Addressing conflict of interest issues in the CBD, its Protocols and subsidiary bodies

Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer 
Executive Secretary
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
413, Saint Jacques Street, suite 800 
Montreal QC H2Y 1N9 

4 December 2017

Dear Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer

Re: Addressing conflict of interest in the CBD, its Protocols and subsidiary bodies

We are writing to alert you to matters that have recently come to light through freedom of information requests, and that require an urgent response.

We are concerned that the integrity of the Open-ended Online Forum on Synthetic Biology, and consequently the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Synthetic Biology, may have been compromised by external actors who seek to influence the discussions on gene drives. In particular:

  • A private agriculture and biotechnology PR firm called Emerging Ag recruited at least 65 people to participate in the Online Forum as independent experts, when Emerging Ag had been paid $1.6 million for a project that included an objective of co-ordinating these participants and involved it issuing them with almost daily advice on how to influence the discussion in line with its strategy.
  • There is also evidence of appointees to associated CBD processes having relevant financial interests through the institutions they represent that have not been declared in CBD forums.

This activity has the potential to prejudice outcomes of the AHTEG and undermine the spirit of Decision XIII/17 on Synthetic Biology, particularly paragraph 2 that expressly applies to some living modified organisms containing gene drives. We respectfully call on you to urgently instate a process across the CBD and its subsidiary bodies that will ensure robust and consistent procedures for declaration of interest and conflict of interest. This process should include full disclosure of any potential or existing conflict of interest and we request that at least this standard be applied immediately to the AHTEGs and online discussion forums.

We note that the rules of procedure of both the Compliance Committees of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization address conflict of interest. In addition, the Guidelines for the Roster of Biosafety Experts places obligations on individuals on the roster to disclose interests and decline “any assignment where an assignment may raise a real or perceived conflict of interest.”

We further note that pursuant to Decision BS-VII/4, the Roster of Biosafety Experts was expanded to include experts nominated by Parties and other Governments to participate in ad hoc technical expert groups and networks under the Cartagena Protocol. This demonstrates a clear rationale for disclosure and conflict of interest procedures to apply also to the AHTEGs.

We believe that a framework for addressing disclosure and conflict of interest in the CBD and its subsidiary bodies should include the following elements:

  • A definition of conflict of interest for the purposes of the implementation of such a framework;
  • A procedure to require disclosure of interests by an actor seeking to hold a decision making position, in advance of appointment, and an active register of interests being kept during the term of their appointment;
  • A procedure to ensure full disclosure of any potential or existing conflict of interest by any person participating in CBD processes;
  • A procedure to identify, avoid and manage conflicts of interest between the interests of a non-Party observer (particularly business, commercial and financial interests) and the objective, purpose and principles of the Convention;
  • A procedure to identify, avoid and manage other risks, such as undue influence of business, commercial and financial interests, associated with participation of non-Party observers;
  • A set of provisions to ensure the implementation of due diligence, transparency and accountability of all the actors involved in such participation, with a view to safeguarding the integrity of the CBD;
  • A mechanism for the monitoring and review of the implementation of the framework itself.

We believe that the events cited above demand a strong response from the CBD to demonstrate that it is committed to upholding the highest standards of transparency and integrity. We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you during SBSTTA-21, where several of us would be present, to discuss these issues and assist you as appropriate in taking the lead on disclosure and conflict of interest standards.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Yours sincerely,

African Centre for Biodiversity
Corporate Europe Observatory
ETC Group
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Heinrich Boell Foundation
Sustainability Council of New Zealand
Third World Network


  1. The Gene Drive Files: a set of documents obtained under Freedom of Information requests and collectively posted on the Synbiowatch website on 4 December 2017:
  2. Decision BS-II/1. Rules of procedure for meetings of the Compliance Committee:

    Rule 11
    Each member of the Committee shall, with respect to any matter that is under consideration by the Committee, avoid direct or indirect conflicts of interest. Where a member finds himself or herself faced with a direct or indirect conflict of interest, that member shall bring the issue to the attention of the Committee before consideration of that particular matter. The concerned member shall not participate in the elaboration and adoption of a recommendation of the Committee in relation to that matter.

