Graphic on a white background of two open hands making space for a whale, turtle, eagle, butterfly and trees, whater and sand.

The UN CBD working group is meeting in Kenya these days

What is happening in Nairobi?

Kenya is currently hosting the Fourth Open Ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Delegates from all countries that are part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity are gathering at UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi from the 21st to the 26st of June to discuss goals and targets for the proposed post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that will be internationally agreed upon at the full meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that will be held later in the year. If well designed, this framework could be key to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in the coming decade, a global agreement on halting biodiversity loss comparable to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Proposed targets range from the protection of the oceans and forests to limiting the adverse impacts business activities have on biodiversity. National delegates, but also NGOs, Youth, Indigenous People, Women and Academics can comment on the targets being discussed and thereby shape what states have to live up to until 2030

Why is the Stop Gene Drive Campaign there?

Stop Gene Drives Campaign is keenly watching all the targets being discussed in Nairobi relating to the assessment, management and regulation of new biotechnologies such as gene drives. Target 17 of the proposed GBF relates to biosafety and deals with potential adverse impacts of biotechnology on global biodiversity. Target 6 deals with invasive species - Gene Drives have been proposed to eliminate them. You can read why we believe that this is a very bad idea here.

A number of other targets relate to horizon-scanning of new technologies for potential threats of new and emerging technologies and to building the foundations for the kind of broad and inclusive risk and technology assessment needed for far-reaching, untested technologies like gene drives.

How to keep up to date?

The voice of civil society at the negotiations can be heard through the CBD Alliance’s daily publication ECO, which you can read online through the link to keep up to date with developments at the meeting in Nairobi. You can also follow them on Twitter to make sure to get notified when the journal is out. We furthermore suggest to follow what the Global Youth Biodiversity Network is posting, because they are a very active part of the civil society from around the world. The Indigenous People Caucus is also posting daily updates! And if you are not doing it already, you can follow us on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter!


Menschen bei Petitionsübergabe auf grünem Gras.

300,000 EU citizens call on German environmental minister Steffi Lemke: Stop Gene Drives!

Berlin, 31 May 2022 - More than 300,000 citizens of the European Union are calling for a global moratorium on the first field release of genetically modified gene drive organisms. The associations Save Our Seeds, the Aurelia Foundation and the Munich Environmental Institute, which are part of the European Stop Gene Drive campaign, handed over a petition to this effect to the German environmental minister Steffi Lemke in Berlin on 31st of May 2022. Enabled by the novel genetic engineering method called gene drive, wild species could be manipulated or even completely eradicated in the future - with unforeseeable consequences for ecosystems.

Gene drives are produced with the help of the new genetic engineering techique CRISPR-Cas. Gene drives can genetically modify or even eradicate entire populations of animals and plants in nature. The so-called gene drive overrides basic principles of evolution and forces the inheritance of a genetic trait to all offspring. This triggers a genetic chain reaction that only stops when all individuals of the affected animal or plant species carry this genetic modification - or have been exterminated. This is intended, for example, to combat disease-carrying insects, invasive species or so-called crop pests in industrial agriculture.

So far, gene drives have only been tested in the laboratory. Now, the research consortium 'Target Malaria' in the West African country of Burkina Faso wants to release gene drives into nature for the first time. The goal is to eradicate a mosquitoe species that transmits malaria. But what sounds promising carries enormous risks: once released into the wild, gene drives can neither be retrieved nor can their further development and spread be controlled. If gene drive organisms spread, they could further accelerate the already rapid extinction of species.

At the handover event with German environmental minister Lemke on Leipziger Platz in Berlin, an installation of giant toppling dominoes vividly depicted the risks posed by the gene drive process.

"A genetic chain reaction triggered by Gene Drive organisms could destabilize entire ecosystems and, in extreme cases, cause them to collapse. Every gene drive release - even if it is "only" for experimental purposes - can have unforeseeable and irreversible consequences for pollinator and food webs, already weakened by climate change and high death rate of insects. We urgently need a global gene drive moratorium!"

warns Bernd Rodekohr, manager of the project "Protect the bee from genetic engineering" at the Aurelia Foundation.

"Gene drive organisms do not respect borders and can spread globally," says the coordinator of the Stop Gene Drive campaign, Mareike Imken. "So far, the global community has neither sufficient knowledge nor binding international agreements under which such a fundamental, irreversible intervention in nature could be regulated."

The possible use of gene drives is on the agenda of the 15th United Nations Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD), scheduled for autumn in China. EU environment ministers will adopt their common position on the issue in June.

