Do Not Release Policy
iGEM teams often do projects that have an immediate practical application. But within the context of the iGEM competition, wet-lab projects should remain at an experimental stage. In general, iGEM teams should not release or deploy any engineered organisms, or the products of engineered organisms, outside the lab.
Any teams that release their engineered organisms, or products of their engineered organisms, will be referred to the Responsible Conduct Committee.
Instead of aiming toward release, we encourage you to focus on producing the best laboratory results.
What should I do?
Be a Responsible Scientist:
There are many extremely complicated risks involved in releasing a genetically modified organism (GMO) outside the lab. Without extensive testing, you cannot know if your GMO is safe for humans and the environment. It would be dangerous, even reckless, to release a GMO without the proper risk assessment and testing.
Also, releasing GMOs is a sensitive issue in some parts of the world. Because of this controversy, when synthetic biologists seem to act recklessly, they can damage the reputation of the whole field of synthetic biology. As iGEM team members, you are ambassadors between scientists and the public, so it is important that you be excellent scientific citizens!
Keep Your Activities Legal:
In most countries, it is illegal to release GMOs or their products into the natural environment without extensive government permits and approvals. Obtaining these permits and approvals would probably take longer than the entire iGEM competition. Instead, you should focus your efforts on producing the best laboratory results. (And, of course, you should not release your GMOs illegally!)
What actions count as "release"?
If you engineer an organism in the lab, you may not deliberately release it outside the lab, even inside a "containing" device.
You may be able to get permission to test something produced by an engineered organism, if you can demonstrate that the product has no modified organisms on or in it. Please contact safety [AT] igem [DOT] org setting out what you would like to do, and why you believe that there will be no modified organisms present.
You need permission from the Safety and Security Committee before any of your product leaves the lab or comes into contact with any humans, including yourselves. This includes if you want to bring your product to the Giant Jamboree. You will need to apply to show your product at the Exhibition Space.
The following examples should clarify what counts as "release" or "not release":
Email safety [AT] igem [DOT] org. We can advise you about whether your experiment counts as "release", and help you think of alternate experiments that are more appropriate for iGEM.