Synthetic Biology - an Atlantic Expedition. From Brussels to Washington: a search for the differences between the ethical approach towards synthetic biology from the EU and the USA.
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Synthetic biology is a very promising emerging technology, though it raises various questions, mostly of an ethical nature. Which risk-level is acceptable in light of the numerous benefits synthetic biology might offer humanity? How should we divide those risks and benefits? And should we even alter and construct life on such a still not very-well understood fundamental scale? In both the European Union and the United States of America reports concerning such ethical aspects of synthetic biology are written, respectively by the European Group of Ethics (EGE, 2009) and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI, 2010). This thesis compares those two reports by presenting the relevant moral content and an analysis or ethical reconstruction to explicate both similarities and differences. It concludes that there are three morally relevant differences. Firstly, the European emphasis on a more principled approach versus the domination of pragmatic arguments on US-side. Secondly, a more conservative attitude from the EGE due to the application of the precautionary principle against a strong emphasis from the PCSBI on public beneficence and thirdly, a mainly governmental responsibility to keep watch (on the benefits and risks) of synthetic biology according the EGE against more trust in individual responsibility by the PCSBI.