Engagement on risk assessment for gene drive mosquitoes by EFSA and Target Malaria

S. Hartley, A. Kokotovich, Y. Devos and J. Mumford,  Environmental Science and Policy,  142:183-193. 2023.

As engineered gene drive technologies continue to advance, many actors are actively considering how environmental risk assessments (RAs) for gene drive organisms should be conducted, and how stakeholder engagement opportunities should be provided. There is, however, a lack of clarity concerning what constitutes engagement on gene drive RA and, furthermore, what forms of engagement already exist around gene drive RA. To address this gap, we reflect on the actions of a risk assessor (the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA) and a gene drive developer (Target Malaria) to understand: 1) the RA-related decisions that each are making concerning gene drive technology for mosquitoes and other harmful insects, 2) the existing role of engagement in those decisions, and 3) the implications for our understandings of engagement and RA. We found, first, that both EFSA and Target Malaria have already made many RA-related decisions, even though any preparation and evaluation of a formal RA for gene drive mosquitoes remains far off. This finding supports the idea that gene drive RA involves multiple processes and decisions in different forms across the entire technology and regulatory development process. Second, we found that both EFSA and Target Malaria have already integrated engagement into their respective RA-related decisions in different ways, reflecting their different roles. We conclude by considering how EFSA and Target Malaria could improve their existing RA-related engagement by explicitly considering disciplinary diversity and worldview diversity in their related decision making.

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