Genome editing and biodiversity

Gene Drives: Genetic engineering of wild species and ecosystems – Protection or destruction of nature?

An emerging scientific field called ‘synthetic biology’ is exploring the genetic engineering of wild species as a means to protect biodiversity. Some scientists and conservationists see the need for ‘new innovative tools‘ for nature conservation and suggest the use of genetic engineering of wild species as a ‘nature based solution‘ to halt biodiversity loss. They are for example promoting the use of a technology, called Gene Drive to remove invasive alien species from islands. Others warn however that this technology could instead harm ecosystems and further accelerate biodiversity loss.

While the European Parliament – from a precautionary perspective – in January 2020 called for the adoption of a global moratorium on first environmental field trials with gene drive technology, a principled political & societal debate around synthetic biology for nature conservation and its governance on EU level is still outstanding. Similar position-finding and regulatory processes currently take place in international fora such as the IUCN and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

For this reason the rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs of the European Parliament‘s own initiative report on the EU biodiversity strategy in December 2020 organised an online roundtable to provide space to discuss if the European Parliament should or shouldn’t rely on genetically engineered gene drives as part of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to address the current biodiversity crisis.

 Download the event report here.

Presentations of the speakers (pdf):