  3. Decision NP-2/3. Report of the Compliance Committee (Article 30):

    Rule 11
    1. Each member of the Committee and the indigenous peoples and local community observers shall, with respect to any matter that is under consideration by the Committee, avoid conflicts of interest. Where a member or indigenous peoples and local community observer finds himself or herself faced with a conflict of interest, that member or indigenous peoples and local community observer shall bring the issue to the attention of the Committee before consideration of that particular matter. The member or indigenous peoples and local community observer concerned shall not participate in the deliberations and the taking of decisions by the Committee in relation to that matter.
    2. A “conflict of interest” refers to any current interest that could:
    (a) Significantly impair the individual’s objectivity as a Committee member or indigenous peoples and local community observer;
    (b) Create an unfair advantage for any person or organization.

  4. Decision BS-IV/4. Roster of biosafety experts:

    Annex II
    4. Declining to act if there is a real or perceived conflict of interest
    22. Experts should decline any assignment where an assignment may raise a real or perceived conflict of interest. Prior to undertaking any assignment through the roster or being put forward on a secretariat shortlist, each roster member will complete a conflict of interest declaration, indicating if they have any personal, institutional or other professional interests or arrangements that would create a conflict of interest or that a reasonable person might perceive as creating a conflict.
    23. If the declaration raises concerns, the Secretariat or Party concerned may seek further information from the expert. If legitimate concerns remain, it is recommended that any judgments as to whether a conflict exists should err on the side of caution, consistent with maintaining the highest level of credibility of the roster process.

  5. Some elements adapted from: Like Minded Developing Countries, ‘LMDC Submission for the In-Session Workshop on Opportunities to Further Enhance the Effective Engagement of non-Party Stakeholders at UNFCCC SBI 46’, submission to the UNFCCC, 27 April 2017.

Gene Drive Files Expose Leading Role of US Military in Gene Drive Development.

A trove of emails (The Gene Drive Files) from leading U.S. gene drive researchers reveals that the U.S. Military is taking the lead in driving forward gene drive development.

Emails obtained through a freedom of Information request by U.S.–based Prickly Research reveal that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given approximately $100 million for gene drive research1, $35 million more than previously reported 2, making them likely the largest single funder of gene drive research on the planet 3. The emails also reveal that DARPA either funds or co-ordinates with almost all major players working on gene drive development as well as the key holders of patents on CRISPR gene editing technology 4.

These funds go beyond the US; DARPA is now also directly funding gene drive researchers in Australia (including monies given to an Australian government agency, CSIRO) 5 and researchers in the UK. The files also reveal an extremely high level of interest and activity by other sections of the U.S. military and Intelligence community.

Secret Military Study draws in Monsanto: The emails reveal that the secretive JASON group of military advisors produced a classified study on gene drive this year (2017). The report was commissioned following an earlier classified 2016 JASON report on “genome editing” that has not previously been publicly reported on although it “received considerable attention among various agencies of the U.S. government.” 7

The 2017 JASON Gene Drive study was framed to address “potential threats this technology might pose in the hands of an adversary, technical obstacles that must be overcome to develop gene drive technology and employ it ‘in the wild’, and understanding of the expertise and resources that would be required to advance the technology. The study will focus on what might be realizable in the next 3-10 years, especially with regard to agricultural applications.” 7 Emails show that the JASON study was initiated with a two day meeting of a select group of invited gene drive researchers in June 2017. At the meeting, the VP of Global Biotechnology for Monsanto gave a presentation on crop science and gene drives. 8 This is the first time that Monsanto’s interest in gene drives has been apparent. The co-chair of the JASON report explained that “it is unlikely that (the report) will be publicly disclosed…(but) will be widely circulated within the U.S. intelligence and broader national security community.” 7

Army and Spooks for Gene Drives: The emails reveal the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (ACE) involvement in convening closed door meetings on gene drives 9 10) to fund work by Jason Delbourne, a member of the DARPA-funded GBIRd gene-drives Group at North Carolina State University. 11 The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), an organization within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has also expressed interest in funding gene drive work. A member of the GBIRd gene drive group describes IARPA as “basically the intelligence agencies version of DARPA, which may be more frightening!” 12 Another GBIRd partner from USDA calls IARPA’s interest “a very important funding opportunity,” and explains that “IARPA is eager for USDA to partner on a proposal but we cannot be lead.” 13

