Synthetically engineered organisms hold promise for a broad range of medical, environmental, and industrial applications. Organisms can potentially be designed, for example, for the inexpensive and environmentally benign synthesis of pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals, for the cleanup of environmental pollutants, and potentially even for biomedical applications such as the targeting of specific diseases or tissues. However, the use of synthetically engineered organisms comes with several reasonable safety concerns, one of which is that the organisms or their genes could escape their intended habitats and cause environmental disruption. Here we review key recent developments in this emerging field of synthetic biocontainment and discuss further developments that might be necessary for the widespread use of synthetic organisms. Specifically, we discuss the history and modern development of three strategies for the containment of synthetic microbes: addiction to an exogenously supplied ligand; self-killing outside of a designated environment; and self-destroying encoded DNA circuitry outside of a designated environment.