Insect Allies – Assessment of a Viral Approach to Plant Genome Editing

K. Pfeifer, J. L. Frieß and B. Giese,  Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management,  2022.

The DARPA program Insect Allies has already sparked scientific debate concerning technology assessment-related issues, among which the most prevalent is that of dual use potential. As apart from the issues concerning peaceful applications, the technology also provides the blueprint for a potential bioweapon as further evidenced by a recent publication. However, the combination of a virus-induced genetic modification of crop plants in the field using genetically modified insect vectors poses an increased risk potential in comparison to the hitherto existing use of genetically modified organisms. The technology’s high depth of intervention enables a number of sources for hazard and a by trend high exposure, but it is also encumbered with notable deficits in knowledge. These issues call for a thorough technology assessment. This article aims to provide an initial characterization from a technology assessment perspective, focusing on potential sources of risk for this novel invasive environmental biotechnology at an early stage of research and development.

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