Gene Guard Act (S/F)

The Gene Guard Act, initially proposed as the Ethical Negligence within Paleo-Genetic Resurrection (ENPGR) Bill, is an American law intended to regulate de-extinction research and ensure the welfare of species created through the de-extinction process. It was passed by the United States House Committee on Science (UHCS) in late 1997 as a direct response to the May 1997 incident in San Diego, California which originally revealed de-extinction as scientific fact to the American public. Writing on the bill also involved former CEO of International Genetic Technologies, Dr. John Parker Hammond, and then-current members of InGen senior management.

Although the law was originally praised as a landmark piece of legislation for de-extinct animal rights, it was watered down six years after its creation by high-ranking members of the UHCS. This was on the grounds that Masrani Global Corporation, the parent company of InGen and thus the world’s leader in de-extinction science, was held back from making major medical advances by the restrictions placed on genetic engineering. However, new information revealed after the Isla Nublar incident of 2015 that key House members had been bribed to amend the law by Masrani Global. In addition, it was discovered that InGen and Masrani Global had violated the Act on Isla Sorna before even the Amendments of 2003. Due to the violations in the late 1990s and the 2003 rollback, this law is no longer considered an effective measure, even though it is still a valid part of U.S. federal legislature.

History
1997: Background and creation

On May 30, 1997, the bioengineering company International Genetic Technologies held an early-morning press conference regarding the opening of its new theme park, Jurassic Park, in San Diego, California. During the conference, the transport ship S.S. Venture 5888 rammed into the waterfront complex and its cargo, an adult male Tyrannosaurus rex, was accidentally released into the city. The resultant chaos involved property damage, general disruption, and the deaths of several people including InGen CEO Peter Ludlow. De-extinction, the practice of bringing extinct animals back to life via a combination of genetic engineering and cloning, was revealed to the public as factual. The escaped animal and its offspring were recaptured by scientists Dr. Ian Malcolm and Dr. Sarah Harding, the former of whom had attempted to reveal InGen’s de-extinction practices in 1995.

InGen had been researching de-extinction since at least the early 1980s, with its first success in 1986. These studies and experiments were kept hidden from the public by being performed in remote locations; they moved from the Lockwood estate private laboratory to the Costa Rican island of Isla Sorna in 1982. Operations expanded to Isla Nublar in 1987; InGen’s CEO at the time, John Hammond, planned to build Jurassic Park there and abandoned the San Diego location. The Park had been sabotaged from within to top off various technical and logistical issues, causing it to be abandoned in June 1993. Work on Isla Sorna was severely ramped down by Hammond, who began concerning himself more with matters of animal welfare than InGen business; he finally finished abandoning Isla Sorna altogether during 1995’s Hurricane Clarissa, though the animals were later found to have persisted. Continuing trouble at InGen resulted in Hammond being fired in 1997 with Chairman Ludlow taking his place and enacting plans to retrieve the surviving Isla Sorna animals for the San Diego park locale, which he now sought to finish. Hammond, despite being fired, sabotaged Ludlow’s operation; this led directly to the San Diego incident on May 30.

In the aftermath of the incident, both the American public and the government, as well as the global community, engaged in serious bioethical debate regarding the de-extinct species. Numerous types of genetically-modified prehistoric animals and plants were now living on Isla Sorna, with some survivors on Isla Nublar as well, but they had no place in any modern ecosystem. They were also argued to be InGen property, though the San Diego incident put InGen into such a financial crisis that it had little power to reclaim its assets. Hammond, seen as the voice of InGen after Ludlow’s death, urged the international community to protect the creatures from exploitation; he also named the Costa Rican Department of Biological Preserves to take action, as the islands housing the creatures were Costa Rican territory.

