Craig Venter is at it again. He has published new data in Science demonstrating the viability of an artificial genome in a bacterium. The bacteria phenotype is consistent with the synthetic genome showing that the artificial DNA is directing the cell. A summary can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10132762.stm.
Of course, there are a host of ethical an environmental concerns associated with creating a new life form. It is possible that microbes could be tailored to produce pharmaceutical compounds, scavenge atmospheric carbon dioxide, or produce and emit fertilizers. Many of these would require releasing these synthetic organisms into the environment, resulting in a brand new form of “pollution”.
While there are many potential benefits, the list of risks may be even longer.