Is DARPA funding work ’targeting’ Africans? The emails raise questions about the close relationship between the flagship “Target Malaria” gene drive project and DARPA. Because Target Malaria hopes to deploy their gene drives in African countries they have been at pains to emphasize independence from military agendas. However emails from DARPA’s Safe Genes Manager Renee Wegryzn suggests that Target Malaria’s Andrea Crisanti may also be either  a lead grantee or subcontractor for DARPA’s Safe Genes project. 14 At the ‘kickoff’ meeting for DARPA gene drive grantees, Andrea Crisanti of Target Malaria is listed as one of eight “Safe Genes Performer” presentations. 15 In other emails, the term “Safe Genes Performer” is used to designate teams under a funding contract with DARPA’s Safe Genes program 16; “Performer” appears to be the agencies’ specific term for “grantee,” defined: “an “R&D Performer” is a contractor that is under contract to DARPA to perform specific research and development related to a specific program. This definition includes both prime and subcontractors.” 17

All other seven “Safe Genes Performers” have publicly announced that they are receiving DARPA funding. No such announcement has been made regarding Target Malaria/Imperial College. 19. DARPA has also convened a project called LEEDR, initiated via a presentation by Delphine Tizzy of Target Malaria. LEEDR focuses on societal engagement around gene drives, but is intended exclusively for the DARPA’s “Safe Genes community” 18.

DARPA gene drive funds cause internal conflict and spin guidelines: The Gene Drive Files also reveal conflict about the lead role that U.S. military funding is taking. Todd Kuiken of North Carolina State University, listed in the files as a key member of the GBIRd consortia (developing gene drive mice), openly railed in press against the impact of DARPA’s investment in “militarizing the environment,” pointing out that the UN Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD) may be being violated. 21

GBIRd however receives $6.4 million of DARPA funds, prompting Heath Packard of the NGO Island Conservation (and also GBIRd’s Public Relations representative) to complain that “The lack of communications internally (NCSU & GBIRd) prior to this story publishing, the timing of the story, and the partners/stakeholder/donor fallout related to this story are concerning.” 22

He repeatedly asked Kuiken to “pull for the team” 23 and “Please do all you can to avoid criticizing GBIRd and our pursuit of DARPA,”24 suggesting that Kuiken instead publicly “acknowledge we have so much more to do and many aspects of the project that require different colored money.”24 The Gene Drive Files also include extensive “recommended strategy and talking points”25 prepared by Packard who explains that he is “available for consultation and coaching if we find ourselves under attack in the media by detractors concerned about the ‘color’ of the DARPA funding.” Packard anticipates the researchers will receive morality questions about how they could pursue this technology “knowing that the U.S. Dept. of Defense has obviously concluded that it will be used for nefarious (dual-use) purposes, maybe against our own people?” He advises gene drive researchers to respond with sweeping statements about the team’s good intentions, to point to DARPA’s past role in funding the internet and GPS and to answer difficult questions with the deflecting statement: “Those are the exact types of questions we endeavor to answer in this investigation.”


1. “Renee said the Safe Genes projects account for $65M, but then mentioned with all other support in the room it was $100M.” See File: AS notes on DARPA safe genes rollout san diego may 2 2017

2. It had already been publicly disclosed that DARPA’s Safe Genes Project had awarded $65 million – see

3. The other known major investors in gene drives are the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation in conjunction with the Federal National Institutes of Health (FNIH) who have invested $75 million into Target Malaria Consortium, Tata Trusts which made a $70 million donation to UC San Diego to establish a center of research on gene drives and ‘active genetics,’ the Open Philanthropy Project which provided $17.5 million to Project Malaria and just over $1.2 million to FNIH, and The European Union which grants 1.5 million Euros to Target Malaria researchers.