Sophia Guttenberger of the Munich Environmental Institute demands: "Instead of playing Russian roulette with evolution by genetically modifying wild species, we must finally stop the already rapid extinction of species by strengthening the resilience of our ecosystems and stop destroying them everywhere on earth."

The German envionmental minister Steffi Lemke said at the petition handover:

"I believe that humanity and also science would overestimate themselves with Gene Drives. That's why I will of course try to reach a position at the Environmental Council of Ministers in June that is based on the European precautionary principle."

Background:

Gene drive technology uses genetic engineering methods such as the 'gene scissors' CRISPR/Cas to introduce certain traits into wild animal and plant populations. For example, if genes that influence fertility or sex are manipulated, entire populations can be wiped out. However, gene drives could also make so-called agricultural pests susceptible to chemical or biological substances or change other characteristics. To do this, both the new trait and the genetic engineering mechanism (CRISPR/Cas) are passed on. In this way, the genetic manipulation continues independently in nature. This "genetic chain reaction" causes all offspring to inherit the desired trait until the entire population or species is genetically modified or eradicated.

Since 2018, the regulation of gene drives has been the subject of controversial debate under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD). At the last Conference of the Parties in Sharm el Sheik, some initial precautionary conditions for release were recommended. But many questions remain unanswered - including, above all, how and by whom the decision on a release of gene drive organisms would have to be taken in view of transboundary spread and unforeseeable ecological, health, economic and social consequences. The existing procedures under the internationally binding Cartagena Protocol of the CBD on Biosafety so far only regulate the intended transfer of genetically modified organisms (e.g. seeds) as products across individual borders. Gene drive organisms, on the other hand, are not products and spread independently in all regions where the target organism is currently present or will be present in the future. In this respect, all potentially affected countries would have to give their consent to a release in advance. Currently, however, only international guidelines for the risk assessment of gene drive organisms and a general process for the technology assessment of new biotechnological processes are on the agenda of the negotiations within the framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Goal 17 of the planned Global Framework for Biodiversity deals with the prevention of biodiversity damage due to the use of biotechnologies.

Further links:

- For the Stop Gene Drive Campaign's recommendations on the design of a global gene drive moratorium: https://www.stop-genedrives.eu/en/policy-recommendations/

- To the brochure "Gene Drives. The new dimension of genetic engineering. Applications, risks and regulation." https://www.stop-genedrives.eu/en/own-publications/

- 15-minute short documentary on the risks and challenges posed by gene drive technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLt6ILhQZ7E&t=4s&ab_channel=SaveourSeeds

- All important information about the Stop Gene Drive campaigns on this website and on Twitter.

Press contact:

Mareike Imken
Coordinator of the Stop Gene Drive Campaign
Save our Seeds / Berlin Office of the Future Foundation for Agriculture in the GLS Trust
E-mail: imken[at]saveourseeds.org
Mobile: 0151-53112969
Web: www.stop-genedrives.eu


Menschen bei Petitionsübergabe auf grünem Gras.

300.000 EU- Bürger*innen appellieren an Umweltministerin Lemke: Gene Drives stoppen!

Pressemitteilung

Appell an Umweltministerin Lemke: fast 300.000 Bürger*innen sagen nein zu Gene Drives

Berlin, 31. Mai 2022. Mehr als 300.000 Bürger:innen der Europäischen Union fordern, die ersten Freiland-Experimente mit gentechnisch veränderten Gene-Drive-Organismen durch ein globales Moratorium zu unterbinden. Die in der europäischen „Stop Gene Drive“-Kampagne organisierten Verbände Save Our Seeds, die Aurelia Stiftung und das Umweltinstitut München haben heute in Berlin eine entsprechende Petition an Umweltministerin Steffi Lemke übergeben. Mit dem Gentechnikverfahren Gene Drive könnten zukünftig wildlebende Arten manipuliert oder sogar ganz ausgerottet werden – mit nicht absehbaren Folgen für die Ökosysteme.

Gene Drives werden mit Hilfe des neuen Gentechnikverfahrens CRISPR-Cas hergestellt. Sie können ganze Populationen von Tieren und Pflanzen in der Natur gentechnisch verändern oder auch ausrotten. Der sogenannte Gene Drive setzt Grundprinzipien der Evolution außer Kraft und erzwingt die Vererbung einer genetischen Eigenschaft an sämtliche Nachkommen. Damit wird eine gentechnische Kettenreaktion ausgelöst, die erst dann aufhört, wenn alle Individuen der betroffenen Tier- oder Pflanzenart diese gentechnische Veränderung in sich tragen - oder aber ausgerottet worden sind. Damit sollen zum Beispiel krankheitsübertragende Insekten, invasive Arten oder so genannte Ernteschädlinge in der industriellen Landwirtschaft bekämpft werden.

