Policy ForumTechnology Governance

Editing nature: Local roots of global governance

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Science  02 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6414, pp. 527-529
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4612

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The end of malaria. Restored island habitats. Resiliency for species threatened by climate change. Many envisioned environmental applications of newly developed gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR might provide profound benefits for ecosystems and society. But depending on the type and scale of the edit, gene-edited organisms intentionally released into the environment could also deliver off-target mutations, evolutionary resistance, ecological disturbance, and extinctions. Hence, there are ongoing conversations about the responsible application of CRISPR, especially relative to the limitations of current global governance structures to safeguard its use [(1, 2); see table S1]. Largely missing from these conversations is attention to local communities in decision-making. Most policy discussions are instead occurring at the national or international level (3, 4), even though local communities will be the first to feel the context-dependent impacts of any release. To be fully representative, therefore, local inputs and perspectives must also be considered. As laboratories around the world develop and perfect gene-editing techniques with unprecedented capacity to alter wild species and, by extension, the ecological and cultural systems of which they are a part, we outline our vision for locally based, globally informed governance.

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