The principles driving gene drives for conservation

S. Hartley, R. Taitingfong and P. Fidelman,  Environmental Science and Policy,  135:36-45. 2022.

Gene drive technology is an emerging biotechnology with the potential to address some of the most intractable global biodiversity conservation issues. Scientists are exploring potential gene drive applications for managing invasive species and building resilience in keystone species threatened by climate change. The possibility to use gene drive for these conservation purposes has triggered significant interest in how to govern its development and eventual applications. This includes a plethora of documents prescribing governance principles, which can be a sensible response to the governance gap created by emerging technologies and help shore up legitimacy. We conducted qualitative documentary analysis to examine the range and substance of principles emerging in the governance of conservation gene drive. Such analysis aimed to better understand the aspirations guiding these applications and how scientists and other experts imagine their responsibility in this field. We found a collection of recommendations and prescriptions that could be organised into a set of seven emerging principles intended to shape the governance of gene drive in conservation: broad and empowered engagement; public acceptance; decision-making informed by broad ranging considerations, state and international collaboration; ethical frameworks; diverse expertise; and responsible self-regulation by developers. We lay bare these emergent principles, analyzing the way in which they are valued, prioritized, and their strengths and weaknesses. By identifying these prescriptive principles, stakeholders can further interrogate their merits and shortcomings and identify more concrete ways that governance frameworks might embody them.

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