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Gene Editing Drives into Dangerous Unknown Territory

05/10/2018

The Royal Society Te Apārangi is inviting feedback on scenarios for the use of gene editing in the primary industry sector [1]. Are they leading New Zealand agriculture and horticulture into dangerous unknown territory when they promote genetically engineered Gene Drives without regulation?

“This thin veil of consultation is hyped with cultish obsession on gene drives that permits no dissention” said Claire Bleakley, President of GE Free NZ “

New Zealand has developed in the laboratory plants and animals which have reached a point where to get a return on the investments and patents commercialization of the GMO’s is the next step. However, it appears that the Crown Research Institutes and private investors are not willing to undertake safety studies to show that their GMO’s are safe so they are launching a massive advertorial media drive trying to undermine the regulatory process.

“This pretense is to force feed the public with glossy pictures and possibilities of new products using a MarkII genetic engineering technology, that does not have the dangers and failures of transgenic genetic engineering,” said Ms. Bleakley

Gene drives are synthetically made enzymes made using laboratory procedures. They act like scissors, cutting out, altering, pasting, silencing and rewriting the cells information. These changes, when made in pest species, can persist in nature until the organism is driven to extinction. [2] There are unknown and unconsidered dangers on the impacts if the GE constructs spread to non-target populations.

Evidence in the last few years show that changes to organisms using genetic engineered gene drives are not precise or easy to develop and have many unknown risks to the cells and the developing organism [3][4][5]. These change are permanent, and inherited. When eaten the constructs can be absorbed by the gut resulting in abnormalities in blood and organs as well as causing auto immune reactions.

“The hype around the ease and precision of gene drives for gene editing of plants contradicts the complex changes that occur and pose unknown risks to people, the environment and ecosystems” said Claire Bleakley, “Once released they are released permanently in the environment and cannot be recalled.”

The EU has declared them GMO’s so has New Zealand law, requiring them to be regulated. We call on the Government to not fall for the hype and ensure the GE drives are kept regulated. It is imperative that all advanced technologies derived through in-vitro techniques are fully regulated under the HSNO Act and have full governmental oversight.

References:
[1] https://royalsociety.org.nz/news/potential-uses-of-gene-editing-for-new-zealands-primary-industries/ https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/news/ecj-rules-new-breeding-techniques-are-gmos

[2] Kyrou K, et al. (2018) A CRISPR–Cas9 gene drive targeting doublesex causes complete population
suppression in caged Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. Nat. Biotechnol. 24 September

[3]Kosicki, M., Tomberg, K., & Bradley, A. (2018). Repair of double-strand breaks induced by CRISPR–Cas9 leads to large deletions and complex rearrangements. Nature Biotechnology. 1-7. https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4192.pdf

[4] Latham, Jonathan. 2017. “Gene Drives: A Scientific Case for a Complete and Perpetual
Ban.” Independent Science News. https://www.independentsciencenews.org/environment/gene-drivesa-scientific-case-for-a-complete-and-perpetual-ban/.

[5]Unckless, R.L., Clark A.G., and Messer P.W., (2017) Evolution of Resistance Against CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Drive. Genetics 205 (2): 827–841. http://www.genetics.org/content/genetics/205/2/827.full.pdf

ends


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