Gene Technology

Genetic extinction technology challenged at UN Convention on Biological Diversity

FoE International Press release,  18 November, 2018

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT — Today, the African Centre for Biodiversity and Friends of the Earth International held a press conference at the 2018 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) 14th Conference of the Parties to call for a global moratorium on the environmental release of gene drives, a new genetic extinction technology, and to caution for stronger regulation of synthetic biology.

From November 17-29th, international conservation and environmental leaders will meet to call on governments to protect biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ rights from controversial new biotechnologies. Gene drives have the capacity to wipe out or alter species forever, and to significantly disrupt or modify the ecosystems on which humanity strongly depends for its survival. Gene drives pose serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, human health, as well as national sovereignty, peace and food sovereignty.

The first proposed application for gene drive is being led in Burkina Faso by the Target Malaria Project, funded by the Gates Foundation, designed to eradicate mosquito populations and thus malaria transmission. This Trojan horse project is exploiting a public health crisis in Africa, despite the lack of underlying science to support its efficacy as a sound medical intervention.

“We should not be used as lab rats in an experiment that could devastate African ecosystems. We ask delegates at COP14 to put the brakes on any release of gene drives.”

Mariann Bassey, Friends of the Earth International and chair of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa

“Burkina Faso is about to face a health and ecological catastrophe. This project risks creating a social and environmental crisis in these local communities. Burkinabe civil society groups are denouncing the project: we refuse to be the guinea pigs of the science of the unknown.

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CSIRO planning US military funded genetic extinction experiments in WA

A raft of emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request (The Gene Drive Files) reveal that CSIRO and University of Adelaide scientists are part of a US military funded global network researching a risky new genetic modification (GM) technique referred to as gene drives. The group have already identified six potential islands in Western Australia where they intend to use the technique to drive local mice populations to extinction.

Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA – the US military’s research arm) is contributing US$6.4M to fund the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents Program (GBIRd). This is being spread between the CSIRO, the University of Adelaide, several US research institutes and the NGO Island Conservation.

The release of gene drives could have potentially catastrophic ecological consequences. Even gene drive proponents have now admitted that the gene drives are too risky to be released into the environment. We find it incredible that CSIRO and its GBIRd partners are already considering the environmental release of this technology.”

Gene drives are a new and highly controversial technique that can force altered genetic traits through successive generations. The GBIRd scientists intend to use the technique to develop mice that only produce male offspring in order to drive local populations to extinction.

Mice are notorious for stowing away on boats, which is how they have spread globally. One of the proposed release sites for the gene drive mice is Boullanger Island – a popular tourist destination just 1km from the mainland. There is no way that a release of gene drive mice there could be geographically contained.

Most rodents are considered keystone species in their ecological communities as herbivores, seed eaters and seed dispersers, and prey for many carnivores. Many other species depend on them for survival. The ecological impacts if mice are driven to extinction in their natural habitats in Europe and Asia could be catastrophic.… Read more >>