Getestet wurden Gene Drives bislang ausschließlich im Labor. Nun möchte das Forschungskonsortium ‚Target Malaria‘ im westafrikanischen Burkina Faso erstmals Gene Drives in die Natur freisetzen. Das Ziel: Eine Malaria übertragende Mückenart soll ausgerottet werden. Doch was vielversprechend klingt, birgt enorme Risiken: Einmal in die Natur freigesetzt, können Gene Drives weder zurückgeholt werden noch ihre weitere Entwicklung und Ausbreitung kontrolliert werden. Wenn sich Gene-Drive-Organismen ausbreiten, könnten sie das ohnehin rasende Artensterben noch weiter beschleunigen.

Bei der Übergabeaktion mit Umweltministerin Lemke auf dem Leipziger Platz in Berlin stellte eine Installation aus riesigen kippenden Dominosteinen anschaulich die Risiken dar, die das Gene-Drive-Verfahren birgt.

„Eine durch Gene Drive Organismen ausgelöste gentechnische Kettenreaktion könnte ganze Ökosysteme destabilisieren und im Extremfall kollabieren lassen. Jede Gene Drive Freisetzung - und sei es „nur“ zu Versuchszwecken - kann unabsehbare und irreversible Folgen für die durch Klima­wandel und Insektensterben geschwächten Bestäuber- und Nahrungsnetze haben. Wir brauchen dringend ein weltweites Gene Drive Moratorium!“

warnt Bernd Rodekohr, Projektleiter „Schützt die Biene vor Gentechnik“ bei der Aurelia Stiftung.

"Gene-Drive-Organismen kennen grundsätzlich keine Grenzen und können sich weltweit ausbreiten,“ sagt die Koordinatorin der Stop-Gene-Drive-Kampagne von SOS, Mareike Imken. „Bisher verfügt die Weltgemeinschaft weder über ausreichendes Wissen noch über verbindliche internationale Vereinbarungen, nach denen ein derart fundamentaler, unumkehrbarer Eingriff in die Natur geregelt werden kann.“

Der mögliche Einsatz von Gene Drives steht auf der Tagesordnung der 15. Vertragsstaatenkonferenz der Vereinten Nationen zum Schutz der Artenvielfalt (UN CBD), die im Herbst in China geplant ist. Die Umweltminister*innen der EU legen ihre gemeinsame Position dazu im Juni fest.

Sophia Guttenberger vom Umweltinstitut München fordert: „Anstatt durch die gentechnische Veränderung wildlebender Arten russisches Roulette mit der Evolution zu spielen, müssen wir das bereits jetzt rasende Artensterben endlich stoppen, indem wir die Widerstandfähigkeit unserer Ökosysteme stärken und aufhören, sie überall auf der Erde zu zerstören.“

Umweltministerin Steffi Lemke sagte bei der Petitionsübergabe:

„Ich glaube, dass sich die Menschheit und auch die Wissenschaft mit Gene Drives überschätzen würde. Deshalb werde ich beim Ministerrat im Juni natürlich versuchen eine Position zu erreichen, die sich am europäischen Vorsorgeprinzip orientiert.“

Hintergrund:

Die Gene-Drive-Technologie nutzt gentechnische Methoden wie die ‚Genschere‘ CRISPR/Cas, um bestimmte Eigenschaften in wildlebende Tier- und Pflanzenpopulation einzuführen. Werden dabei Gene, die z.B. Fruchtbarkeit oder Geschlecht beeinflussen manipuliert, können ganze Populationen ausgerottet werden. Gene Drives könnten aber auch sogenannte landwirtschaftliche Schädlinge für chemische oder biologische Substanzen anfällig machen oder andere Eigenschaften verändern. Dazu wird sowohl die neue Eigenschaft als auch der gentechnische Mechanismus (CRISPR/Cas) weitervererbt. So setzt sich die gentechnische Manipulation selbstständig in der Natur fort. Diese „gentechnische Kettenreaktion“ bewirkt, dass sämtliche Nachkommen die gewünschte Eigenschaft erben, bis die gesamte Population oder Art gentechnisch verändert oder ausgerottet ist.

