Over 70 scientists have urged the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to support gene drive technology. The scientists drawn from public research institutions, universities and non-profit organizations globally, have requested the CBD to resist current advocacy efforts demanding a ban on gene drive research or on the future use of gene drive-based products. They have also urged the CBD to support ongoing and new gene drive research, building on cautious and responsible practices and broad stakeholder dialogue. This comes as the Eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP MOP 8) gets underway from December 4 to 17, 2016 in Cancun, Mexico.
In an open letter, the scientists highlighted the importance of gene drive’s potential application in reducing the burden of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and the Zika virus, which account for more than 17% of all infectious diseases, and cause more than 1 million deaths annually. They described the cost of such diseases as tremendous. Malaria for instance, is estimated to cost African countries USD $12 billion a year. They cautioned that imposing a moratorium on what they referred to as, promising life-saving and life-improving innovations, so early in their development would be unwarranted, damaging and irresponsible. The scientists observed that blanket bans discourage research and prevent regulators, policy-makers and other stakeholders from having an informed conversation about the use of new technologies.
The COP/MOP 8 meeting convened by the CBD is running concurrently with the Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 13) and the Second meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (COP-MOP 2). It was officially opened on December 5, 2016 by President of the United Mexican States, Enrique Peña Nieto, who reiterated his government’s commitment to biodiversity conservation. It is expected that during the three meetings, the nearly 10,000 participants, including representatives of countries, observer countries, international organizations and other stakeholders will negotiate agreements and commitments that promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as compliance with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets under the Convention.