Viewpoint: Concerned about biodiversity but wary of biotechnology innovation to achieve it? Your fears are misplaced

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Credit: Reuters
Credit: Reuters

Some individuals worry about the unintended consequences of intervening with nature, including the use of genetic technology as well as traditional conservation restoration. However, alarming biodiversity loss tells us we must be more focused on the game-changing positive impacts that will result from a focus on Intended Consequences. If we fret endlessly about unintended consequences and wallow in uncertainty, we will inevitably witness the chilling result as a mass extinction plays out. Our current pivot point asks of us boldness and action as we consider biotechnology solutions and weigh the consequences of doing nothing.

The American chestnut, for example, will not survive without intervention. Prior to the industrial revolution, these trees formed endless stands in the Eastern forests of North America. By the 1940s a nonnative fungal blight killed an estimated four billion trees nationwide.

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With both the American chestnut and the black-footed ferret, 21st-century conservation solutions began in the lab. Responsible genetic interventions resulted from pairing new biotechnologies with decades of natural history knowledge and careful research. Despite the wariness cultivated by fictional horror stories, biotechnology is simply one more tool in this earnest race against extinction. 

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