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Environmental regulation of synthetic biology: anticipating future regulatory oversights

ShARE Project

Advanced Innovative Biotechnologies (AIBs) are an emerging sector of increasing scientific and public policy interest. The sector offers the potential to deliver on the shared purpose of the UK and Republic of Ireland environmental authorities to protect and improve the environment, to protect public health and to support sustainable economic growth.

Beyond the expected benefits it is also important to consider whether there are any potential hazards or environmental threats from these innovations that would not be captured by regulations currently in place. The technology is at an early but rapidly developing stage, therefore it is timely to assess the scale and likely impact of the AIB sector in the near to distant future, as well as considering if the sector might present unique risks that are unconsidered by present regulatory approaches and what these risk are likely to be.

To this end, a ShARE (Shared Agencies Regulatory Evidence) Programme was developed to engage a recognised expert to examine the opportunities and threats posed by the AIB sector as it develops. The purpose of the report is to drive forward a deliberative discourse on how the Environment Agencies (consortium of UK and Irish environment agencies) could contribute in future to a more proportionate and adaptive governance system that would enable AIBs to deliver their full potential to the bioeconomy and the circular economy, and also to the improvement of the natural environment. This report constitutes the output of this programme stream.