A recent report published by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, explores the Australian public’s attitudes and perceptions towards the use of gene drive technology for the management of invasive species, by using the example of feral cats. Invasive species, such as feral cats, have a devastating impact on Australia’s biodiversity, natural landscapes, and agricultural industries. Every year, feral cats alone kill an estimated 1.8 billion Australian animals. On top of the devastating environmental toll, current control methods have proven to be quite costly and difficult to apply at scale. To address this challenge, and protect Australia’s native biodiversity, new approaches, such as the use of gene drive technologies, are being investigated.

The research is centered around a survey, conducted with two samples of Australian residents to reflect a diverse range of perspectives. The first sample included residents living in parts of South Australia, where feral cats are a known invasive species, while the second included participants from the broader Australian public. Throughout the survey, participants were exposed to an animation explaining how gene drive for invasive animal control could work in Australia and were asked to imagine a scenario where feral cats posed a threat in their local area and needed urgent management.

The study, which surveyed more than 3,800 people across Australia, found that 86% of people were at least moderately supportive of the local implementation of gene drive technology to control feral cats. Moreover, 80% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that gene drive approaches would be better than current cat control methods, such as trapping, shooting, and baiting. In terms of attitudes towards the technology, most participants believed it was more beneficial than harmful, but were less certain about whether the technology would be safe or risky.

While feral cats have only been in Australia for around 200 years, they have already negatively altered the continent’s ecosystem. These highly efficient predators cover over 90% of the Australian continent and have contributed to the extinction of at least 21 mammals, two reptiles and 40 bird species worldwide.

Although gene drive research is still in its early stages, and its potential use on vertebrates some way off in most cases, the findings of this study shed light on the level of potential public support for using novel genetic approaches to address the challenges posed by invasive species in Australia.

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.

World Nature Conservation Day is celebrated every year on July 28 and serves as a reminder of the value of conservation for people and wildlife alike. On this day, we are invited to reflect on ways to protect the environment and natural resources and raise awareness about ways to save species that are facing threats of extinction.

The sustained fight against malaria has led to massive strides being made against the disease in the past few decades with malaria almost going extinct in most parts of the world. However, data available for Sub-Saharan Africa still paints a dismal picture, with over 96% of malaria deaths worldwide being reported from the continent alone in 2020, according to the World Health Organization. So, what explains these high numbers and what lies behind the region’s persistent malaria prevalence?

Join us for the third panel of the 2022 Gene Drive Webinar Series titled “Integrating social, economic and health aspects into the decision-making process” which will take place on July 28th, 2:00 pm SGT. The session will bring together relevant experts in the field from different parts of the globe as part of the Outreach Network’s efforts to contribute to an informed debate on gene drive research.