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Bye, Pests

Gene editing via gene drives could be a useful tool for eliminating pests like stoats, rats, and possums that plague New Zealand, Radio New Zealand reports.

Gene drives in which modified genes, often ones that promote infertility, are spread through a population could help control certain populations. Researchers are exploring the use of gene drives to eliminate disease-carrying mosquitoes as well as invasive mice and rats. But Radio New Zealand notes that such an approach could not only eliminate species from New Zealand, but across the world.

Instead, it notes that daisy drives that limit the chance that the modified gene will sweep indefinitely through a population could be used. But, it wonders how conversations on using daisy drives should proceed.

A panel of bioethicists, conservationists, and researchers tells Radio New Zealand that without public support, such an approach will not take off there for pest control. Bioethicist Josephine Johnston says a sort of neutrality is needed to lead the conversation, and so those who stand to benefit from the use of such drives shouldn't be the ones pushing them. Andrea Byrom also says that scientists should not lead the discussion, though Johnston notes that might help inform the debate.