I meant to do a wrap-up post, but travel and poor connectivity intervened. Rob Carlson had a last post on the conference that I found intriguing, but I will content myself by pointing to Erika Check's news report on the meeting in Nature, and an editorial that accompanied it. Here's the nub of the argument:
Self-governance need not and should not be exclusive — it does not preclude other forms of governance, any more than the possession of conscience makes redundant the strictures of law. It is hard not to suspect that the problem with self-governance from the point of view of the letter-writers is that it could go some way to addressing potential problems that would make good campaigning issues.
The ability of human societies to modify and transform biological systems will increase more in this century than it has in the hundred centuries since the dawn of agriculture, regardless of whether the transformation unfolds under the rubric of 'synthetic biology'. Or, at least, we must hope that it will — as the only credible alternative is a future in which massive social upheaval, armed conflict or natural disaster halts the progress of scientific knowledge. The challenge is to foster a matching, or at least sufficient, increase in the wisdom and accountability with which these abilities are used.
That challenge will require changes in the law and customs, in ideology and theology, and in education and economics. No scientific community can be expected to shoulder all that on its own, and nor should it. Scientists who are alive to the possibilities of change, anxious to keep their house in order and be seen to be doing so, and keen to discuss the issues with the world, are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Update: I'm informed by the excellent Kevin Costa that the webcast of the SB2.0 talks is now archived for online viewing here, and will soon be added to Google Video for podcasting. The community declaration, which is still a work in progress as of June 13th, can be viewed here.