Seit 2018 wird die Regulierung von Gene Drives im Rahmen der UN Biodiversitätskonvention (UN CBD) kontrovers diskutiert. Auf der letzten Vertragsstaatenkonferenz in Sharm el Sheik wurden einige erste vorsorgeorientierte Bedingungen für eine Freisetzung empfohlen. Doch viele Fragen bleiben unbeantwortet – darunter vor allem, wie und von wem angesichts einer grenzüberschreitenden Ausbreitung und unvorhersehbarer ökologischer, gesundheitlicher, wirtschaftlicher und sozialer Folgen die Entscheidung über eine Freisetzung von Gene Drive Organismen getroffen werden müsste. Die bestehenden Verfahren im Rahmen des international verbindlichen Cartagena-Protokolls der CBD über die biologische Sicherheit regeln bislang nur den beabsichtigten Transfer von gentechnisch veränderten Organismen (z.B. Saatgut) als Produkte über einzelnen Grenze hinweg. Gene-Drive-Organismen sind dagegen keine Produkte und verbreiten sich selbständig in allen Regionen, in denen der betroffene Organismus gegenwärtig oder zukünftig vorkommt. Insofern müssten alle potenziell betroffenen Länder im Voraus ihre Zustimmung zu einer Freisetzung geben. Aktuell stehen bei den Verhandlungen im Rahmen der UN Biodiversitätskonvention jedoch lediglich internationale Leitlinien zur Risikobewertung von Gene Drive Organismen und ein genereller Prozess zur Technikfolgenabschätzung von neuen biotechnologischen Verfahren auf der Tagesordnung. In dem geplanten neuen Rahmenabkommen zum Schutz der Biodiversität befasst sich dessen Ziel 17 mit der Abwendung von Biodiversitätsschäden aufgrund des Einsatzes von Biotechnologien.

Weitere Links:

Pressekontakt:

Mareike Imken
Koordinatorin der Stop Gene Drive Kampagne
Save our Seeds / Berliner Büro der Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand
E-Mail: imken@saveourseeds.org; Mobil: 0151-53112969 Web: www.stop-genedrives.de


Mosquito sitting on a yellow and white flower.

Welt Malaria Tag

Welche Risiken sind wir bereit einzugehen, um Malaria (vielleicht) zu beenden?

Nach einem enormen Rückgang der Malariafälle in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten ist Malaria wieder auf dem Vormarsch. Im Jahr 2020 starben 677.000 Menschen an Malaria, darunter sind 80 % Kinder unter 5 Jahren. Malaria ist nicht nur tödlich, sondern verschlechtert auch die Lebensgrundlagen ganzer Familien, Gemeinschaften und Länder: Bauern, die ihr Saatgut nicht rechtzeitig aussäen können, Mütter, die ihre Erträge nicht auf den Märkten verkaufen können, um ihren Lebensunterhalt zu verdienen, oder Kinder, die nicht zur Schule gehen und von Bildung profitieren können – ein Teufelskreis der Armut. Einige Wissenschaftler:innen schlagen jetzt vor, dass eine neue Technologie namens Gene Drive einen Wendepunkt bei der Malariabekämpfung darstellen könnte.

Gene Drives – die Manipulation der DNA von Mücken, um ein Ausrottungs-Gen weiterzuvererben

Das Forschungskonsortium Target Malaria, das hauptsächlich von der Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation und dem Open Philanthropy Fund finanziert wird, entwickelt im Labor gentechnisch veränderte Stechmücken, die entweder alle Nachkommen männlich oder alle weiblichen Nachkommen unfruchtbar machen würden. Sie verwenden die Crispr-Cas-Methode, um ein System in die DNA einzupflanzen, das sich bei der Paarung der Mücken repliziert und dafür sorgt, dass sich dieses Gen in der wilden Mückenpopulation verbreitet. Während einige hoffen, dass dies die Wunderwaffe zur Unterdrückung von Mückepopulationen und zur Unterbrechung des Übertragungszyklus sein könnte, wirft diese bislang ungetestete, risikoreiche Technologie grundlegende Fragen für die Menschheit auf: Wie weit sind wir bereit zu gehen, wie hoch dürfen die Risiken und Ungewissheiten sein, um eine Hypothese zu testen?