Ultimately, Hammond and certain members of InGen’s upper ranks worked with the United States House of Representatives, particularly the House Committee on Science (UHCS), to create a law that would extent endangered animal protections as described under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (amended in 1978) to de-extinct species. This law was entitled the Ethical Negligence in Paleo-Genetic Resurrection Bill, or ENPGR. It also barred InGen from continuing de-extinction research and restricted access to the InGen-leased islands in the Gulf of Fernandez including Isla Sorna and Isla Nublar. Later in 1997, the bill was renamed the Gene Guard Act, and was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives (105th U.S. Congress; the Speaker of the House at the time was Newt Gingrich). The Senate, at the time presided over by Vice President Al Gore, concurred, and the bill was sent to President Bill Clinton for consideration. With the President’s seal of approval, the Gene Guard Act became law. Hammond lived long enough to see this come to fruition, and then passed away at the very end of 1997.

Excerpt from the Gene Guard Act of 1997
“International Genetic Technologies is obligated to contain and protect the dinosaurs from further proliferation, through uncontrolled breeding or experimentation; or harm through organised [sic] destruction of their biological makeup, or living conditions.” ENPGR Bill, 1997
1998-2002: Violations of the Gene Guard Act

InGen, in turmoil after the disastrous events of 1997, was bought by the Indian megacorporation Masrani Global in 1998 after a contentious bidding war. This company was headed by Simon Masrani, who had been a close personal friend of Hammond’s. Masrani was an environmentalist like Hammond had been during his final few years of life, and was publicly committed to upholding the strict regulations of the Gene Guard Act. However, not all members of InGen, or its new holding company, were as dedicated to animal rights or the law. One such man was InGen’s chief geneticist, Dr. Henry Wu, whose research into de-extinction had led to groundbreaking scientific developments since he was first hired in 1986. Just before the San Diego incident, he had hybridized several species of plants including some de-extinct varieties to create a new genus and species called Karacosis wutansis. This remarkable achievement had been directly inspired by the unintended side effects of gene splicing discovered in de-extinct dinosaurs. With the Gene Guard Act in place, his research was now greatly inhibited.

Beginning about one hundred days after the InGen buyout by Masrani Global Corporation, a group of InGen scientists probably including Dr. Wu illegally returned to Isla Sorna without obtaining permission from the Costa Rican Department of Biological Preserves or the United Nations, who were jointly monitoring the island at that point. Over the course of the next nine months, they continued de-extinction research in defiance of the Gene Guard Act. The result was the creation of several new dinosaur species (and potentially new varieties of preexisting species), including at least one specimen which greatly forwarded Dr. Wu’s hybridization research. In mid-1999, Isla Sorna was again abandoned out of fear that the United Nations or some national government would discover the criminal incursion. The collected data was filed away, both for the benefit of Dr. Wu’s research and for the eventual creation of a new Jurassic Park. While it is uncertain if Simon Masrani was aware of the criminal use of Isla Sorna, it is known that one of Masrani Global’s main objectives from the very beginning had been to revive the Park. InGen was granted limited access to Isla Sorna in 1999, and Masrani himself visited the island.

InGen’s illegal use of Isla Sorna facilities began to cause them problems fairly quickly, once evidence of their creations was accidentally brought into the public eye due to an international incident that occurred on the island in 2001. In order to avoid legal consequences, members of Masrani Global Corporation paid off key United States government officials to bury witness testimonies and thereby ensure that the evidence never came to light. What the public did learn about the incident was heavily censored enough to avoid exposure. However, InGen would be hard-pressed to contain this information, and struggled to prevent knowledge from leaking for the next seventeen years.

2003-present: The Act is watered down

In the year 2003, a proposal was brought before the UHCS to amend the Gene Guard Act. A board member of Masrani Global Corporation, whose name has been removed from all official records, requested that the restrictions on “further development” of de-extinction science be lifted. The rationale for this was given as “reasons of medical advancement,” as the biopharmaceutical uses of de-extinct organisms could bring more good than it would cause harm. Key members of the UHCS agreed to the terms proposed by Masrani Global, and the amendments were passed (this time by the 108th United States Congress; the Speaker of the House at that time was Dennis Hastert). Again the Senate concurred; at this point in time the Senate was presided over by Vice President Dick Cheney. The amendment to the law was approved by President George W. Bush. Masrani Global’s representative pledged that the company would continue to provide the utmost care to older specimens, but they now also had the right to continue research into gene splicing.

