Policy ForumBioethics

Principles for gene drive research

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Science  01 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6367, pp. 1135-1136
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9026

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  • RE: Emerson et al.'s, “Principles for gene drive research”

    In their (Bioethics) Policy Forum, “Principles for gene drive research” (1 December 2017,p. 1135), C. Emerson et al. advocate that sponsors and supporters of gene drive research voluntarily adopt five guiding (ethical and scientific) principles. They contend that adherence to them will result in a “culture of responsible innovation,” enabling the field of gene drive research to advance.

    Emerson et al.’s Principle of Thoughtful Engagement requires revision. The authors claim that supporters and sponsors of gene drive research should meaningfully engage with affected communities, stakeholders, and publics. But they do not provide justification for excluding the (global) publics from the category of stakeholders. The likelihood of uncontrollable spread of organisms with gene drives across ecosystems means that even field trials could result in profound irreversible ecological changes, impacting multiple species in possibly unintended, unanticipated ways. Given that species and the ecosystems they inhabit constitute the global commons, the publics of various nations are stakeholders, if not the primary stakeholders. So, Emerson et al. should revise their principles for gene drive research to recognize the global publics as stakeholders.

    Competing Interests: None declared.