The Global Industry Coalition (GIC) has described synthetic biology as part of the continuum of biotechnological development spanning more than four decades since recombinant DNA applications became feasible in the 1970s. Synthetic biology is not a new scientific field or paradigm, rather “synthetic biology” is an umbrella term encompassing accumulated and constantly advancing knowledge and understanding in biological engineering. The scientific literature shows that the term is used to represent a heterogeneous mix of activities spanning established (and re-labelled) biotechnological methods, to biotechnological innovations. For example, “synthetic biology” ranges from genetically modified microorganisms developed using established recombinant DNA tools for the production of chemicals, to early research concepts such as xenobiology. As a consequence, no international consensus has been reached, or is likely to be achieved, on an operational definition of “synthetic biology”, and the GIC believes that it is not possible to define it in a way that is meaningful and future-proof at this time.
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