Excerpt from the Gene Guard Act Amendments Proposal of 2003
“The advancement of these technologies, building upon old assets and creating new ones, would be used to safeguard against genetic abnormalities or hereditary diseases that would potentially arise during the lifecycle of any of the animals, and could potentially extend to eradicating many such diseases that are prevalent in the animal kingdom and humans. Applications of this research would also extend to the surrounding wildlife and ecosystem around Isla Nublar.” Masrani Global Representative [name redacted], March 2003

Masrani Global wasted no time in ramping up research now that the law no longer opposed it. Some of this research really was medical in nature; the corporation’s newest company was Medixal Health, based out of New York. Behind the scenes, though, InGen was rapidly proliferating and developing new assets, as well as resuming work on those it had abandoned during the Gene Guard Act’s stronger years. A new version of Jurassic Park, called Jurassic World, was built on Isla Nublar atop the ruins of the old Park. The Gene Guard Act was succeeded in 2005 by the Prehistoric BioSecurity Act, which was intended to restrict de-extinct life rather than protect its rights.

In 2004, scientists noted a population collapse on Isla Sorna, and Masrani Global intervened; while the cause of the collapse was blamed on poachers, disease, and animal conflict, the actual cause was overpopulation and resource scarcity. The illegal cloning in the late 1990s had strained the island’s ecosystem more than it could bear. InGen Security rounded up the animals, and transported most of them to Isla Nublar in time for Jurassic World’s opening day in 2005. Some animals quietly went missing, some the victims of poachers; others appear to have covertly remained on Isla Sorna for unknown reasons. InGen continued to work with the United Nations to monitor the island, but the international community now allowed the company basically unlimited access.

Jurassic World operated successfully for ten years and six months, during which time substantial advancements in genetic science were made. De-extinction fueled most of this research, with the money generated by Masrani Global being used to fund Dr. Wu’s continued studies into gene splicing. It was one of his experiments which ultimately caused the park to be shuttered in December 2015; the Indominus rex, a species of theropod engineered by Dr. Wu with input from InGen Security’s Vic Hoskins and bankrolled by the Lockwood Foundation through Eli Mills. Several InGen employees (including Simon Masrani and Vic Hoskins) and animal assets were killed during the incident, culminating with the Indominus specimen itself; scores of civilians were also injured in the chaos.

Legal inquiry into the incident followed almost immediately, with Jurassic World’s former Operations Manager, Claire Dearing, acting as whistleblower into Dr. Wu’s collusion with Hoskins. She was unaware of Mills’s involvement until several years later. The 114th U.S. Congress convened to investigate acts of bioethical misconduct in late 2015, and in March 2016 it opened up a new inquiry: the violations of the Gene Guard Act in the late 1990s. More whistleblowers stepped forward, revealing that the 2003 amendments had been brought about through a “willfully misleading process” involving bribery and corruption. The whistleblowers also revealed that several of the species present on Isla Nublar had been cloned before the law was amended, not after. A paper trail confirming the bribery was discovered, and the corrupt members of the Committee were tracked down and arrested. Further evidence of violations came in the form of electronic data distributed online by an anonymous hacker using the moniker JUR@55!_H@K3R, who published sensitive InGen documents including evidence of illegal cloning.

