Gene Drive Technology: The Thing to Fear is Fear Itself




Esvelt, Kevin

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George Mason University


CRISPR gene drive systems have raised concerns due to their ability to spread through wild populations over generations, but the technology is slow, easily detected by sequencing, and readily countered by overwriting unwanted changes. Populations of humans and other organisms with long generation times cannot be directly affected, agriculture is highly resistant thanks to seed farms and selective breeding programs, and population suppression drives that might affect wild ecosystems are the most trivial to counter. The primary hazard of gene drive technology is not physical, but social: that unethical closed-door research, overhyped fears, or an unauthorized release into a wild population will damage public trust in science and governance. Sunlight, in the form of new incentives favoring pre-registration of all proposed gene drive research, is the best way to dispel the clouds of fear and uncertainty. Ensuring that research is conducted in the open could lead to external scrutiny of research plans in other fields, potentially enabling nascent technological hazards to be identified early enough to intervene.



CRISPR, Gene Drive Technology