The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently met with stakeholders and EU Member States to discuss plausible environmental risks associated with the release of gene drive insects. One of the key takeaways from the discussions was that existing risk assessment frameworks for other pests and insect control technologies are a useful reference for doing risk assessments of gene drive organisms. It was noted that the release of gene drive organisms does not seem to pose substantial novel risks compared to other GMOs, but the extended time scale of their presence in the environment, which allows a greater range of ecological interactions and could potentially lead to wider transboundary movement, maybe important dimensions to take into account for each risk assessment.
The workshop was also the opportunity for the presentation of the report on gene drive commissioned by the Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM). The publication provides a broad overview of the existing experiences in evaluating natural and synthetic gene drives, emphasizing the importance of case-by-case risk assessments of gene drive organisms. The report also states that concerns on gene drive organisms’ ability to spread uncontrollably after release should be nuanced as many factors can work to limit the efficiency of the gene drive system.
More information about the presentations and discussions during the EFSA’s workshop is available here.