What are gene drives, and how can they help eradicate invasive species in Australia?

Dr. Ellen Cottingham,  ABC News (Australia Broadcasting Corporation),  2023.

The impact of feral cats and other invasive species is felt across Australia. Not only do they threaten native species, but they can also spread diseases to humans and livestock. Invasive species are estimated to cost Australia an eye-watering $25 billion annually, while the global cost is a staggering $423 billion. Feral cats are everywhere — the nation is home to up to 6.3 million of them, and they are responsible for killing millions of native mammals, reptiles, and birds each day.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek recently declared “war on feral cats”, announcing plans involving cat curfews, desexing regulations, and caps on cat numbers in homes. But what can we do about the millions of feral cats already wreaking havoc across Australia? And what about other pests such as foxes, rabbits, cane toads, carp, pigs, deer, or goats? One technique with the potential to help fight not just cats but all invasive species is called a “gene drive”.

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