The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) started on February 17 a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on gene drive organisms. The opinion aims to evaluate whether existing EFSA guidelines are adequate for the molecular characterization and environmental risk assessment of genetically modified insects with synthetically engineered gene drives. The opinion will inform the EU's position at the next Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15).

The draft scientific opinion can be found here. Comments should be sent by April 17, following this electronic template. EFSA will consider all the comments and incorporate them in the final opinion if found relevant. More information about the process is available on EFSA’s website.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) announced a new thematic consultation focused on the sustainable use of biological diversity. Experts on various aspects of this field will get together to discuss how the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework should address the issue. The meeting will be held from 30 March to 1 April 2020, in Bern, Switzerland. A maximum of 10 to 15 experts will be selected among the nominees per region, considering their expertise, experience and gender.

The CBD 24th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and the Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 24) and the 3rd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI 3) will take place in Montreal, Canada. The first, from 18 to 23 May, will debate issues related to synthetic biology and inform the Conference of the Parties to the Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15). The SBI 3 will take place from 25 to 30 May and focus on the implementation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Gene drive has yet to be tested outside research laboratories, but the debate about whether its application is feasible, effective and ethical started a while ago. A recent article from The New York Times Magazine explores the opportunities and risks of developing the technology and presents an overview of the current status of gene drive research.

Gene drive has the potential to help to address significant global challenges, according to the publication. Scientists from the University of California-Irvine and Target Malaria (a non-profit research consortium administered by Imperial College, London) are studying the possibility of using gene drive to reduce and even eradicate vector-borne diseases, such as malaria. Gene drive also has the potential to be used for conservation purposes. Island Conservation and the GBIRd partnership are currently evaluating the use of gene drive to remove invasive rodents from islands, which are threatening native species and wildlife through predation, competition, and disease transmission.

In a recent edition, The Biologist magazine explores how gene drive works and how it could potentially benefit the environment, public health and agriculture. Scientists from the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) broadly explain the main strategies genes can use to achieve ‘drive’, interference and over-replication, as well as the current state of CRISPR-based gene drive research. Although optimistic about the tool, the authors highlight that, before releasing gene drive organisms, it is necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of their ecological impacts, a case-by-case risk assessment and meaningful engagement with potentially affected communities.