U.S. Wants 'custom DNA' Guidelines

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) — The United States says it will introduce guidelines for companies supplying “custom DNA” to prevent bioterrorists from building dangerous viruses from scratch.

The United States and other countries tightly control who can work with certain germs, but it might be possible to build some viruses from their genes.

An investigation in 2005 found only five out of 12 companies in North America and Europe producing “custom DNA” always screened orders for sequences that might be used in bioweapons, NewScientist.com reported.

The United States now says it wants companies to verify a customer’s identity and make sure they are not on a list of banned buyers.

It also wants them to screen orders for sequences that are unique to Select Agents, a list of microbes the United States considers dangerous.

Some scientists say they fear sequences from microbes other than Select Agents could be dangerous.

They also point out that the guidelines will be voluntary and will not apply to custom DNA made outside the United States.

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