AHTEG on synthetic biology convenes first meeting


The Ad hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on synthetic biology convened on 21-25 September 2015 in Montreal, Canada for its first meeting.  The meeting was held to discuss issues and concerns surrounding synthetic biology, including the relationship between synthetic biology and biodiversity. The meeting also aimed to settle similarities and differences between living modified organisms (LMOs) and organisms, components and products of synthetic biology techniques; determine adequacy of existing national, regional and international instruments to regulate the organisms, components or products derived from synthetic biology techniques; come up with an operational definition of synthetic biology; and, identify potential benefits and risks of synthetic biology to biodiversity and related health and socioeconomic impacts.


In view of the above objectives, the AHTEG were able to arrive at an operational definition of synthetic biology, “…a further development and new dimension of modern biotechnology that combines science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the understanding, design, redesign, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials, living organisms and biological systems.” Working within the context of this definition, the AHTEG concluded that living organisms developed through current and near future applications of synthetic biology are similar to LMOs as defined in the Cartagena Protocol. They also agreed the need to establish a process to monitor and assess the state of knowledge within the field of synthetic biology on a regular basis; review new information regarding the positive and negative impacts of synthetic biology against the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. There is also a need to assess the potential gaps in oversight under the Convention and its Protocols as regards the component and products of synthetic biology. Parties and other Governments should likewise be engaged to discuss potential benefits and potential adverse effects of synthetic biology,


The full report is already available and may be accessed at It will be submitted for consideration of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) at its 20th meeting scheduled on 25-29 April 2016 in Montreal, Canada.