Gene driving the farm: who decides, who owns, and who benefits?

Montenegro de Wit, M,  Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems,  43:1054-1074. 2019.

Since the mid-1990s, the emphasis of genetic engineering in agriculture has been squarely on the crops and livestock that farmers long ago domesticated and now cultivate. With CRISPR-Cas9, the modification of seeds and breeds continues apace – but the technology has also cracked open something new. Gene drives, newly enabled by CRISPR, have brought an unprecedented possibility to propel mutations through populations in the wild. With gene drive has come the promise not just of modifying seeds but of reshaping weeds, insects, and many other organisms comprising the larger-farm ecosystem. This commentary essay explores the social and ecological implications of gene-driving agriculture. What does it mean for biologically diversified agriculture? For IP rights over wider spheres of knowledge and nature? What are the limits of knowledge to predict outcomes in complex agroecosystems, and who gets to decide what gene drives will do?


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