Friends of the Earth opposes releases of gene drives

Friends of the Earth opposes releases of gene drives

"We cannot afford to experiment with gene drives that have the potential to be gene bombs without fully understanding the long-term impacts on our health, the environment and livelihoods.", says Dana Perls, the Food and Technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth US in a post on the emerging Tech Project website of Friends of the Earth Australia (

"Gene drives present more extreme risks than previous forms of genetic engineering; the technology is designed to spread through generations of species and would be irreversible...... there must be clearly delineated international regulations that prioritize protection of the environment, food security and people first.":

She mentions a number of ethical, environmental and moral concerns: 

1. Effects are irreversible — Gene drives intend to permanently alter a species, with the potential for irreversible ripple effects, including possibly wiping out a species entirely, whether intentionally or by accident. Driving a specific trait through a population, plants or other organisms could also lose the natural diversity that enables survival and adaptation in different environments and under different environmental pressures.

2. Unintended consequences of permanently changing species — A recently published NAS report ( clearly points to many unresolved problems, such as off-target and non-target effects, or horizontal gene transfer.

3. Agricultural impacts could be severe — Gene drives have huge potential for big agribusinesses, which have a special interest in redesigning a seed or plant for maximum profit potential. Applications might include engineering wild plants to respond to use of particular chemicals or wiping out a weed or insect entirely.

4. Potential for military or commercial misuse — Gene drives obviously have the potential to be misused (think bioweapons). Insects engineered to carry disease? Seeds designed to deliberately suppress food crops or crash a harvest? These scenarios could have widespread and profound impacts. We need systems in place to prevent them.

5. There are no regulations to prevent accidental escape or use of gene drives, and voluntary regulations are guaranteed to fail  — As the NAS report states, “a gene drive knows no political boundaries.” Therefore we need international regulations, not a patchwork of national regulations from countries where corporations dominate politics.