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Side Event #2148

Status: PUBLISHED

Date Tuesday
2016.12.06 @ 18:15
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Room Contact Group Room 6
Universal Building, main floor
Capacity: 100 people
Conference COP 13 / CP-COP-MOP 8 / NP-COP-MOP 2
Meetings(s)
COP-13
Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
MOP-08
Eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
NP-MOP-02
Second meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing
Title CRISPR gene drives: the implications of extinction technologies and species-scale engineering
Hosts
FGS | ETC Group | ECONEXUS |
Topics
Conference of the Parties
Island Biodiversity
 

 

CRISPR gene drives—which are a significant new technological threat to species, biodiversity and ecosystems—didn’t even exist when COP last met in Korea. Dubbed the ‘extinction invention’ or ‘mutagenic chain reaction,’ CRISPR RNA-guided gene drives are a synthetic biology application that ensure a specified trait is always passed on from generation to generation of a sexually reproducing species. It thus overrides the laws of genetics and relentlessly drives that trait through a population until it takes over or potentially crashes the entire species.

Previously, CBD placed a precautionary moratorium on techniques for enforcing sterility via Terminator Technology (also called genetic use restriction technology or GURTs). Yet Gene Drives go much further. With gene drives, biotechnologists are aiming to spread engineered traits (including, for example, female sterility) deliberately in the wild for the first time, with potentially devastating implications for ecosystem functions and biodiversity. The socio-economic impacts could also be very damaging, with a potential loss of seeds and livelihoods among users and developers of agricultural biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Despite multiple strong warnings about the ecological and social implications of such a technology (e.g. IUCN’s global membership recently backed a de facto moratorium on gene drive technology development), gene drive projects are now under development for agricultural, health and conservation aims. One non-profit conservation group hopes to be ready to start field trials in the open environment of gene drive mice on islands by 2020.

In 2006, the CBD reaffirmed the moratorium called for by governments on the development of Terminator. Many believe that the CBD now has the responsibility to take a lead in establishing a similar moratorium to be applied to gene drives. Join civil society experts and scientists to get up to date on the rapidly moving field of gene drives and their far-reaching implications.

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