Gene Drive Supplement

Experts Tackle Key Considerations for the Establishment of a Global Gene Drive Project Registry

January 25, 2023

Experts on gene drive, conservation, population modelling, stakeholder engagement and other fields gathered to discuss the value of establishing a global project registry to coordinate gene drive's research and data, evaluate its potential impacts and facilitate communication with stakeholders and general public on the matter. The result of the workshop was recently published in the journal Nature.

The meeting convened more than 70 participants from 45 organizations and 14 countries. Experts identified several benefits of implementing the registry. From scientific and technical perspectives, the initiative could encourage the standardization of documents across the field and collate relevant information in a central location resulting in situational awareness of the different projects being conducted globally. The registry would be useful in documenting vital technical information such as potential interactions between gene drive organisms and the environment.

At the government level, a registry could also help tie cases to a specific country's goals to clarify accountability, promote surveillance and monitor potential ecological and health risks, benefits, and social impacts. As for community and other stakeholders, the registry could contribute to building trust and relationships. Besides, it could become a coordination point for funders or journals to gain information about community engagement efforts.

However, the initiative also raised some concerns as well. Participants pointed out that releasing the information too soon in the registry could lead to public concern and controversy about ideas still in the concept stage. On the other hand, doing it too late might lead to mistrust among community representatives and other stakeholders.

Experts were concerned about misinterpretation of data or projects since disclosing highly technical information in a registry may lead to false narratives about gene drive technology. Out-of-date or incomplete data could also pose risks, as stakeholders may perceive it as withholding data. Participants also mentioned that a registry may overlap with existing registries and repositories such as the Biosafety Clearing House. Lastly, they recognized that further discussion is needed to determine whether a gene drive registry will serve as a form of self-governance or a mandatory instrument backed by international law.

The publication concludes that developing a gene drive project registry requires careful and inclusive deliberation to ensure equal participation among stakeholders. The designers of the registry must also learn from other designers' and end-users' experiences with similar registries. Potential funders and institutional actors must also be identified to oversee the creation and maintenance of the registry.

The full article was published by Nature.

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