In September 2021, IG GMO (a joint EPA/ENCA Interest Group on Genetically Modified Organisms) has published an opinion paper on impacts of Gene Drive Organisms on the Environment and Nature Conservation. Gene drive organisms (GDOs) are organisms that have been subject to a genetic engineering technique that modifies the genes so that they don’t follow the typical rues of heredity.

Gene drive is a type of genetic modification that results in the preferential inheritance of specific alleles or traits within a population. This can happen both naturally and through synthetic  modification. Albeit synthetic gene drive experiments are still conceptual and not ready for release, there is empirical evidence that such releases in environment may result in self-sustaining genetically modified wild populations.

GDOs have been suggested as problem-solving tools for various environmental and social issues such as in cases of control/eradication of human-pathogen vectors (eg. Reduction or elimination of malaria-transmitting mosquitos) and for agriculture (e.g. suppression of agricultural pests). GDO’s have also been suggested as a tool to address environmental and nature conservation challenges (eg. Elimination of alien invasive species to allow adaptation of natural populations to climate change).

The published paper deals with gene drive organisms and their release into the environment and focuses on the environmental implications of using GDOs to address environmental challenges and aims at providing recommendations on risk assessment and impacts of GDOs on the environment.

As a member of the IG GMO, ERA, together with other Environment Authorities from other member countries, supports this opinion paper.

The paper may be viewed here.