The third webinar of the 2022 Gene Drive Webinar Series provided participants with an overview of the different dimensions of gene drive impact and risk assessments, including environmental and socio-economic aspects. An initiative led by the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research and the ISAAA SEAsiaCenter, the panel “Integrating Social, Economic and Health Aspects Into the Decision-making Process” delved into gene drive’s potential social, economic and health impacts and how experts are integrating these aspects into risk assessment as research advances.

The session was moderated by Dr. Grace Mary Dacuma (University of the Philippines). The first panellist, Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas, Senior Fellow & Consultant (Research & Information System for Developing Countries) covered the various socio-economic dimensions that are taken into account in the biosafety decision-making process as adopted by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB). He explained the difference between environmental risk assessment (ERA) and socio-economic impact assessment (SEIA) and how they complement each other. He highlighted that SEIA enhances the assessment credibility as it is broader than ERA and provides for public participation decision making. Finally, Dr. Srinivas stressed the need for further capacity building initiatives to study the potential long-term impact of emerging technologies such as gene drive.

The second panellist, Delphine Thizy, Stakeholder Engagement Senior Advisor (Target Malaria), emphasised that any assessment of gene drive technologies must be carried out on a case-by-case basis in order to account for each gene drive organism’s specific characteristics, intended purpose and context of use. She further added that when considering the impacts of gene drive organisms, we must differentiate between the impact of the organism itself, the impact of the protocol activities, and the impact of the intended outcome of the intervention, for example disease reduction. Through her presentation, she covered some examples of the potential social, economic and health impacts related to gene drives that researchers are considering. She also explained how Target Malaria is integrating these aspects in their decision-making process.

For more details, you can watch the webinar here.