Gene Drive Supplement

Scientists Turn to Gene Editing to Manage Invasive Species

August 31, 2022

The environmental and economic costs caused by invasive species in the United States are estimated at more than US$120 billion per year. Invasive species quickly spread as they have few or no natural predators. Introduced non-native insects can decimate crops and forests, and invasive rodents are also disruptive, particularly on island ecosystems, where they are the leading cause of plant and animal extinctions. In the U.S., exotic plant pests and diseases threaten food security, quality of life, and the economy.

To protect the country's vital resources from invasive species, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) work with collaborators nationwide to develop solutions using the latest science and technology, including genome editing. APHIS scientists are exploring genetically modifying traits into invasive species to help manage their populations, control diseases, create new detection tools for plant pathogens, and more. New technologies such as genome editing are faster, cheaper, and more accurate than previous molecular tools, allowing researchers and scientists to target specific species and genes.

APHIS researchers are also studying gene drive technology to promote single-sex offspring in invasive rodents. If their research is successful, a modified rodent population that only produces male or female offspring would eventually breed itself into its last generation without using chemical pesticides in an island ecosystem.

For more details, read the article on the USDA website.

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