Is it time for synthetic biodiversity conservation?

Evidence indicates that, despite some critical successes, current conservation approaches are not slowing the overall rate of biodiversity loss. The field of synthetic biology, which is capable of altering natural genomes with extremely precise editing, might offer the potential to resolve some intractable conservation problems (e.g., invasive species or pathogens). However, it is our opinion that there has been insufficient engagement by the conservation community with practitioners of synthetic biology. We contend that rapid, large-scale engagement of these two communities is urgently needed to avoid unintended and deleterious ecological consequences. To this point we describe case studies where synthetic biology is currently being applied to conservation, and we highlight the benefits to conservation biologists from engaging with this emerging technology.

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