Taking part in the iGEM competition does not consist of planning a main project and work for it in the laboratory afterwards. For the iGEM Foundation it is also important that the students participating in this competition deal with possible risks that might arise with their project. Thereby, the possible risks are not only in terms of the lab worker while doing the experiments, bus also for the society in general. To this end, the iGEM Foundation proposes safety measures for the everyday work on the one hand. On the other hand, each team is required to turn in ‘Safety Form’ in which the teams evaluate all possible risks, give background information about their project as well as data about the organisms and substances used in the laboratory. This procedure also results in the students carefully evaluating their project with all its dangers once again and it also draws the attention to this important topic.
In addition, the iGEM Foundation provides leading questions about the team’s main project and its functions. The aim of these questions is to raise awareness to the possible abuse of the project. Assuming that the team’s project is performed as planned and functioning as desired, the following questions are asked:
- Who could be affected negatively/positively by the project?
- Where will the project be employed at (e.g. on a farm, in the human body)?
- What might society think about the project?
- What happens to possibly arising wastes, that are produced by the project/product?
We, the iGEM team TU Darmstadt, also discuss possible risks of our project as well as measures we can apply to reduce the risks. To ensure the genral safety in our lab, we are given safety instructions each year by our supervisor. Our operations in the lab are restricted to security level 1 according to GenTSV. Our this year’s project involves no further dangers in terms of substances that are produced by our project.