Why we need to talk about ‘gene-drive’ grey squirrels

Anonymous,  University of Exeter,  2022.

Would the best way of controlling the UK’s rampant grey squirrel population be to spread genetic changes throughout the species? A new research film, to be shown next month at Exeter Phoenix, sees scientists, conservation and wildlife experts debate the use of emergent ‘gene-drive’ technology in grey squirrels. The film Should we create gene drive grey squirrels?, written and produced by Sarah Hartley, a Professor in Technology Governance at the University of Exeter Business School, and independent film-maker Tom Law, documents the introduction into the UK of grey squirrels at the turn of the 20th Century and how their burgeoning population has contributed to the demise of the UK’s native red squirrel, which is now mainly found in Scotland. It presents the reasons why some people argue it would be better to limit the grey squirrel population, including the fact that they carry and spread squirrel pox, a virus fatal to red squirrels which can devastate entire populations.

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