30.04.2020 |

EFSA discusses risk assessment of gene drives

Testbiotech demands that ‘cut-off’ criteria are applied

30 April 2020 / The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) carried out a public consultation on guidance for the risk assessment of so-called gene drives at the request of the EU Commission. At the same time, a new Testbiotech scientific paper was accepted after peer review. The paper shows that the EFSA concept is insufficient. To control the risks of gene drives, ‘cut-off criteria’ need to be defined to prevent the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms.

Gene drives are genetic elements which can spread much more widely than would normally be expected. In recent years, artificial gene constructs have been developed using the gene scissor CRISPR/Cas. Organisms, inheriting such gene constructs, are meant to be released and intended to spread rapidly, especially throughout wild populations. The goal is to replace or eradicate the targeted species. However, once started, the spread can no longer be effectively controlled. Damage to human health and the environment can be extensive.

Against this backdrop, EFSA is currently working on guidance for the risk assessment of mosquitoes which inherit genetically engineered gene drives. There are already proposals to use these mosquitoes to fight malaria in Africa: the plan is to eradicate those species which can transmit malaria via a mutagenic chain reaction, or replace them with mosquitoes that can no longer be a vector of the disease.

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