). Biological parts can then be selected from the catalogue and assembled in a variety of combinations to construct a system or pathway in a microbe. Through the innovative re-engineering of biological circuits and the optimization of certain metabolic pathways, biological modules can be designed to reprogram organisms to produce products or behaviors. Synthetic biology is what is known as a “platform technology”. That is, it generates highly transferrable theoretical models, engineering principles, and know-how that can be applied to create potential products in a wide variety of industries. Proponents suggest that applications of synthetic biology may be able to provide scientific and engineered solutions to a multitude of worldwide problems from health to energy. Synthetic biology research has already been successful in constructing microbial products which promise to offer cheaper pharmaceuticals such as the antimalarial synthetic drug artemisinin, engineered microbes capable of cleaning up oil spills, and the engineering of biosensors that can detect the presence of high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water. One of the potential benefits of synthetic biology research is in its application to biofuel production. It is this application which is the focus of this entry. The term “biofuel” has referred generally to all liquid fuels that are sourced from plant or plant byproducts and are used for energy necessary for transportation vehicles (Thompson 2012). Biofuels that are produced using synthetic biological techniques re-engineer microbes into biofuel factories are a subset of these.
Keywords Genetic engineering  biological engineering  biogas  green energy  biodiesel  renewable energy  algae  ethics  philosophy of biology
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Synthetic Biology: A Challenge to Mechanical Explanations in Biology?Michel Morange - 2012 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):543-553.
Editors' Introduction to Special Issue.Ute Deichmann, Michel Morange & Anthony S. Travis - 2012 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):470-472.
Synthetic Biology and Synthetic Knowledge.Christophe Malaterre - 2013 - Biological Theory (8):346–356.


Added to PP index

Total views
288 ( #24,591 of 2,324,957 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
35 ( #18,681 of 2,324,957 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes