Emails obtained from the University of North Carolina through a Freedom of Information Request show that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund a PR firm to try to influence the UN’s moratorium on the controversial new genetic extinction technology, reports Independent Science News. Gene drive technology allows for the editing of genes in order to cause extinction in an animal species.
It is thought gene drives could eliminate all malarial mosquitoes, which in the eyes of some could be a perfect solution to ending malaria worldwide. While the benefits are clear, the controversy over gene drives is evident: Do humans have the right to extinguish a life-form even if the benefits to humanity of doing so are clear?
Update: Nature has published a piece discussing just how significant–or not–the emails released were. The publication states:
This is an unfair attempt to create damaging and polarizing spin. The e-mails reveal mostly mundane discussion about research and meetings. Where they discuss the UN process, they explain how scientists can share their expertise on the technology and its potential impacts.
It goes on to argue:
The release of the e-mails echoes the way in which hackers released documents stolen from climate scientists before a major UN meeting in 2009. Much commentary on those documents suggested — wrongly — that scientists were up to no good. Still, damage was done and public trust in scientists declined. It would be unfortunate if the trick were repeated here, not least because it is scientists working on gene drives who have raised many of the concerns.