Kickstarter is clamping down on genetically-modified organisms following the success of a project to genetically engineer glowing plants for use as additional lighting in people's homes. Earlier this week and without explanation, the crowdfunding website quietly altered its guidelines for project creators, introducing a new term that bans creators from giving away genetically-modified organisms as rewards to their online backers. [...] The company provided only the following canned statement: "we aim to be as open as possible while protecting the health and creative spirit of Kickstarter for the long term." Yet the move comes just days after a project called "Glowing Plants" successfully raised nearly half-a-million dollars.
The project was launched by a team of trained synthetic biologists, who want to insert bioluminescence genes from bacteria and fireflies into several types of plans -- arabidopsis and roses -- to make them glow in the dark. Project backers who pledged $40 or more were promised packets of seeds of the final glowing plant products. [...]
Amirav-Drory said he had not been in touch with Kickstarter about the change in policy, but expressed puzzlement about it, because his glowing plant project had been featured repeatedly on Kickstater's editor-curated project sections.
The creators maintain their project is legal under US law, and that the risk of cross-pollination is low because the main plant they're engineering, arabidopsis, is not native to the US. However, they also say they won't be able to send the seeds to countries in the European Union and other areas where GMO crops are widely curtailed. Meanwhile, Environmental advocates and some scientists outside of the project have expressed concerns that it may lead to a negative perception of synthetic biology, or set a worrisome precedent for unsupervised release of GMOs. One researcher recently told Nature that the plants were "frivolous."
Kickstarter bans project creators from giving away genetically-modified organisms