If life is really a disaster movie in which humanity is wiped off the face of the earth, J. Craig Venter will probably be the hubristic genius who gets us there. The man sequenced the human genome in like three years, and now he's focused on the genetic possibilities of algae. The goal is to program those little cells to produce biofuels.
Here's his pitch, as told to Scientific American:
Everybody is looking for a naturally occurring alga that is going to be a miracle cell to save the world, and after a century of looking, people still haven’t found it. We hope we’re different. The [genetic] tools give us a new approach to being able to rewrite the genetic code and get cells to do what we want them to do.
Eek! Mutant algae! They're all supposed to be contained in labs and biofuel-making facilities, but talk to people studying synthetic biology and they'll tell you that the algae will inevitably get out. Perhaps nothing bad will happen. But perhaps the algae will spread and take over ecosystems. No one knows! America reeeaaallly wants biofuels, though, so we're going to find out.
- Pond Scum to the Rescue , Scientific American
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