Mutagenic chain reaction cannot be sufficiently controlled

Christoph Then,  Testbiotech,  2020.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published the results of its public consultation on the risks of so-called gene drive organisms. Testbiotech accuses the authority of disguising the real dimension of the risks.

Gene drives are designed to spread artificial genetic constructs throughout populations of wild species much faster than would be expected naturally. Currently, gene drives are being developed with the aid of tools such as the CRISPR/Cas gene scissors. There are plans, e.g. to apply gene drives in insects (flies and mosquitoes) or rodents (rats or mice). The aim is to replace or eradicate natural populations. Once started the process cannot be controlled effectively or reliably. The damage to humans, the environment and nature could be severe.

To be successful, the genetic construct typically has to be inherited by dozens of generations. This means that the process of genetic engineering repeats itself in a kind of mutagenic chain reaction; happening in the environment and outside of the laboratories, without any effective control mechanisms being available. The genetically engineered mosquitoes and their offspring are exposed to an unlimited number of genetic factors and environmental impacts during this process. Therefore, the release of gene drive organisms can after several generations deviate massively from what was originally expected.

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The mutagenic chain reaction: A method for converting heterozygous to homozygous mutations

The mouse t-complex-encoded protein Tctex-1 is a light chain of brain cytoplasmic dynein

Cas9-triggered chain ablation of cas9 as a gene drive brake

Gene Drives across engineered fitness valleys: Modeling a design to prevent drive spillover.