Gene drive and RNAi technologies: a bio-cultural review of next-generation tools for pest wasp management in New Zealand

S. Palmer, P. K. Dearden, O. R. Mercier, A. King-Hunt and P. J. Lester,  Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand,  1-18. 2021.

There is a global need for novel, next-generation technologies and techniques to manage pest species. We review work on potential step-changing technologies for large landscape (>1000 hectares) pest management of social Vespula wasps. We also review M?ori perspectives on these controls to gauge social and cultural acceptability to research, test and use of novel controls. Approaches discussed are the use of gene silencing (RNAi) and gene drives (CRISPR-Cas 9) involving genetic modification, which has potential for pest control but vary in feasibility, cost, benefits and off-target risks. RNAi may be better suited for wasp control in high-value cropping systems due to scaling inefficiencies. Gene drives offer potential for large-scale control but would require legislative and wide social deliberation due to their status as genetic modification. Both RNAi and gene drives will require consultation with tangata whenua. M?ori interest groups agreed that exotic wasps must be controlled and expressed aversion to non-targeted traditional control methods. We present a diversity of opinions in parallel with scientific research underscoring the need for continued dialogue with M?ori. Novel biotechnological controls must satisfy a broad range of social and cultural criteria, receive regulatory approval, along with being demonstrated as safe, selective, and cost-effective.

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