Abstract

Humans have served their needs and interests by modifying plants, animals, and ecosystems for millennia. Technology has expanded, accelerated, and intensified the impact. Experimental efforts are now under way to rescue or re-create nature employing highly sophisticated technologies. These endeavors are not aimed at satisfying basic human needs or serving economic interests; their goal is the conservation of biodiversity and ecological restoration. At the same time, they fundamentally alter the fabric of life and guarantee unintended consequences. An examination of the ecological and cultural risks, benefits, and costs of employing synthetic biology to assist evolution and de-extinct species provides a valuable test case for environmentalists and conservationists grappling with the implications of ecological restoration technologies.

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