Over 1,200 emails released under open records requests reveal that the US military is now the top funder and influencer behind a controversial genetic extinction technology known as “gene drives” – pumping $100 million into the field. The trove of emails, obtained via open records requests, also shed light on a $1.6 million dollar UN gene drive lobbying operation paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Emerging Ag,” a private PR firm funded by the Gates Foundation, is working behind the scenes to stack key UN advisory processes with gene drive-friendly scientists, and has recruited ostensibly independent academics and public officials into a private collaboration to counteract proposed regulations and to resist calls by scientists and conservationists for an international moratorium. Some of those recruited entered into the UN discussions without divulging their conflicts of interest or the role that paid political consultants played in shaping their inputs. The files, dubbed “The Gene Drive Files,” additionally cast a spotlight on the central role of the shadowy US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as the key funder now accelerating gene drive development. For example, DARPA is now revealed as the major financial backer of efforts to develop gene drive mammals (mice) that are led by a US environmental NGO, although DARPA has no biodiversity conservation mission, raising questions about the defence agency’s intent. These revelations come on the heels of a public warning issued by a leading gene drive researcher Dr Kevin Esvelt that current gene drives are too powerful to be used in conservation. “Gene drives are a powerful and dangerous new technology and potential biological weapons that could have disastrous impacts on peace, food security and the environment, especially if misused,” said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. “The fact that gene drive development is now being primarily funded and structured by the US military raises alarming questions about this entire field.”

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