Gene drives as a new quality in GMO releases-a comparative technology characterization

Friess, JLvG, A.; Giese, B.,  Peerj,  7:e6793. 2019.

Compared to previous releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which were primarily plants, gene drives represent a paradigm shift in the handling of GMOs: Current regulation of the release of GMOs assumes that for specific periods of time a certain amount of GMOs will be released in a particular region. However, now a type of genetic technology arises whose innermost principle lies in exceeding these limits-the transformation or even eradication of wild populations. The invasive character of gene drives demands a thorough analysis of their functionalities, reliability and potential impact. But such investigations are hindered by the fact that an experimental field test would hardly be reversible. Therefore, an appropriate prospective assessment is of utmost importance for an estimation of the risk potential associated with the application of gene drives. This work is meant to support the inevitable characterization of gene drives by a comparative approach of prospective technology assessment with a focus on potential sources of risk. Therein, the hazard and exposure potential as well as uncertainties with regard to the performance of synthetic gene drives are addressed. Moreover, a quantitative analysis of their invasiveness should enable a differentiated evaluation of their power to transform wild populations.