Self-Propagation of Artificial Genetic Elements: Gene Drives, Risks & Tipping Points
Prospective assessment of potential hazards and exposure
June 19 – 20, 2018, Bremen (Germany)
At present, attempts are being made on several fronts to release genetically engineered organisms into the environment – the aim is to introduce artificial genetic information into native populations. The main focus is on insects carrying a so-called “gene drive”. In natural populations, gene drives are inherited at a higher frequency than is the case in classic patterns of inheritance. Target species under discussion include flies, rats and various plant species. In our project, these technologies are summarised as “self-propagating artificial genetic elements” (SPAGE).
According to EU regulation, the precautionary principle must be applied if genetically engineered organisms are to be released into the environment. Therefore, causes for concern, potential hazards and exposure potential associated with the release of such organisms all need to be identified. Special focus will be placed on potential tipping points within affected systems. Our aim is to assess and compare expected consequences of such releases into (agro-) ecosystems and to estimate associated socioeconomic effects. For this reason results of a GeneTip-case study on olive flies will be presented.
In addition, we will further develop requirements in regard to societal and legal frameworks as well as appropriate measures for precaution-oriented technology design. This includes the possible need for action by regulatory authorities and policy makers.
At the conference we will discuss the following questions:
- How powerful and reliable are current SPAGE technologies?
- How vulnerable are affected systems and how can relevant tipping points be identified by prospective risk assessment?
- How can these technologies be regulated with regard to the precautionary principle?
- Can risks going along with self-enforcing dynamic processes (tipping points) be identified?