4. The key patent holders for CRISPR are the Doudna Lab at University of Berkeley, The Broad Institute and Harvard’s Church lab/ Wyss Institute. DARPA Safe Genes Project funds all of these

5. Budget emails make it clear that DARPA funds awarded to GBIRd are being channeled to CSIRO and the Safe Genes Announcement also mentions University of Adelaide as a recipient. See files: 20170414-FW_ North Carolina State University (NCSU) Proposal_ Restoring Ecosystems and Biodiversity through Development of Safe a (N0023940xC1D49).PDF and also 20170718-Re_EMBARGO COPY – DARPA Safe Genes press release-89.pdf

6. The Agenda for Safe Genes kickoff event identifies Mike Bonsall of University of Oxford as a ‘seedling’ grant and Andreas Crisanti of Project Maria as a “Safe Genes Performer.” See file: DARPA safe genes schedule for May2-4 2017 rollout.pdf

7. For information on JASON studies, see file: 20170614-Re_JASON Gene Drive study-197.pdf

8. For Agenda of JASON study meetings, see file: Gene Drive agenda.docx

9. Email from Royden Saah -“Army Corps of Engineers – Several of us met with the Army Corps of Engineers just before the DARPA proposers’ day in DC. They are convening a meeting in Massachusetts on safety aspects of synthetic biology releases in May.” See file: 20170717-Re_[gbird] Update – Engagements – and Other Important Items-101.pdf

10. See file: 20170403-Gene Drive Breakout group – Army Corps Workshop in May-299

11. “This project, funded by the Engineer Research and Development Center Environmental Laboratory of the Army Corps of Engineers.” See file: Postdoc – Synthesizing Engagement for SynBio.pdf

12. 20170716-FW_ [gbird] Update – Engagements – and Other Important Items-472.pdf

13. 20170716-FW_ [gbird] Update – Engagements – and Other Important Items-472.pdf

14. “In speaking with Luke Alphey and Andrea Chrisan [sic] this week, it is clear that the PIs are not pushing down the invite instructions to the subs.” See file: 20170406-Fwd_ DARPA Safe Genes Kick Off- Hotel Deadline FRIDAY-314 (N0024093xC1D49).PDF

15. In the Safe Genes Kickoff Agenda, Andrea Crisanti speaks for 20 mins on Day 1 and is listed as “Safe Genes Performer Presentation: Controlling and Countering Gene Editing in Mosquitos.” See file: DARPA safe genes schedule for May2-4 2017 rollout.pdf

16. “For this reason, the audience for the kickoff meeting will include not only Safe Genes performers, but also DARPA- funded small businesses and DARPA Young Faculty Awardees, along with performers from other relevant DARPA programs…. Because not all performers will be under contract by the time of the meeting, DARPA will not be publicizing the kickoff meeting.” See file 20170419-Fwd_ DARPA Safe Genes Press Release Guidance-215.pdf


18. 20170629-Invite to LEEDR Webinar on July 19-279.pdf


20. See and click on Ethics Advisory Committee: “Claire joined BAE Systems in January 2014 as Group Communications Director and is a member of the BAE Systems plc Executive Committee.”

21. Todd Kuiken, “DARPA’s Synthetic Biology initiatives Could Militarize the Environment. Is this something we are comfortable with?” Slate. May 3rd 2017.

22. See file 20170503-Mtg. Request-628.pdf

23. See file: 20170713-FW_ QUICK TURN DARPA REQUEST – Press Release-115.pdf

24. See file: 20170718-Re_DARPA announcement-19.pdf

25. See file: 20170716-Re_QUICK TURN DARPA REQUEST – Press Release-370.pdf

Gates Foundation paid PR firm to secretly stack UN Expert process on controversial extinction technology

Documents received under Freedom of Information requests reveal that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2 paid a private agriculture and biotechnology PR firm  $1.6 million 1 for activities on  Gene Drives. This included running a covert‘advocacy coalition’ 3 which appears to have intended to skew  the only UN expert process addressing gene drives, a highly controversial new genetic extinction technology being developed. Further documents also show similar covert co-ordination by an established biotech lobby group co-ordinating with  government representatives of Canada, UK, Brazil, USA and Netherlands in the same process.

Following global calls in December 2016 from Southern countries and over 170 organizations for a UN moratorium on gene drives 4, emails to gene drive advocates received under a freedom of Information request by Prickly Research reveal that a private public affairs firm ‘Emerging Ag’ received funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2 to co-ordinate the “fight back against gene drive moratorium proponents.” 5

Under a project dubbed the “Gene Drive Research Sponsors and Supporters coalition,” 6 Emerging Ag covertly recruited 65-66 seemingly independent scientists and officials to stack participation in an online expert process (The UN CBD Online Forum on Synthetic Biology) 9, designated to discuss concerns about synthetic biology, including gene drives. The UN CBD process is the only multilateral process currently addressing the topic. 7 Emerging Ag briefed these “volunteers” 8 and issued almost daily advice on how to influence the forum.

