The Lancet Countdown recently launched its 2019 report tracking the effects of climate change on health. After analysing 41 indicators, researchers from 35 academic institutions and UN agencies concluded that the future of an entire generation depends on our ability to keep global warming below 2oC.

The impact of climate change on disease transmission is particularly concerning. Using 1950s data as reference, the climate suitability for malaria transmission averaged 29.9% above it from 2012 to 2017.

In a recent interview, Professor Fred Gould, one of the founders of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center (GES) of NC State University, discussed the challenges of communicating science and the importance of including society in the science debate. He stressed that the biggest issue in the agriculture and food systems debate is misinformation, aggravated by the amount of unreliable information available online. He also emphasized the need to involve society in the debate around genetic engineering. An inclusive discussion is vital to avoid research disruptions and to make sure decisions consider the public good when discussing technical disciplines that can have a transformational impact on humanity.

Invasive alien species (IAS) are one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss, especially in the case of islands. Although representing only 5.3% of the Earth's land mass, islands are linked to 75% of the extinctions of birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles worldwide. Traditional tools to control IAS, such as toxicants, can be excessively costly, geographically limited and have off-target effects.

Earlier this year, the NC State University, GES Center, Keystone Policy Center and the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes organized a two-day workshop to explore different perspectives on the development of a gene drive mouse for restoring biodiversity on islands. The report about the workshop is now available online and aims to inform ongoing discussions about governance and engagement practices in the case of emerging technologies.

In the first post of this series, I presented a brief overview of the paper called “Transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes transfer genes into a natural population”, which focuses on Oxitec’s recent field trial with (non-gene-drive) transgenic mosquitoes in Brazil. As I mentioned, the paper speculates on the potential impact of gene flow – not of the transgene, but of the rest of the genetic makeup of the released mosquitoes. In this second of two posts, I will focus on the following question “what is the impact of introgressing background genetic information from a release strain into a local population”?

Almost all genetic control systems will do this, unless the released mosquitoes are truly, absolutely, completely incapable of forming fertile hybrids with the local target population. Note that this has little to do with transgenes, and applies equally to classical radiation-based SIT, Wolbachia-based gene drives, etc.