New discussion paper on synthetic gene drives in Australia

Biotechnology & Biosecurity
This publication released by the Australian Academy of Science considers synthetic gene drives in a specifically Australian context and highlights the potential benefits and hazards of possible applications, emphasising the need to eventually consider these within a risk assessment framework.

The Australian Academy of Science has released a discussion paper on new gene-editing technologies that override natural selection.

‘Gene drive’ technology allows scientists to manipulate the DNA of small plants or animals in a way that forces or ‘drives’ inheritance of particular genetic traits and characteristics to successive generations. The technology could wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitos, cane toads or other pests and plant diseases within years, but like any new technology, has potential risks.

Before gene drives are used in Australia, and before they start being used at scale elsewhere in the world, it’s important to consider the applications that are of most benefit and the risks associated with those applications. Once gene drives are released into wild populations in other countries, they will inevitably reach Australia.

This discussion paper will stimulate Australian governments and communities to consider the issues now.

The Academy’s report, which includes six recommendations, was developed by an expert working group chaired by Professor Hoffman and involved broad consultation with ethicists, scientists, state and federal biosecurity and agricultural authorities, and the Australian Gene Technology Regulator.

A media press release is available here.

Announcing Institution