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Killing "Nicely"

Pitts, Elizabeth (2020) Killing "Nicely". In: Pitt Momentum Fund 2020, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

"This project investigates what it means to make genetic engineering a technology of extermination. Specifically, I focus on genetic pest management, a little-known field that reconfigures the art of eliminating unwanted organisms. Rather than killing individuals, this technology aims to make entire populations vanish— “nicely” —by introducing a gene that makes it impossible for them to bear female offspring. To facilitate the spread of this sex-biasing gene, ecosystem managers would release genetically engineered organisms to mate with those targeted for eradication. If the method works as planned, each successive generation would be increasingly dominated by males, to the point where few, if any, new births would take place, making it impossible for the population to sustain itself.
This research will offer insights into the uncomfortable pairing of conservation and genetic engineering. Conservationists have long argued that diverse species should be protected for their own sake, rather than for their utility to humans. But genetic engineering approaches organisms as tools to be adapted for human purposes. How might these two value systems intersect? How might the ideal of restoring an ecosystem to a more harmonious, more “natural” past intersect with the introduction of novel organisms designed by humans? What would it mean to create a mammal that functions as its own extermination device? What, if any, obligations would humans owe to such a creature?
I will explore these and related questions through a case study of the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRD) project, an international collaboration that describes its mission as “cautiously investigating the feasibility of, and assessing the social, ethical, and biological risks of, gene-drive modified organisms for eradication of island invasive species.” A Momentum Funds Seeding grant will enable me to collect preliminary evidence to inform the design of a longer-term study."


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Details

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Status: Unpublished
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Pitts, Elizabetheap90@pitt.edueap90
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Office of Sponsored Research > Pitt Momentum Fund
Date: 2020
Event Title: Pitt Momentum Fund 2020
Event Type: Other
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.18117/wd8f-7854
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Refereed: No
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2020 16:08
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2020 18:13
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/38179

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