What happens when genomics and synthetic biology labs get together?  Anti-science people flip out.  Because, you know, anti-science hippies think scientists are inhuman crazies without families who only care about breaking the laws of nature (maniacal laugh).

The Richmond Field Station, already owned by the University of California system, beat out other existing spots (around 20) who were excited about the chance to host the combined labs because Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore are national labs funded by the apparently inexhaustible coffers of the Department of Energy.  And they bring wealthy, educated jobs.

Environmental watchdog groups flipped out, of course, claiming 'worker health' concerns.  Yes, they were worried about the health of the scientists they hate.  The coalition of environmental and bio-concerned groups wrote in their warning document
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U. C. Berkeley Synthetic Biology Institute must undertake the burden of proof as to whether their laboratory will be safe...
Can anyone name a single medical or scientific advancement that has ever met or even could currently meet this requirement?  Aspirin does not meet this requirement. It has to make you chuckle that American liberal scientists at Berkeley are being portrayed as extremists by fringe anti-science groups on the left.

Credit: shutterstock.com

Don't think these groups are just the usual progressive shills against science, though. Their positions could also be copied and pasted from documents by the religious right.
 we oppose the utilization of human eggs and embryos for experimental manipulations and as items of commerce because of the potential for eugenic applications and health risks to women and their offspring.
Well, there are two opposing ideas here.  Eugenics was a progressive effort of the early part of the 20th century and modern efforts to select children using genetics is a new flavor of that (so their concern about their own side is laudable) but objections to human embryonic stem cell research are considered a recent Republican one - President George W. Bush was concerned about the moral issues in hESC research and so compromised with science needs of the day by limiting federal funding to stem cell lines that had already been created, which made no one happy but progressive extremists in science called 'banning' and 'anti-science'.

hESC was never debated because of eugenics so that is something new they just created.

Jeremy Gruber, president of the Council for Responsible Genetics, was reported by Chemical&Engineering News as saying, “There is no comprehensive regulational approach for the oversight and governance of synthetic biology. Will LBNL be transparent?”

Progressives love regulation, they love centralized government a la the 15th century and back, but they think federally funded national labs are not transparent?  They are incredibly transparent and overrun with bureaucracy and paperwork about everything except the top-secret applied aspects of their work.  They were pretty much created to work on atomic bombs and no one got public hearings about each step of those. Do these environmental groups think they get to snipe at basic research all throughout the process?  What will that do to transformative science?  Again, there would be no science at all done if some crazy-haired know-nothing got to call a halt to every project because they don't understand how science works.

Please. Give them something to protest. Credit: shutterstock.com

The coalition includes the usual anti-business conspiracy theorists too - since BP gives money to U.C. Berkeley, all the science produced at Berkeley is suspect.  Yes, that Berkeley of the famous protests is apparently a shill for the right wing if you are on the kooky left fringe. What about science done in all academia when George Bush was president?  Is that suspect?  And will right wing people think science done by Obama is tainted? The notion that people on any side feel scientists are unethical unless they get money from the side of the government they vote for is insulting and weirdly paranoid - even more confusing is the idea that there are no unethical, lying, cheating people in science if they get a grant during a Republican president but they are all that way if they work in the corporate world. BP has simply replaced Exxon as the company-to-hate because their spill is more recent.  The obvious solution to preventing tanker and oil rig spills is to instead build a pipeline but progressives invented paranoid, unscientific concerns to protest that too. About the only thing they liked in the last 20 years was ethanol, and we saw how that worked out. 

Obviously there are always ethical and social concerns in any cutting-edge technology. George Bush limited hESC research and Obama outright bans somatic nuclear transfer despite more Americans being in favor of that than were in favor of hESC technology in 2000, when it was still new. They take those stances because we sometimes need time for the ethical and oversight issues to work themselves out - but demanding any science 'prove' it is 100% safe sets an artificial standard that no science can meet.  Home appliances cannot even meet that standard - 3,000 people die because of stuff in their kitchen catching fire each year.