Policy ForumTechnology and Law

De-extinction, nomenclature, and the law

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 1016-1017
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal4012

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Summary

The concept of de-extinction, aimed at restoration of extinct species, is controversial (1). Improvements in de-extinction techniques (back-breeding, cloning, and genomic engineering) now provide the opportunity to attempt to resurrect extinct species (2, 3). Up to 25 extinct animal species have been proposed as candidates for de-extinction (4) on the basis of their high public profiles, availability of well-preserved DNA, existence of closely related species who may serve as host or surrogate parents, and availability of suitable habitat in the case of planned reintroductions (1). From a legal point of view, it will be crucial to clarify how de-extinct species will be classified, in particular, in relation to their potential conservation status under national and international law. We discuss implications for conservation laws, which largely depend on nomenclature, and laws regarding the release of genetically engineered species, which do not, and argue for unique naming of de-extinct species.