The Gene Drive Files are a trove of emails and other records uncovered by civil society investigators. The Files reveal the US military as the number one funder and influence accelerating the development of “gene drives”, a controversial and powerful new genetic extinction technology. The files also reveal that a previously undisclosed gene drive “advocacy coalition,” was run by a private PR firm who received $1.6 million in funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They appear to have used covert lobbying tactics to influence expert UN discussion.
How to Access the Files
The contents of key files have been highlighted in the following analyses and interventions:
- Gene Drive Files Expose Leading Role of US Military in Gene Drive Development
- Gates Foundation paid PR firm to secretly stack UN Expert process on controversial extinction technology
- Addressing conflict of interest issues in the CBD, its Protocols and subsidiary bodies
To browse the files, which include over 1,200 separate files, use the search function (note: there are several duplicates):
You can also download the entire archive (warning: it’s big: 175 MB) here.
About Gene Drives
Gene drives are a gene-editing application that allows genetic engineers to drive a single artificial trait through an entire population by ensuring that all of an organism’s offspring carry that trait. For example, recent experiments are fitting mice with “daughterless” gene drives that will cascade through mouse populations so that only male pups are born, ensuring that the population becomes extinct after a few generations.
Proponents have framed gene drives as a breakthrough tool for eradicating pests or invasive species. However, the Gene Drive Files reveal that these “conservation” efforts are primarily supported by military funds.
Attempts to Influence UN Bodies
The Gene Drive Files also show how Emerging Ag inc, a privately-held public relations firm was employed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for $1.6 million. Emerging Ag has covertly co-ordinated a network of public researchers and officials in what appears to be an attempt to influence the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a key United Nations (UN) body for Gene Drive governance.
Following calls in 2016 for a moratorium on the use of gene drive technology from Southern countries and over 170 organizations, the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) has sought input from scientists and experts. According to the Gene Drive Files, Emerging Ag quietly recruited over 65 experts in an attempt to direct their input into the official UN process. A senior official in the Gates Foundation and government and university scientists were involved in this concealed coordination effort. A DARPA official was also a part of the “volunteer” expert group. In response to this news, Civil Society groups will raise the need for better disclosure of interests within a framework for addressing conflict of interest at the CBD.
- The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) appears to have given approximately $100 million for gene drive research, $35 million more than previously reported. If confirmed this makes DARPA the largest single funder of gene drive research on the planet.
- The Emerging Ag Influence operation closely involved three members of a key UN expert committee, the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology. Two of these (Dr. Todd Kuiken of North Carolina State University and Professor Paul Freemont of Imperial College London) represent institutions that received over $100 million dollars combined in U.S. military and philanthropic funds expressly to develop and test gene drive systems.
- Emerging Ag has also been collaborating with a biotechnology lobby group Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), who run a similar influence operation. The Gene Drive Files include additional records that show how PRRI runs a “backup team” for “like-minded” negotiators at the CBD.
About the Records
The Gene Drive Files consist of records recently released in response to US and Canadian open records requests. The bulk of the files are from North Carolina State University, and were released on 27 October 2017 under a request by Edward Hammond/Third World Network. The files also include records from Texas A&M University, also requested by Edward Hammond/Third World Network and released on 21 August 2017 (Request TAMU R001428). Additional earlier records are included from an Access to Information request filed by ETC Group in 2016 with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.