Public perspectives towards using gene drive for invasive species management in Australia

A. Mankad, E. V. Hobman and L. Carter,  CSIRO,  2022.

Many pest animal species live and reproduce in high numbers across Australia. This includes animal species, such as cane toads, feral cats, foxes, rodents, wild pigs, wild rabbits. These species significantly damage Australia’s agricultural industries, natural landscapes, and biodiversity. For example, feral cats kill an estimated 1.8 billion Australian animals every year. Feral animals can also carry livestock diseases and cause significant damage to land and native vegetation. This results in agricultural production losses of more than $800 million per year. Sites of cultural significance to Indigenous peoples are also at risk to pest incursions. Adding further complexity, current methods of pest control being used to manage local landscape, such as baiting, trapping and shooting, are labour-intensive and expensive. They also have animal welfare implications and are considered ineffective at scale. Genetic technologies that are developed using synthetic biology have the potential to reduce or in some cases eliminate populations of invasive pests in parts of Australia. But there are multiple social, cultural and institutional considerations to understand before genetic technologies could feasibly be integrated with current pest management practices.

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