Those who coordinated and were closely involved with the Emerging Ag influence operation included a Gates Foundation senior official 10 and at least three members of an appointed UN expert committee linked to the process 11, the AHTEG (Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group) on Synthetic Biology. Two who are also AHTEG members, Dr. Todd Kuiken of North Carolina State University and Professor Paul Freemont of Imperial College London, represent t institutions that receive at least a combined $100 million dollars in U.S. military and philanthropic funds expressly to develop and test gene drive systems. 12

The AHTEG on Synthetic Biology will meet December 5, 2017 in Montreal and is tasked with creating advice and recommendations for governments based on the results of the online forum. Gene drives are expected to be a significant focus of the AHTEG’s discussions.

Documents also reveal that Emerging Ag has also been collaborating with a biotechnology lobby group Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI), who run a similar co-ordination . PRRI’s re-existing operation is detailed in emails sent to a Canadian government representative and member of the UN AHTEG. In these, PRRI boasts about a “backup operation” for “like-minded” government and industry experts who sit on the AHTEG. The emails suggest that national government representatives of Canada, U.S., UK, Brazil and the Netherlands were being remotely assisted by PRRI during closed door discussions. 13 It appears that the ‘Gene Drive Research Sponsors and Supporters coalition’ offered to approach US Department of Agriculture (USDA) contacts to find additional funding for PRRI’s activities. 14


1. Emerging Ag describes itself as “a boutique international consulting firm providing communications and public affairs services to clients in the Agriculture, Food and Health sectors.” Its president and founder is Robynne Anderson, former international communications director of CropLife, the global lobby group for the biotechnology, seed and pesticide industry.

2. Email from Isabelle Cloche (VP of Strategy for Emerging Ag):”We (Emerging Ag) have been in talks with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation about securing longer term resources to enable and support advocacy and engagement activities on gene drive – in particular information sharing, collaboration and coordination on advocacy between different groups involved in this field.As I mentioned on the call of our group last Monday, the Foundation has now offered to put up some seed funding to ensure this effort continues. It is in the hope that others may join to support activities, either through funding or ‘in kind’ by contributing time and effort on advocacy and engagement.” See file: 20170801-Re_Gene drive engagement-733.pdf  . Additionally the grantees database for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation records Emerging Ag Inc receiving  $1,603,405 from the Foundation “to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of possible gene drive applications for public” – see

3. Notes from Target Malaria Ethics Committee meeting: “Isabelle noted that the CBD meeting in December 2018, combined with growing interest in gene drive, had put the Target Malaria team on spot. It was able to reach out to a large group of like minded researchers and advocates and is now working to capitalize on this early effort by supporting efforts to build an advocacy coalition. See file: 2017 06 Notes Ethics Committee Meeting.pdf

Recruitment email from Heath Packard: “We urge you to get yourself (or a colleague) nominated to the UN SBD Synthetic Biology Open-Ended Forum (July-Sept 2017). It is very important to have experts like yourselves to help balance policy discussions that might otherwise be weighted towards imposing a moratorium on gene drive research as we saw last winter at the CBD Convening of the Parties.” See file: 20170530-Action requested! CBD Syn Bio Forum-278.pdf

4. For reporting on the call for a moratorium on Gene Drives at CBD COP13 in Cancun December 2016 see: ETC Group and Scientific American.

Also see “A Call for Conservation with a Conscience: No Place for Gene Drives in Conservation,” a letter signed by 30 environmental leaders asking that there be a “halt to all proposals for the use of gene drive technologies, but especially in conservation.”

