Landmark Convention on Biological Diversity decision calls on governments to conduct strict risk assessments and seek indigenous and local peoples’ consent ahead of potential release of “exterminator” technology.
The UN recently made a significant global decision on how to govern a high-risk, new genetic engineering technology—gene drives.
“This important decision puts controls on gene drives using simple common sense principles: Don’t mess with someone else’s environment, territories and rights without their consent,” said Jim Thomas, Co-Executive Director of the ETC Group. “Gene drives are currently being pursued by powerful military and agribusiness interests and a few wealthy individuals. This UN decision puts the power back in the hands of local communities, in particular indigenous peoples, to step on the brakes on this exterminator technology.”
The Convention on Biological Diversity decision also requires that, before an environmental gene drive release, a thorough risk assessment is carried out. With most countries lacking a regulatory system for the technology, it requires that new safety measures are put in place to prevent potential adverse effects. The decision acknowledges that more studies and research on impacts of gene drives are needed, to develop guidelines to assess gene drive organisms before they are considered for release.
Gene drives are designed to spread through a species and across geographic regions—a novel feature of this form of genetic engineering—and any environmental release could potentially affect communities far beyond the single release.
Source: ETC Group
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