Do We Care About Synbiodiversity?


Delicous potatoes.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault provides a backup of seed collections from gene banks around the world. It’s unique character has made it iconic in the public imagination as a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for crop plants. Its remote location and strict controls on access have, however, also lent it an air of mystery, swirling with conspiracy theories.

In this paper, Senior Scientist Fern Wickson first clarify the aims of the Vault, the history of its development and the policies and practices of its current operation. Given concerns around its potential links to the biotechnology industry, she go on to ask whether GM crops are currently stored in the Vault. Presenting several reasons for why GM crops are formally excluded, while indicating the potential for both change and unintentional contamination, she is compelled to question whether GM crops should be excluded. Answering this requires an interrogation of their potential conservation value as modern contributors to crop biodiversity. In exploring this issue, she suggest that there has been surprisingly little discussion of the moral status and conservation value of bio-technological crop plants and indeed, of how we care for all the techno-lifeforms we are currently engaged in co-creating. Fern suggest that these are becoming important issues as biotechnological techniques and applications begin to rapidly evolve and diversify (e.g. through genome editing and synthetic biology).

Use this link if you want to read the entire article.

Wickson, F. (2016). “Do We Care About Synbiodiversity? Questions arising from an investigation into whether there are GM crops in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault”, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. DOI 10.1007/s10806-016-9634-7 (open access)

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