For more background information on gene drives and the calls for a global moratorium, see: “Reckless Driving: Gene drives and the end of nature

5. Email from Stephanie James FNIH:

“By way of this email, I would like to introduce you to Isabelle Coche. Isabelle will be working on efforts to get a broader scientific perspective represented in these discussion. She is looking for a few good scientists who have a broad perspective on the issues around gene drive and are mature enough to be able to deal with the kinds of conversations that can arise within the CBD arena. Isabelle would like the chance to explain what this all means and what activities will be needed to fight back against gene drive moratorium proponents before the next CBD meeting in 2018. Ultimately she is looking to get some volunteers to help in the cause. I hope you will all be interested enough to get back in touch with her to learn more about what this might entail. I’m sorry to say that these next few years are going to be critical and we are going to have to take the fight outside the laboratory.”


6. Email from Heath Packard: “The Gene Drive Research Sponsors and Supporters coalition will be monitoring the Forum daily.” See file: 20170601-Re_CBD follow up – reminder of our call Friday 2 June-240 (N0024131xC1D49.PDF

7. The “‘volunteer’ target list” of 65 individuals that Emerging Ag recruited can be seen in the file: CBD Synbio AHTEG online forum outreach tracking sheet.xlsx

However, actual emails to this group of ‘volunteers’ went to a list of 66 individuals that appears to differ slightly from the target list. See file: 20170714-CBD Forum update-368.pdf.

In one update, notes record “On the registrations for the online forum, Isabelle noted that there are currently 19 people registered who are either directly linked to this group or considered well aligned to the position of the group. This is very positive and reflect the efforts made by everyone to reach out through their network.” See file: 2017 06 02 NOTES call

See detailed discussion on reach out to “volunteers” for the synbio on-line forum:

“Isabelle noted that the geographical diversity of participants however remains a weak point, with mostly North America and Europe represented. Greater participation from Asian, Latin American and African experts would be very useful as government representatives tend to value the opinion of experts from their region. Bob and Royden offered to help reach out through Tata, TIGs group, and GBIRd to try to get more participants from India and Oceania. Delphine is continuing outreach to Target Malaria’s partners in Africa as well. Hector offered to reach out to Douglas Miano.

Isabelle noted that in conversation with NEPAD, they had signaled their own efforts to have African experts registered but that sometimes a perceived lack of expertise was preventing them from being active in the discussions, even if they are registered. Isabelle suggested this group of experts could be made available to answer questions should NEPAD’s network want to seek opinions on some of the questions raised. The group agreed and David noted he would be available to help.

Hector and Camilla both suggested that outreach could also be done through Biotechnology Information Centers (BIC) in Asia and Jeff suggested the Asian malaria leaders group could also be a good entry point.” See file: 2017 06 02 NOTES call

8. Email from Isabelle Cloche, Emerging Ag: “I will be holding briefing calls for ‘volunteers’ this week before the online forum begins. The calls are meant to provide a very basic introduction to what the forum is and how we expect it to work, and some guidance on where and how efforts may best be spent.” See file: 20170626-Re_CBD online forum – briefing calls for _volunteers_-97.pdf

9. The Gene Drive Files extensively document how Emerging Ag communicated with its volunteers. for example:

Email from Isabelle Cloche:

“The proposal is that my team (Ben Robinson and another team member tbc) will monitor the conversation and send the group regular updates and signal when it would be useful to see more engagement. This is meant to help everyone not spend hours on the sites figuring out what’s happening, but of course doesn’t preclude anyone from doing so. My team can also relay any concerns, warnings or call for engagement that you wish to share.”

See file: 20170621-CBD online forum – schedule announced – starting July 3-102.pdf

Email from Ben Robinson:

“My name is Ben Robinson, I work with Isabelle Coche & Delphine Thizy, and I will be sending you regular updates on the discussions taking place in the context of the CBD’s Open-Ended Online Forum on synthetic biology. I will monitor contributions and provide you with brief summaries of the content and tenor of conversations, while highlighting topics and posts you may wish to address. Should you feel that a topic needs to be addressed but you do not have the relevant resources or expertise, I can also help identify and coordinate those best suited among the group to respond to particular issues.”

See file: 20170630-CBD Online Forum on Synthetic Biology-757.pdf

Emails from Isabelle Cloche to Zach Edeleman:

“My team will be monitoring the conversation and will send regular updates and signal when it would be useful to see more engagement.”

“When relevant issues come up (it could be once a day or every few days), we will send the expert group an email. It will give you an overview of the conversations and suggest areas where contributions would be useful.”

See file.

