The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this year paid a PR firm called Emerging Ag $1.6 million to recruit a covert coalition of academics to manipulate a UN decision-making process over gene drives, according to emails obtained through Freedom of Information requests.
Gene drives are a highly controversial new genetic extinction technology. They have been proposed as potentially able to eradicate malarial mosquitoes, agricultural pests, invasive species, as well as having potential military uses.
Emerging Ag calls itself “a boutique international consulting firm providing communications and public affairs services.” Its president and founder is Robynne Anderson, a former international communications director of CropLife, the global lobby group for the biotechnology, seed, and pesticide industries.
The FOIA emails reveal that the project coordinated by Emerging Ag was dubbed the “Gene Drive Research Sponsors and Supporters coalition”. It consisted of three members of a UN committee called the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology (AHTEG) plus a larger group of 65 covertly recruited, but seemingly independent, scientists and officials, all coordinated by a still larger number of government officials (mainly from English-speaking countries), PR advisors, academics, and members of various Gates-funded projects.
The AHTEG on Synthetic Biology is part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This AHTEG is tasked with creating a formal set of regulatory recommendations to help governments avoid negative impacts on biodiversity. Its recommendations are supposed to draw from the discussions of an online forum of experts called The UN CBD Online Forum on Synthetic Biology.
The AHTEG on Synthetic Biology is about to meet, on December 5, 2017, in Montreal, where gene drive issues raised in that online forum are expected to be a significant focus of discussions.