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Gene drives are a genetic engineering tool that aim to force artificial genetic changes through entire populations of animals, insects and plants. Unlike previous genetically modified organisms (GMOs) these gene drive organisms (GDOs) are deliberately designed to spread genetic pollution as an agricultural strategy – for example, spreading ‘auto-extinction’ genes to wipe out agricultural pests.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity has not agreed to an international moratorium on gene drives but has agreed that strict risk assessment is needed as well as the consent of local communities and Indigenous peoples. Press Release – United Nations Hits the Breaks on Gene Drives, ETC Group and Friends of the Earth International, November 29, 2018.
- Gene drives are being engineered into flies, insects, worms and other pests to spread sterility as a biological alternative to pesticides.
- Target Malaria is a project that aims to use gene drive mosquitoes to reduce the population of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes which can transmit the parasite that causes malaria.
- Researchers are proposing using gene drives as a breeding tool to increase meat production in livestock.
- “Auto-extinction” gene drives are being engineered into rats and mice as well as beetles that affect storage of grains.Patents have been sought to engineer gene drives into honey bees to control pollination patterns using light beams.
- Research is ongoing to engineer gene drives into common weed species to overcome herbicide resistance. For example, to make weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, susceptible to glyphosate-based herbicides again.
- ETC Group analysis of two key patents on gene drives show that they each reference around 500-600 agricultural uses including brand names of 186 herbicides, 46 pesticides, 310 agricultural pest insects, nematodes, mites, moths and others