Synthetic Genome: TL;DR
If you already understand what's happening with the Venter Institute synthetic genome announcement, and just want to see my response, here's the money quote from the end of the previous post:
One suggestion that we know is possible, because a variation appeared in the Venter announcement: all synthetic genomes should be signed. According to Wired:
“They rebuilt a natural sequence and they put in some poetry,” said University of California at San Francisco synthetic biologist Chris Voigt. “They recreated some quotes in the genome sequence as watermarks.”
What Voigt refers to as a "watermark" should instead be thought of as a "DNA signature." We should require that all synthetic genomes include something like this, unique sequences following a designated pattern, identifying the organization behind the genome, the lab responsible, the date, and any other useful bits of information. Multiple copies should appear throughout the synthetic genome, so it doesn't get mutated away.
That way, if something unexpected happens, we know whom to talk to.