First GeneTip Workshop
The first workshop of the pilot project was held on 10 and 11 May this year. Apart from the three project partners from the University of Bremen, the University of Vechta and Testbiotech in Munich, other stakeholders from Greece, Portugal and Spain took part. These were representatives from the organic farming sector, which is of particular importance for the production of olive oil. Different methods used in organic farming were compared, in particular, methods used in controlling olive fruit flies.
Other topics included assessment of constellations of risk associated with the use of gene drives in the pest control of olive fruit flies and identification of possible „tipping points“. Dr Emmanouil Kabourakis from Greece presented various data sets on the population dynamics of olive flies. The data served to construct, amongst other things, simulation models of the dynamics of releasing genetically engineered olive flies. In addition, discussions were held on aspects of the technical character of gene drives and possible questions relating to regulation.
Participation in the autumn meeting of the German National Ethics Council on „Gene Drive – Turbo inheritance in medicine and agriculture“
Professor Dr Arnim von Gleich, head of the GeneTip Association, was invited by the German Ethics Council to speak at its autumn meeting on the subject of gene drive and prospective technical consequences. The meeting was held on 26 October 2017 in Frankfurt am Main. The central focus of the talk contrasted the value proposition on the one hand with reasons for concern on the other hand. Professor von Gleich characterised possible gene drive applications in regard to the depth of intervention and vulnerability of the targeted systems.
Dr Christoph Then from Testbiotech participated in the final open forum on the subject of governance and regulation. He emphasised in particular the necessity of spatial and temporal control in the use of genetically engineered organisms. The Ethics Council has information on its website on topics raised at the meeting. See www.ethikrat.org/veranstaltungen/weitere-veranstaltungen/gene-drive.
International conference „Ecology across borders“
From 11 to 14 December, GeneTip-member Merle Preu attended the international conference „Ecology across borders“ in Ghent, Belgium, which was a joint meeting of i.a. the British Ecological Society and the Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (GfÖ). First research results of work package 2 (https://www.genetip.de/index.php/en/structure-2/), performed by the Chair of Landscape Ecology of Vechta University were presented in a poster and an associated lightning talk.
Stochastic model simulations demonstrated the propagation dynamics of modified genes within natural field populations for the case study of the olive fruit fly. A major goal of the study was to analyse the impact of species-specific processes at the population ecological level on the outcome of gene drive-releases. Examples are periodical population crashes, as experienced by Mediterranean olive fruit flies due to unfavourable temperature conditions during winter months. The simulation results revealed a strong impact of these genetic bottlenecks on the propagation of gene drives, enhancing the variability of possible consequences.
Findings of this study highlight the critical need to consider species-specific ecological and population biological factors for risk assessment prior to the release of genetically modified organisms.