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Talk it Out

Researchers are trying to engage earlier with communities where they are hoping to use CRISPR-based gene drives to eliminate pests, the Wall Street Journal reports.

But it isn't always smooth, the Journal adds. For instance, it recounts that MIT Media Lab's Kevin Esvelt met with community leaders, including Maori elders, in New Zealand about a potential project there to use a "daisy drive" to combat invasive pests like rats, stoats, and possums. But shortly after that meeting he and a colleague had a paper come out discussing the use of gene drives in New Zealand that caused a stir in the community as it appeared to imply that their use was definite, not hypothetical, the Journal says, adding that Esvelt has apologized and said he should have offered local leaders a chance to make suggestions for the paper.

Another project on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to use gene drives to alter mice there to be resistant to bacteria that cause Lyme disease will ultimately be left up to residents, the Journal reports. The researchers have promised not to release any mice without the community's OK, though the Journal notes that what that approval will entail is still being hashed out.

"Whatever happens, it won't be the scientists determining what will happen, it will be us," Carrie Fyler, a Martha's Vineyard biology teacher,