With increasing popularity of genetic engineering and synthetic biology we are on the way to malicious biological content. We have seen programs like spyware and malware come out of the IT revolution. What horrors will come out of the advances in biology?
What if crops of entire nations are held to ransom by a pathogenic viral strain? worse still, the human population may be threatened. Organisms that copy our genetic material and take it for analysis without our permission are a distant possibility. Such spyteria (spy + bacteria) are a threat we must get ready to face.
A popular synthetic biology contest called iGEM ( International Genetically Engineered Machines) is encouraging an engineering based approach to synthetic biology. Although they are very serious about biosafety, a categorisation system for the various parts and components was not being used. I have come up with a simple categorisation scheme called Brick BAT. This is a set of questions to classify the components into different levels of biosafety.