Gene drive strategies of pest control in agricultural systems: challenges and opportunities

M. Legros, J. M. Marshall, S. Macfadyen, K. R. Hayes, A. Sheppard and L. G. Barrett,  Evolutionary Applications,  2021.

Abstract Recent advances in gene editing technologies have opened new avenues for genetic pest control strategies, in particular around the use of gene drives to suppress or modify pest populations. Significant uncertainty, however, surrounds the applicability of these strategies to novel target species, their efficacy in natural populations, and their eventual safety and acceptability as control methods. In this article we identify issues associated with the potential use of gene drives in agricultural systems, to control pests and diseases that impose a significant cost to agriculture around the world. We first review the need for innovative approaches, and provide an overview of the most relevant biological and ecological traits of agricultural pests that could impact the outcome of gene drive approaches. We then describe the specific challenges associated with using gene drives in agricultural systems, as well as the opportunities that these environments may offer, focusing in particular on the advantages of high-threshold gene drives. Overall we aim to provide a comprehensive view of the potential opportunities and the remaining uncertainties around the use of gene drives in agricultural systems.

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