Problems to be Addressed:
Gene editing technology is easily accessible. You can buy a do it yourself kit on Amazon for $169. A release anywhere in the world, especially for GMO microbes, can easily cross borders and encircle the globe. Effective control must be done both through the implementation of laws and policies and by ingraining into society the collective understanding that we have arrived at an inevitable time in human history where we can alter billions of years of natural selection by reordering the code of life and redirecting the streams of evolution for all time. This generation has an unprecedented responsibility to humanity, to nature, and to the future of all living beings.
To reach this overarching goal, our campaign will proceed through two stages. The first stage called Protect Nature Now will focus on GMO microbes. The second will extend to all genetically engineered organisms. In addition, Stage 1 addresses timely threats and opportunities that may arise but are not limited to microbial organisms.
General concerns come into sharp focus when considering just a few applications under development:
- Companies target whole environments, expanding from Genetically Modified Organisms to Genetically Modified Ecosystems. A farm, for example, ordering custom-engineered insects, custom soil microbiomes, and even sprays that alter the gene expression of crops.
- Scientists seek to introduce gene drives that can spread through an entire species, change their DNA, and even wipe them out.
- The US Department of Defense is developing insects to deliver genetically engineered viruses to plants.
- All the while, biotech is merging with artificial intelligence to create even more elaborate and invasive changes on a massive scale.
Unfortunately, civil society stands largely unaware and wholly unprepared to manage this threat of genetically altering the natural world on a massive scale.
The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) is on a mission to change that. And we have a plan.
- Builds an unprecedented coalition. IRT acts as a “field catalyst” and collaboration hub, recruiting and enlisting a wide range of organizations, leaders, and funders working from a shared, agreed-upon agenda, a common knowledge base, and access to a wide web of global communication reaching millions.
- Mainstreams the message. The success of the campaign is leveraged on the power of our message to inspire and create action. Messaging must reverberate as a clarion call such that the truth of the message becomes embedded into the fabric of society. We, therefore, engage the best communicators available to create consumer-friendly brand platforms that activate individuals and organizations, ultimately influencing decision-makers and regulators.
- Drives regulation through a legal activist strategy. We have assembled a legal team to draft model bills for introduction at local, state, national, and international levels. Activists receive in-depth education with tools to support the passage of model bills and to use the campaign to educate the public and local policymakers. They will also receive training in the relevant laws, providing confidence in their legal rights and key arguments.
Our Calls to Action for Protect Nature Now are clear:
- No release of genetically engineered microbes in the jurisdiction;
- Implementation of appropriate safeguards at all laboratories engaging in genetic engineering or use of microbes to protect against accidental release. (This includes manufacturing facilities using synthetic biology–GMO microbes designed to produce designer proteins);
- Assignment of strict liability and remediation costs should such a release occur; and
- No genetic engineering of potentially pandemic pathogens
Protect Nature Now unfolds in Four Phases:
- Foundational Phase: Coalition building, messaging and educational asset development and model legal bills created.
- Forming Phase: Impact happens more consistently through coalition strength and the strength of the message while political alliances are formed.
- High Impact Phase: Successes accelerate rapidly through sheer scale and the truth of the campaign messaging, ending with regulation and policy in place and a deep societal understanding of the magnitude of the threat embedded in popular culture.
- Sustaining and Monitoring Phase: Creating spaces and infrastructure for continuous reflection and adaptations needed to address shifting external forces pushing the threat.
Genetic engineering technologies can force new, irreversible genetic traits into wild populations at unprecedented speeds, a kind of unstoppable, cascading chain reaction. Now that gene editing is so inexpensive and easy, we face the unprecedented threat of massive releases and widespread corruption and replacement of nature’s gene pool.
Embedding our success into the fabric of society and human understanding
Our success does not stop in establishing appropriate policies. Government regulations can reverse with the next administration. Regulators can be manipulated by special interests or lobbyists. Our success will only be secure if we instill a sense of urgency and priority into the collective consciousness. The themes must reverberate throughout popular culture, be taught in the schools, and echoed by our leaders. Achieving such a secure state requires a great deal of collaboration.