You may have heard of Kickstarter — the darling crowdfunding site where artists, designers, moviemakers, and others pitch pet projects to an online funder audience. Kickstarter may have just taken on a new and unwelcome role — as the one-stop shop for risky biotech companies looking to execute an end run around regulation.
Generally Kickstarter projects promote such innocuous products as comic books, and sensibly, Kickstarter even has its own ethical limits on what it will host: Guns, drugs, and porn are forbidden for obvious reasons. Rather more mysteriously, the selling of sunglasses is also deemed unethical. But as reported this week three biohackers from California have hijacked the Kickstarter machinery for something far more controversial than sunglasses. They have made Kickstarter the conduit for a nationwide release of untested, unregulated and unmonitored bioengineered organisms by mounting a Kickstarter funding project to use Synthetic Biology to engineer glow-in-the-dark plants.
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