December 26, 2008
An evolutionary first for E coli... but is it evolution?
Using E Coli To Make Better Biofuels
"For the first time, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have successfully pushed nature beyond its limits by genetically modifying Escherichia coli, a bacterium often associated with food poisoning, to produce unusually long-chain alcohols essential in the creation of biofuels".
There are thousands of varieties of E.Coli, many of them very dangerous. Just what a strain of E.Coli that oozes out long chain alcohols would do in our guts, and the guts of fish, and other living organisms is something I don't see being addressed in this mad rush to engineer biofuel producing organisms, ie, to make money patenting new life. Is this what we mean by fuel cell? Forcing a bacteria to do something it never achieved on it’s own through evolution without asking ..why has it never evolved to do that? Symbiosis. Interconnection. Perhaps these are things we need to study more of.
It was a little more than a decade ago that a genetically engineered soil bacteria Klebsiella planticola, engineered to produce alcohol, was almost released until shown by independent researchers to be lethal to plants and other soil microbes. source. How is it Synthetic Biology is taking place in the absence of regulation and independent research, even given "authoritative" voices of caution and concern. The fact that these organisms are patentable, therefore lucrative is driving the inventions...this is the engineering of new life. And this unmoderated gold rush could conceivably unleash an ecological disaster. " such a prospect raises concerns about their accidental release into the environment, as by their very nature such biological machines could evolve, proliferate and produce unexpected interactions that might alter the ecosystem." source
I've written about this before here, where there are some good links to read on.