The evidence of corruption generated negative press surrounding the Gene Guard Act in the public eye. Elected officials had been bribed to alter the Act by corporate representatives wielding Masrani Global Corporation profits, possibly without the knowledge of their popular CEO. Furthermore, InGen had never truly obeyed the law in the first place. While Dr. Wu had gone on the lam after the events of 2015, the impacts of his crimes were still felt by many. The manhunt for the renegade scientist, now stripped of his credentials at the suggestion of the National Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics, turned up nothing for several years; meanwhile, the de-extinct animal rights debate was fired up once more without the Gene Guard Act as a factor. A history of the Gene Guard Act and its 2003 amendments, including information about the corrupt practices that rendered the Act impotent, was published in 2018 by Zia Rodriguez of the Dinosaur Protection Group. By this time, the Act was considered “dead” by most members of the general public: the informational article was intended only to reveal misconduct, review recent and current events, and draw support from the American public to actively and effectively enforce de-extinct animal rights policies.

Restrictions and obligations imposed by the Gene Guard Act
Endangered species protections

The first and foremost purpose of the Gene Guard Act was to extend the endangered species rights as defined in the Endangered Species Act of 1973, including its 1978 amendments, to de-extinct species. This meant that, if the United States federal government deemed a de-extinct species as meeting the criteria for endangered status, critical habitat must be designated for that species. Critical habitat cannot be destroyed by any federal agency, and listed species cannot be taken (killed, harassed, or otherwise harmed) or possessed without a permit. Federal agencies use their authorities to conserve these species, and cannot jeopardize their existence. To be considered for listing as endangered, a species must face destruction or harmful modification of its habitat, over-utilization for human purpose, population decline due to predation or disease, inadequacy of governmental regulation which results in harm to its population, or other natural or anthropogenic factors threatening its continued existence. Exceptions to this include members of the Class Insecta which the Secretary of the Interior deems to be pests.

While this aspect of the Gene Guard Act technically still exists, it is not enforced. Until 2004, both Isla Sorna and Isla Nublar were designated as critical habitat; Isla Sorna was voided of this designation due to a trophic cascade event resulting in a population collapse of most species on the island. Then, Isla Nublar was utilized by Masrani Global as a theme park and zoo, though Jurassic World also served as a biological preserve. The park closed in December 2015, and while Isla Nublar was considered critical habitat, no efforts were made to ensure its survival. Volcanic activity in 2018 threatened to render most species on the island extinct. However, as Isla Nublar is Costa Rican territory and thus outside of U.S. jurisdiction, the United States did not intervene to protect the critical habitat. Masrani Global also made no effort to save the animals, considering it a waste of resources. Ultimately, the 115th U.S. Congress voted to take no action regarding the Isla Nublar situation, effectively removing endangered species protections from de-extinct species. Notably, other species naturally endemic to the island such as the Nublar tufted deer were also permitted to become extinct by the United States and Costa Rican governments as well as the United Nations, caught in the political crossfire surrounding the dinosaurs and ultimately forgotten by activists and critics alike.

Since the de-extinct animals did not become extinct in the 2018 eruption of Mount Sibo, and instead were released into the Pacific Northwest and introduced to the black market, the United States and other national governments are faced with the task of determining whether endangered species protections for these organisms should be enforced or formally eliminated. No final decision appears to have yet been made, though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now largely responsible for monitoring and containing the animals. Other United States governmental bodies are also involved; since the incident at Jurassic World numerous parties outside of InGen have claimed to have access to de-extinction technology, further complicating the issue.

Limiting access to de-extinct species habitats

While the protections of the Endangered Species Act would designate critical habitat for de-extinct endangered species, the Gene Guard Act also formally restricts access to Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna. However, what governing body has the authority to grant access to the islands has never been wholly clear; when the Act was penned in 1997, it was the intent of both Hammond and the U.S. government to give this power to the United Nations working in tandem with the Costa Rican Department of Biological Preserves. Since the islands fall outside of U.S. jurisdiction, but are leased by a company based in the United States, they are in a complicated legal situation, and protection of the islands was largely delegated to the United Nations. The American and Costa Rican governments were involved to a limited degree; a monitoring station located in San Juan was in operation in the early 2000s. However, it had failed to prevent illegal access to the island since the early years of the Gene Guard Act.