For an example of an email sent by Ben Robinson of Emerging Ag to the 65 “volunteers” during the online forum, see: example: 20170705-CBD Online Forum Update-659.pdf

“The 1st two days of the CBD’s online forum on synthetic biology have not featured substantive discussion of gene drive technology. However, there have been a couple of statements which it may be useful to begin thinking about ways to respond to, as per below:

Points you may wish to address:

1. Barbara Livoreil, SBSTTA focal point for France, has raised the following points as potential new developments in synthetic biology, while asking how true they are:

“It is designed to be used “in vivo”, in field experiments, no longer in confinement only.”

“off target effects are prevalent and may prevent the prediction with a high level of certainty of the real phenotype (including behavior) of the organism and its effects on its environment”

This point in particular may be picked up by NGOs with regards to CRISPR and other gene editing techniques, so it would be good to think about arguments or publications which could be used as a response.

“It goes “faster” or “deeper” (larger modifications) than evolution (and may not consider how the natural environment may react to this).”

You can respond to Ms. Livoreil’s points here: /?threadid=8384#8392”

10. Jeff Chertack, Senior Program Officer Global Policy and Advocacy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a former PR and public affairs executive from Ogilvy PR who formerly represented biotech and pharma giants in Brussels. Chertack sits on the co-ordination team meetings of Emerging Ag’s “Gene Drive Research Sponsors and Supporters coalition” and is copied on several strategy calls and co-ordination phone calls. See: 20170621-CBD online forum – schedule announced – starting July 3-102.pdf.

Chertack also appeared to play a key role in a recent “messaging” meeting for Gene Drive Supporters where the draft agenda includes presentation by Jeff Chertack BMGF “presentation of preliminary findings of testing gene drive concepts and terminology with stakeholders and informed publics.” See file.

11. The Gene Drive Files show that the 2 following appointed members of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology also took a central active role in recruitment and strategy for the “Gene Drive Research Sponsors and Supporters coalition”:Todd Kuiken (North Carolina State University) and Bob Friedman of the J Craig Venter Institute. Additionally, Paul Freemont of Imperial College London recurs several times as an active participant in the advocacy coalition activities and is also a member of the AHTEG on Synthetic Biology. Professor Freemont’s institution (Imperial College, London) hosts both the Target Malaria coalition and provides office space for the Vice President of Strategy for Emerging Ag, Isabelle Cloche. Todd Kuiken of North Carolina State University is a key player in the GBIRd Gene Drive consortium which received $6.4 million to develop gene drive mice for field release.

(12)Imperial College, London (at which Paul Freemont is a professor) receives at least $92.5 million US dollars of philanthropic funds to support the Target Malaria Gene Drive project. The GBIRd (Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents) consortium of which Todd Kuiken is a key member receives $6.4 Million U.S. for gene drive development from the US military

13. See file: PRRI back up for AHTEG.pdf – Email sent from Piet Vander Meer of PRRI (Public Research and regulation Initiative) to Jim Louter, an employee of Environment Canada. Aug 8th 2015


“(I) wanted to alert and invite you to an informal discussion group on CBD-SynBio which PRRI facilitates (in the same way we facilitate such groups on CPB related topics as ERA, SECs and Review). Thus far I have learned that the following people have been confirmed for the AHTEG:


Imperial College

J Craig Venter Institute

Netherlands, GMO Office

Wilson Institute

Brazil Ministry of Agriculture


US, State Department

As [redacted] said the participation of PRRI members has had quite an impact in MOPs, COPs and AHTEGs. Having said that I must correct that not all people on this email list are PRRI members. In the past tense informal groups did indeed only consist of PRRI members, but over the years these lists include other researcher, members of the other part of the regulated community (i.e. the private sector) and regulators…In addition know that we always establish a ‘back up team’ on the home front, who can give immediate feedback through email, or search for articles while you sleep.”

14. See file: 2017 06 02 NOTES call

“In addition, Bob suggested PRRI could be a useful network to increase geographic diversity but that current lack of funding for that group was likely to impair their ability to participate. Camilla suggested reaching out to Diane Wray Cahen at USDA to see if there would be some funding opportunities for PRRI…Isabelle, Hector, Bob will see if a solution could be found to help support PRRI.”