Via The New York Times: Amateur Biologists Are New Fear in Making a Mutant Flu Virus. Excerpt:
Scientists are sharply divided on those questions, as they are on the whole complex of issues surrounding the mutated virus known as mutH5N1.
On the question of who, while terrorists and cults have long been a concern in biosecurity circles, some scientists also fear that publication may allow curious amateurs to recreate the mutated virus — raising the risk of an accidental release.
Over the past decade, more amateur biologists have started to do genetic experiments of their own. One hub of this so-called D.I.Y. biology movement, the Web site DIYbio.org, now has more than 2,000 members.
“I worry about the garage scientist, about the do-your-own scientist, about the person who just wants to try and see if they can do it,” Michael T. Osterholm of the University of Minnesota said last week at a meeting of biosecurity experts in Washington.
Dr. Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, who along with Dr. Osterholm is a member of the scientific advisory board that initially recommended against publishing the papers, agreed. “Mike is right,” he said in a telephone interview. “Humans are very inventive.”
Advocates of D.I.Y. biology say such fears not only are wildly exaggerated, but could interfere with their efforts to educate the public.
“I am really sick and tired of folks waving this particular red flag,” said Ellen D. Jorgensen, a molecular biologist who is president of Genspace, a “community biotechnology lab” in Brooklyn.