Tetiaroa Island, a stunning atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is a luxurious holiday destination. Visitors can relax in the sun and admire the stunning natural beauty of the island without having to worry much...not even about mosquitoes! The island is part of a successful innovative vector control program that has reduced the local mosquito population by approximately 95%, and consequently the number of cases of diseases like dengue or Zika. The initiative is based on a new technology: the programme breeds and releases male-mosquitoes infected with a Wolbachia virus, which does not cause any harm to human health but turns female mosquitoes sterile.

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.

Written by Delphine Thizy, Target Malaria

So glad to see Abha Saxena, bioethics advisor to the global health non-profit INCLEN Trust International and formerly Coordinator of the Global Health Ethics Unit of the World Health Organisation (WHO), highlighting the paper several colleagues and I published recently on stakeholder engagement.

Celebrating May 22, the International Day of Biological Diversity

Written by Emily Heber, Island Conservation

Our world is on the verge of a sixth mass extinction. Plants and animals are being driven to extinction at an unprecedented rate and it’s because of our actions—agricultural practices, pollution, climate changes, and the introduction of invasive species. Although the reality of these threats seem grim, by focusing conservation efforts where they will have the biggest impact and investing in innovative technology we can make a difference and preserve biodiversity.

Image courtesy from Island Conservation

A report released this month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) announced that in the coming decades one million species will be at risk of extinction due to human activities. This dire warning highlights the need for immediate action to try and save species from the brink of extinction.

The time to act is now.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will host an online forum on biosafety and the future of the Cartagena Protocol – which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms – on July 8-19. Online discussions will be followed by a workshop on August 25 on the same topic. Both initiatives will feed the first round of negotiations of the framework – the Open-Ended Working Group meetings to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 27-31.