There is an interesting and very thoughtful piece by Craig Venter and Daniel Gibson in today’s Wall Street Journal going through what their breakthrough is and what it isn’t, where they see the project going in the future, and why public discussion is important:
[Previous genetic engineers] did not create life in a test tube, nor did we create life from scratch. We transformed existing life into new life. We also did not design and build a new chromosome from nothing. Rather, using only digitized information, we synthesized a modified version of the naturally occurring Mycoplasma mycoides genome. The result is not an “artificial” life form. It is a very real, self-replicating cell that most microbiologists would be unable to readily distinguish from the naturally occurring counterpart without the aid of DNA sequencing.