I'm excited to announce the paper I and my interdisciplinary IGERT colleagues wrote for the Journal of Responsible Innovation is available online and open access! "Anticipating complexity in the deployment of gene drive insects in agriculture" is part of a special edition of the journal, in part based off of conversations held during a 2016 NSF-sponsored international workshop on looking toward the future of gene drives - their applications, the unknowns, and how they may be regulated. My co-authors and I helped moderate the discussion sessions, and one thing that became clear to us after the meeting was the potential for gene drive insects to be used in many fields, but that its application to agriculture was both under-discussed and potentially more complex than other gene drive proposals, say for eliminating vectors of human pathogens.
Agriculture is a huge part of the U.S. and world economy and the crops grown in each country are becoming increasingly homogenized. As such, pests of these crops are also spreading to new countries. Since insects modified to carry a gene drive may be able to spread across international borders, creating major regulatory concerns. Gene drive insects also raise issues of grower autonomy, the distribution of benefits and costs for the technology, and who actually grants permission for its approval? Will a social license to operate be needed?
We discuss these issues and more in this article. I'd love to hear your feedback!