Advances in Biotechnology are occurring at an unprecedented rate, opening doors for seeking improvements in important fields such as health, food and environment. However, rapidly advancing capabilities, decreasing costs and widely expanding access to and participation in modern biotechnology simultaneously increase the likelihood of safety and security risks that could endanger public health and the environment. UNICRI has been at the forefront in understanding these potential security risks.
In collaboration with European Commission, UNICRI produced a report on the “Security Implications of Synthetic and Nanobiotechnology”. The report was produced using a scenario based approach, wherein different technology risk scenarios were developed and presented before biosciences and security experts to deliberate their technological feasibility over time; the level of difficulty regarding required capabilities; and practicability from a perpetrator's point of view.
The report, while listing certain specific response options, also suggests that the nature of progress in biotechnology is going to negate the ability to control the technology with traditional means and as a result it is important to tackle the problem by developing an approach which goes beyond such traditional confines. As a follow up to the report UNICRI is, thus, in the process of initiating a “Biotech Observatory” that will facilitate the enhancement of Biosecurity by bringing a large range of stakeholders together to monitor security relevant biotechnological advances; identify and promote best practices; and offer policy options. This group of stakeholders will work towards creating a shared responsibility of politics, industry, science and society to reinforce the culture of safety and security while ensuring that beneficial research is not impeded.