Canadian Friends Service Committee has joined a major call from around the world for a moratorium on gene drives.
We’ve written about gene drives in our brief synthetic biology updates. They aim to overcome evolution by forcing a trait through an entire population (or even an entire species). The intention is to pass on a trait, or its absence, to all offspring, but a gene drive is unlikely to be 100% effective.
The dangers are many, and gene drives haven’t been tested in the field. Still, companies, governments, universities, and philanthropists are investing in research and pushing for field trials. The claim is that this new biotechnology will offer a quick fix for diseases like Zika and malaria, without having to address the complex social dimensions of the spread of these diseases (poverty, gender inequality, under-resourced health systems, health education, etc.)
This appears to be one of the most powerful applications of synthetic biology to date, and raises all of the ecological, social, and spiritual concerns Friends have previously expressed.