The University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is planning a new billion-dollar-plus lab complex for the shoreline of Richmond, just north of Berkeley, where much of the work will focus on what’s blithely called “synthetic biology.”
The site of the complex, the university’s Richmond Field Station and the adjacent Campus Bay property, housed chemical plants that polluted the soil with scores of toxic metals and compounds and has been subject to a complex environmental cleanup.
The university fought the transfer of cleanup oversight from an agency with no toxicologists on its staff to one that does, and it took a long and often bitter fight by worried Richard residents to force the regulatory regime change.
Now site has been named the “preferred alternative” for the lab complex, which will be run by the university under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Energy, which is now headed by the lab’s former director, physicist Steve Chu.
Synthetic biology is being cast as the panacea for a wide range of urgent problems, but it’s a worrisome technology, given that lab-created life forms can’t be confined to the lab, as we’ve seen in the case of the technology’s earlier manifestations, genetically modified organisms, where genes inserted into crop plants have escaped into the environment and given rise to so-called “superweeds” resistant to powerful herbicides.
Our own expertise is in the politics of the toxic waste cleanup at the site, and the university’s history of resistance to citizen and local government efforts to ensure scientific oversight of the massively contaminated site.
Today’s gathering is part of the month-long LaborFest events in the Bay area.
Here’s their program for the event, which begins at 1 p.m. in the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza:
The Richmond UC Synthetic Biology Laboratory, Labor Safety And The Environment — A Speakout and Discussion
What are the potential dangers of the new proposed lab in Richmond? These will be one of the issues discussed at a meeting on the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) & U. C. Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI) laboratory being brought to Richmond.
- Richard Brenneman, Research Journalist
- Dr. Henry Clark, West Bay Toxic Coalition
- Dr. Larry Rose M.D. Retired Ca OSHA Senior Public Health Medical Officer M.P.H. Occupational Environmental Medicine Assistant Professor at UCSF
- Dr. Joany Chou, Injured Workers National Network IWNN and California BioSafety Alliance (for information only)
- Jack Dwayne Thrasher, Ph.D., Toxicologist, immunotoxicologist, fetal toxicologist
- A speaker From California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day
Hosted by California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day; Endorsed by United Public Workers For Action.