Gene Drive Supplement

Research Film Talks about Gene Drive Grey Squirrels

December 1, 2022

A research film on the use of gene drive technology in grey squirrels premiered during the 2022 Festival of Social Science at the University of Exeter Phoenix on November 9, 2022. The film sees scientists and conservation and wildlife experts debate the use of gene drive technology in grey squirrels.

The film Should we create gene drive grey squirrels? documents the introduction of grey squirrels into the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century and how their burgeoning population has contributed to the demise of the UK's native red squirrel, which is now mainly found in Scotland. The film also presents people's arguments that limiting the grey squirrel population would be better, including the fact that they carry and spread squirrel pox, a virus fatal to red squirrels that can devastate entire populations.

Forestry experts explain that grey squirrels have detrimental effects on biodiversity and the economic damage they cause in forests and woodland areas by stripping the bark of trees in search of the sugary sap-like ‘phloem' substance inside. This causes irreparable damage to the UK's native trees, such as oaks, beeches, and silver birches. The film presents the views of various experts working in different fields on the scale of the ‘problem,' the potential effectiveness of gene drive, and the ethical dimensions.

The research film is now available online in Gene Drive Governance.

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