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Gene Drives Ahead

The UN Convention on Biodiversity rejected at a meeting this week calls for a ban on gene drives, Nature News reports.

Gene drives can spread modified genes through populations, raising both hopes that the technology could be used to combat diseases like malaria that are spread by insects, but also concerns that making such changes could have broader ecological effects.

Nature News notes that while the idea of a global moratorium on gene drives did find support among some countries, the final agreement instead urges caution when field-testing synthetic biology tools like gene drives.

"It's a way of governments saying 'we need to know more about these technologies before making these decisions. At the same time, we are worried they may have impacts on biological diversity,'" Harvard University's Calestous Juma, a former executive secretary of the CBD, tells Nature News.

Imperial College London's Andrea Crisanti, who works on using gene drives as a malaria-control tool, says he's relieved. A moratorium "would have been a disaster for developing the technology," he tells Nature News.

Still, he notes that the issue will come up again.