Last month the J. Craig Venter Genomics Research Institute announced that it had created the first totally man made synthetic organism. The institute claimed it was a potential breakthrough in our understanding of how complex life began and said its implications for industries such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture were immense.
Widely applauded for its innovative science, the development has not been without critics who've accused the institute and other scientists involved in synthetic biotechnology of trying to "play God".
We put the questions of science and ethics to our distinguished panel:
Qiu Renzong, Professor of Bioethics, Institute of Philosophy/Centre for Applied Ethics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Centre for Bioethics, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences/Peking Union Medical College Hospital
Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania
Eckard Wimmer, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Stony Brook University, New York. Led a team that in 2002 created the first synthetic virus.
For the full and fascinating story listen to The Development of Artificial Life