Abstract

The distinction between what is natural and what is human-made, which has informed conservation for centuries, has become blurred. When scientists can reshape genes more or less at will, what does it mean to conserve nature? The tools of synthetic biology are changing the way we answer that question. Gene editing technology is already transforming the agriculture and biotechnology industries. What happens if synthetic biology is also used in conservation to control invasive species, fight wildlife disease, or even bring extinct species back from the dead? Conservation scientist Kent Redford and geographer Bill Adams turn to synthetic biology, ecological restoration, political ecology, and de-extinction studies and propose a thoroughly innovative vision for protecting nature.

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