How can different sectors have better-informed, cross-sectoral conversations to help deal with the rapid development of technologies that intersect with nature and people? Synthetic biology is one such rapidly-developing technology, where fear of the unknown can cause paralysis. This intersection of technology and emotions requires thoughtful and informed conversations that generate new understanding to avoid overlooking powerful new options.
In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) approached the Luc Hoffmann Institute to seek expertise in convening and co-production. The IUCN wanted to apply this expertise to its task force and technical subgroup on synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation that was mandated by the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaii . The task force were specifically examining the intersection of emerging synthetic biology technologies and their impact on biodiversity conservation in order to inform the 2020 global policy development process.
Synthetic biology is a complex and controversial field, with potentially large implications for biodiversity conservation, both positive and negative. This initiative was designed to increase understanding within the IUCN’s more than 1,300 member organisations of the potential range of impacts when synthetic biology interfaces with biodiversity and its conservation. It maps the different values, knowledge and positions related to synthetic biology to enable the conservation sector to play an informed role in the debate.