Environmental Ethics

Volume 41, Issue 3, Fall 2019

Inter-Continental Dialogues I

Ronald Sandler
Pages 221-236

Should We Engineer Species in Order to Save Them?

There are two strategies for engineering species for conservation purposes, de-extinction and gene drives. Engineering species for conservation purposes is not in principle wrong, and on common criteria for assessing conservation interventions there may well be cases in which de-extinction and gene drives are evaluated positively in comparison to other possible strategies. De-extinction is not as transformative a conservation technique as it initially appears. It is largely dependent, as a conservation activity, upon traditional conservation practices, such as captive breeding programs, species reintroductions, and habitat improvement and protection. In contrast, gene drives have the potential to significantly restructure how conservation problems are framed and approached. Gene drives are therefore a much more disruptive technology for conservation philosophy and practice.