Stop The Gene Bomb! ETC Group Comment on NAS Report on Gene Drives
First study on gene drive governance avoids the explosive issues: Militarization, Commercialization, Food Security. ETC Group urges that gene drive patents and governance be handed to the United Nations.
Coming in at over 200 pages, today’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, 'Gene Drives on the Horizon’ is weighty but disappointing. It fails to properly address three of the most pressing issues raised by the controversial new technology of CRISPR-CAS9 gene drives. Dubbed, the ‘mutagenic chain reaction’ by its inventors, RNA-guided gene drives are a high-leverage synthetic biology technology invented only last year. They are designed to relentlessly drive a specific genetic trait through an entire species or population - potentially driving species to extinction. This capability to reshape entire natural populations and ecosystems raises significant threats to peace, biodiversity and food security which is why a high profile study of this kind was mobilized in such record time. Yet, inexplicably the NAS’s report entirely fails to address the problems that will follow from agricultural commercialization of the technology and gives short shrift to the military and security implications of gene drive development. Since commercialization, food security and militarization are among the most explosive issues raised by these developments, their near absence in the report is puzzling. The NAS study was co-funded by DARPA (a US military agency) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (a global agricultural funder). Both institutions are heavily invested in gene drive research.