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»Gene Drives müssen mit größter Vorsicht behandelt werden«

Bericht von Critical Scientists Switzerland, dem Europäischen Netzwerk von Wissenschaftlern für soziale und ökologische Verantwortung und der Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, 24.5.2019 (engl. Originalfassung)

Engineered gene drives are a new form of genet-ic modification that provides the tools for perma-nently modifying or potentially even eradicating species  or  populations  in  the  wild.  This  is  done  by modifications of genetic material that interfere with  evolutionary  mechanisms  and  inheritance  patterns. This is the first time humans have been able to create this type of radical genetic change.

Ethical  governance  of  gene  drives  should  not  just openly and inclusively consider gene drives themselves  but  should  also  consider  the  range  of  alternative  ways  of  formulating  and  framing  the  problems  that  the  technology  is  claimed  to  address. These alternative framings of the prob-lems (e.g. disease control, invasive species con-trol)  will  encourage  discussion  of  a  range  of  al-ternative  approaches  to  solving  them.  Many  of  these alternatives may carry fewer risks, may be more  actionable  in  the  short-term,  more  sen-sitive  to  local  needs  and  resources  and/or  may  better align with a diverse range of worldviews.

Because  spread  and  persistence  in  nature  (in  other  words,  invasiveness)  are  the  raison  d’être  of  gene  drive  organisms  (GDOs),  they  carry  an  extra level of risk in addition to the one they al-ready  have  as  genetically  modified  organisms  (GMOs).  Despite  all  the  new  genetic  knowledge  gained,  we  can  still  say  very  little  about  what  will  happen  with  gene  drives  in  actual  real-life  settings,  with  completely  different  surrounding  conditions, high genetic variation in wild popula-tions and myriad interactions with other species and  complexities.  The  behaviour  of  gene  drives  and GDOs in the real world may be very different from  any  laboratory  experiments  and  modelled  predictions.

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