Viewpoint: Environmental gene editing shows promise, but requires ‘careful oversight’

gene modifying mosquito s

In Burkina Faso, the government is considering the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to eradicate malaria. In Nantucket, Mass., officials are looking at gene editing as a tool in the fight against Lyme disease. And scientists are using gene technology to adapt coral to changing ocean conditions from the Caribbean to the Great Barrier Reef.

Yet for all the breathtaking promise of these technologies, there remain profound concerns about the potential unintended consequences of releasing gene-edited organisms into the environment — and a lack of governance oversight.

In a new paper published in Science, an interdisciplinary group led by Yale researchers …. argue[s] that the complex nature of these technologies requires, on a case-by-case basis, careful and judicious review ….

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“The biggest risk right now with this technology is the uncertainty associated with it,” said Natalie Kofler, an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the paper.

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“In places like Burkina Faso, for instance, it is being touted as a silver bullet to get rid of malaria. But these technologies also have the potential to forever change the genetic makeup of species, or even drive certain species to extinction. Lack of global governance puts our planet at risk.”

Read full, original article: Editing nature: A call for careful oversight of environmental gene editing

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