|13 November 2018
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Call for a Global Moratorium on Gene Drive Releases
Gene drives are a genetic engineering tool that aim to force artificial genetic changes through entire populations of animals, insects and plants. Starting on the 17th of November, Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity will meet to discuss measures to control this technology, including a possible moratorium on environmental releases. (Item 1)
More than 200 global food movement leaders and organizations representing hundreds of millions of farmers and food workers set out their clear opposition to gene drives. Their call for a stop to this technology (Item 2) accompanies a new report, Forcing the Farm (Item 3) that lifts the lid on how gene drives could entrench industrial agriculture and threaten food sovereignty.
The Forcing the Farm report details several ways in which gene drive technology is being readied for application in agriculture. For instance, gene drives are being engineered into flies, insects, worms and other pests to spread sterility as a biological alternative to pesticides. “Auto-extinction” gene drives are being engineered into rats and mice as well as beetles that affect storage of grains.
Gene drives threaten natural systems. If released experimentally into the environment they may spread engineered genes uncontrollably through wild and domesticated species. This could alter ecological systems and food webs, harm biodiversity and eradicate beneficial organisms such
as pollinators. Gene drives could disrupt lands, waters, food and fiber economies and harm indigenous and peasant agroecological practices and cultures.
While gene drive developers claim that there may be ways to effectively contain gene drive organisms in the future, these hypothetical claims and assumptions need to be rigorously examined and tested. In the meantime, the Precautionary Principle and justice requires a moratorium on any releases.
With best wishes,