Knowing and Controlling: Engineering Ideals and Gene Drive for Invasive Species Control in Aotearoa New Zealand

C. H. Ross,  Nature Remade: Engineering Life, Envisioning Worlds,  2021.

On the islands of Aotearoa, also called New Zealand, invasive species have been a prominent and persistent concern for local ecosystems. Traditional methods of biological control, though, can be difficult to implement and often have harmful side- effects for the environment and human health. Recent developments in genetic engineering have led to the creation of a new technology called gene drive, which some have suggested may pro-vide a safer, easier alternative way to “restore damaged ecosystems and save endangered wildlife by genetically removing invasive species.” 1 While the promises of gene drive for invasive species control have attracted the attention of many in Aotearoa New Zealand interested in preserving or restoring the islands’ native environment, at the same time it has prompted calls for caution regarding their controllability and possible unintended consequences of their use. 2 However, the consideration of gene drive for the control of invasive species in Aotearoa New Zealand is more than just an issue of a controversial use of emerging biotechnology. At stake also are critical questions about what it means to know and control life. What are the kinds of knowledge that enable and underwrite the notions of controlling of life? If gene drive confers the power to control inva-sive species, who decides whether and how that control is exercised and with what responsibilities? And, crucially, what visions of the world are embedded in the aspirations of scientifically knowing and technologically controlling life?Controlling life has long been a central aspiration of the biological sciences. In the early twentieth century, aspirations to greater control over life manifested in rigorous laboratory experimentation, attempts to engineer organisms to be more amenable to human purposes, and explanatory commitments to a mechanistic conception of life. 3 Mechanistic approaches have been ubiquitous in biological practice aimed at bringing living things and their functions into the purview of human intention and volition by isolating, manipulating, and better understanding the function of more fundamental parts. 4 The widespread mechanistic approaches in biology

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