Die Risiken von Gene-Drive-Mücken

Die Risiken und Folgen der Gentechnik sind sehr schwer abzuschätzen, vor allem, wenn der Organismus in freier Wildbahn lebt und sich dort fortpflanztl. Denn Gene beeinflussen nicht nur die körperliche Gestalt von Tieren, sondern auch ihr Verhalten, ihre Interaktionen mit anderen Arten und die Art und Weise, wie Bakterien und Parasiten sie beeinflussen. Eine Unterdrückung bzw. Ausrottung von Genen hätte Auswirkungen auf das gesamte Nahrungsnetz und würde wahrscheinlich bedeuten, dass ihre ökologische Nische von einer anderen Art eingenommen wird und dass dem Plasmodium-Parasiten (welcher die Malaria verursacht) ein Wirt fehlt. Mit unbekannten Folgen. Darüber hinaus besteht die Gefahr, dass die  gentechnisch veränderten Gene von den Mücken durch „horizontalen Gentransfer“ an andere Arten weitergegeben werden und auch deren Populationen dezimieren. Wenn dies so genannte ‘wichtige Arten’ betreffen würde, könnten die Ökosysteme zusammenbrechen oder schwer geschädigt werden.

Zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt der Forschung wissen die Wissenschaftler nicht, ob die Gene für den Menschen giftig sein könnten oder allergische Reaktionen hervorrufen. Außerdem könnte die zu erwartende Verhaltensänderung der Mücken zu vermehrten Stichen und einer verstärkten Übertragung von Malaria führen. Wenn Menschen Tiere essen, die sich vorher von gentechnisch veränderten Mücken ernährt haben, könnten sie auch unter sekundären toxischen Wirkungen und allergischen Reaktionen leiden. Und nicht zuletzt könnte, wenn die Anopheles-Gambiae-Mücke ausgerottet wird, eine andere Mücke ihren Platz einnehmen und die Belastung durch andere Krankheiten erhöhen.

Gentechnisch veränderte Stechmücken könnten – wie beim Menschen – giftig für die Viehbestände sein, neue Krankheiten übertragen oder sogar – kontraintuitiv – die Übertragung von Malaria verstärken.

Mückenlarven spielen in Gewässern eine wichtige Rolle. Gentechnisch veränderte Larven könnten giftig sein und sich negativ auf das Trinkwasser sowie die Flora und Fauna von Gewässern auswirken.

Da diese Technologie noch sehr neu ist, stehen Studien und Diskussionen über ihre Risiken und möglichen negativen Folgen sowie über die Art der erforderlichen globalen Governance und internationalen Regulierung natürlich noch ganz am Anfang. So wurden beispielsweise noch nicht einmal Leitfäden für die Risikobewertung von der Weltgemeinschaft in Auftrag gegeben. Hinzu kommt, dass eine Fülle wichtiger politischer, sozioökonomischer, kultureller und ethischer Fragen unbehandelt und unbeantwortet bleibt.  Wer sollte beispielsweise in den Entscheidungsprozess einbezogen werden und wer sollte vor einer Freisetzung konsultiert werden?  Würde es ausreichen, dass eine nationale Regierung, wie die burkinische Regierung, eine solche Freilassung genehmigt und die örtlichen Dorfvorsteher:innen ihre Zustimmung geben?  Wie müssten Entscheidungsprozesse gestaltet werden, um die international verankerten Rechte indigener Völker und lokaler Gemeinschaften zu wahren, sich gegen Projekte auszusprechen zu können, die sie und ihre Gebiete oder Lebensweise beeinträchtigen könnten? Wer wäre verantwortlich und wer müsste für Entschädigungen aufkommen, wenn die Gene Drive Mücken Grenzen überschreiten und negative Auswirkungen auf Ökosysteme oder die Landwirtschaft haben?

Gleichzeitig gibt es bereits Maßnahmen, die in der Vergangenheit dazu beigetragen haben, Malaria in Ländern wie zuletzt China und El Salvador zu beenden. Diese beiden Länder sind seit 2021 offiziell von der WHO als malariafrei erklärt worden, und folgen auf Algerien und Argentinien im Jahr 2019.

Was waren bisher die erfolgreichsten Mittel zur Malariabekämpfung?

Untersuchungen zeigen, dass das wichtigste Instrument für den Rückgang der Malaria seit dem Jahr 2000 mit insektizid behandelte Bettnetze sind. Etwa 65 % der zwischen 2000 und 2015 erzielten Fortschritte sind auf den Einsatz dieser Netze zurückzuführen.