Since 1999, Masrani Global Corporation has been permitted access to Isla Sorna, though this was highly limited at first. Access to Isla Nublar was given in 2002, with basically no restrictions; Masrani Global was awarded free rein to do whatever they pleased there. Dinosaur populations were far lower on Isla Nublar than Isla Sorna, so the former island escaped most governing bodies’ notice until Simon Masrani announced his intent to rebuild Jurassic Park under the new brand Jurassic World. This occurred in 2003. Then, a year after that, the infamous trophic cascade on Isla Sorna was documented, and Masrani Global was given full access to that island as well in order to save the species from extinction. In the early 2010s, the islands were monitored by a multinational coalition involving the United Nations, Costa Rica, and InGen Security under Vic Hoskins. In the present day, Isla Sorna is still heavily restricted and off-limits to the public, but it is only assumed that Masrani Global Corporation is the main entity controlling access since the island is still on lease to them until 2081. In reality, it is totally unknown what governing body actually decides who can or cannot visit Isla Sorna.

Meanwhile, Isla Nublar was mostly open to the public from May 30, 2005 until December 22, 2015, after which point it was put under quarantine by the United Nations and restricted except to limited government personnel. Due to the remote location of the island and lack of public interest, it was accessed illegally multiple times between the park’s closure and the eruption of Mount Sibo. Today, Isla Nublar is still affected by volcanic activity and is considered inhospitable. Most of the de-extinct life is believed to have died out and most of the existing infrastructure destroyed, removing the majority of concern over people accessing the island. No on-site monitoring has been conducted since early 2018.

Total ban on further de-extinction

The most controversial aspect of the Gene Guard Act was its blanket ban on de-extinction research, which was coupled with obligations to animal welfare imposed upon International Genetic Technologies regarding the living things its research had yielded. At the time the law was written, InGen had recently lost its CEO Peter Ludlow and was largely deferring to the perceived authority of its original CEO and founder, John Hammond, who was one of the minds behind the Act. Therefore, InGen officials stated with apparent honesty their intent to honor the Act’s order to provide proper care for the organisms created through InGen research as well as to cease all de-extinction efforts.

However, not all InGen employees agreed; this included Dr. Henry Wu, the chief geneticist and until that point a close friend of Hammond’s. Within one hundred days of InGen being acquired by Masrani Global Corporation, a number of InGen scientists probably including Dr. Wu returned illegally to Isla Sorna and resumed cloning activities. This forwarded InGen scientific research, created several newly de-extinct animals, and greatly bolstered the populations of both new and old species. After nine months, this operation was abandoned due to fears that the United Nations patrols would discover it, and Isla Sorna gradually became densely overpopulated. By 2004, the island ecosystem was in a state of trophic cascade. Simon Masrani blamed poaching for the disaster and had most of the dinosaurs relocated to Isla Nublar where they were housed in Jurassic World.

By that time, a representative of his company had approached the United States Congress with a proposition to amend the Gene Guard Act. It was argued that prohibiting all de-extinction research was limiting Masrani Global’s ability to utilize InGen resources for medical research, which in turn was limiting its ability to increase animal and human welfare alike. Although this argument was outwardly convincing, the corporation had actually bribed key members of the board that ultimately approved the amendments, with reports describing them as “bought and paid for.” This led to the 2003 amendments which relaxed the Gene Guard Act. At the time, it appeared that the Act had merely been loosened to allow for the development of new gene splicing techniques which would benefit medical research. In time, though, it became clear that the Act had been more or less declawed by these amendments, and that it no longer held sway over either public or governmental opinion. Since the 2003 amendments, the Gene Guard Act has declined in power and by the mid-2010s was no longer considered effective legislature.