Should gene drive be banned?


A number of global scientists have proposed a resolution that would broaden the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to implore governments to “refrain from” releasing certain genetically engineered organisms into nature. 

“Gene drive” is a technology that re-writes a portion of the DNA molecule so that engineered dominant traits not found in nature are passed to offspring.  The Prototype reported in September that researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) demonstrated how gene drive might make mosquitos extinct if CRISPR-cas9 genetically manipulated females were released into the wild.  Although mosquito eradication would protect humans from malaria and Zika virus, such action might have unintended and potentially irreversible ecological consequences. 

Scientists from ICL, the National Audubon Society in the US and Australian Wildlife Conservancy argued against a moratorium on research in their own letter addressing the subject.  The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is currently underway in Egypt.  African countries have been especially affected by malaria.


This story is featured in the 23 November 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.