Schlechte Wasser- und Sanitärverhältnisse werden mit einer Reihe von Krankheiten in Verbindung gebracht, unter anderem mit dem Auftreten von Malaria. Eine bessere Abwasserentsorgung wäre ein ganzheitlicher Ansatz zur Bekämpfung von Malaria und gleichzeitig zur Bekämpfung von Durchfallerkrankungen und Infektionen der Atemwege, an denen jedes Jahr Millionen von Kindern sterben. Weitere Untersuchungen zeigen, dass gute sanitäre Einrichtungen und Wasserleitungen mit einem geringeren Auftreten von Malaria in der Bevölkerung verbunden sind. Dr. Sory, Epidemiologe und Berater im Bereich öffentliche Gesundheit, teilt diese Ansicht und glaubt, dass Abwassersysteme die Malariabelastung erheblich verringern würden.

Artemisinin, ein traditionelle Heilmittel gegen Malaria, wurde von der Nobelpreisträgerin Tu Youyou wiederentdeckt. Artemisinin ist ein Bestandteil der Artemisia-Pflanze. Medikamente gegen Malaria enthalten heute oft Artemisinin und können alle heute vorkommenden Malariaarten heilen. Erste Untersuchungen deuten darauf hin, dass ein mit der Artemisia-Pflanze zubereiteter Tee präventive und heilende Wirkungen haben kann. Es scheint, dass eine andere Pflanze aus der Familie der Artemisia, Artemisia Afra, ähnliche Wirkungen haben könnte, ganz ohne Artemisinin zu enthalten. Lucile Cornet-Vernet und Arnaud Nouvion von der Maison de l’Artémisia erklärten in unserem Interview, es seien weitere klinische Studien erforderlich, um ein für alle Mal zu beweisen, dass diese Pflanzen wirken. Bislang fordert die WHO, die Pflanze nicht als Tee zu verwenden, um keine Resistenz gegen Artemisinin zu verursachen. Resistenzen gegen Artemisinin sind in Südostasien entdeckt worden, aber bisher nicht in Afrika. Lucile Cornet-Vernet weist darauf hin, dass die Pflanze in China seit etwa 2000 Jahren verwendet wird und dort noch keine Resistenzen entdeckt wurden. Außerdem enthält die Pflanze eine Vielzahl von Bestandteilen, die Malaria heilen könnte, so dass sie eine „Polytherapie“ darstellt. Der Zugang zu Ärzten und Ärztinnen, die Malaria diagnostizieren und das Medikament verschreiben, sowie die finanziellen Mittel, um sie sich leisten zu können, sind hier der limitierende Faktor. Aber auch der Zugang zu Saatgut oder Artemisia-Blättern, um sich selbst zu heilen, könnte nützlich sein, wenn klinische Studien durchgeführt werden können und kein Zusammenhang mit der Entstehung von Resistenzen hergestellt werden kann.

Es gibt eine Vielzahl von Mückenschutzmitteln, die den Menschen zwischen 3 bis 10 Stunden vor Mückenstichen schützen können. Da die meisten Mücken abends/nachts stechen, ist dieser Schutz sehr hilfreich, wenn man spät abends unterwegs ist. Viele von ihnen haben chemische Inhaltsstoffe, einige pflanzliche. Von denen mit pflanzlichen Wirkstoffen empfiehlt die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Tropenmedizin, Reisemedizin und globale Gesundheit nur solche mit Zitroneneukalyptusöl und weist darauf hin, dass für die anderen pflanzlichen Abwehrsprays zu wenig Studien durchgeführt wurden. Dies könnte ein Weg sein, den es zu erforschen lohnt.

Eine frühzeitige Erkennung der Malaria hilft erstens den Menschen, so schnell wie möglich die benötigten Medikamente zu erhalten und die Auswirkungen der Krankheit so gering wie möglich zu halten. Zweitens trägt sie dazu bei, das Risiko eines lokalen Ausbruchs in einer Gemeinschaft zu verringern.

Warum gibt es dann immer noch Malaria auf der Welt?

Um Malaria zu bekämpfen, müssen alle oben genannten Maßnahmen ergriffen werden, von der Vorbeugung durch Netze und Mückensprays bis hin zum Zugang zu Schnelltests, um die Infektionskette zu unterbrechen, und zum Zugang zu Medikamenten, um Menschen innerhalb weniger Stunden nach dem Stich zu behandeln. Darüber hinaus ist ein ganzheitlicher Ansatz erforderlich, der Stadtplanung, Bildung, Abwassersysteme und Zugang zu medizinischer Versorgung umfasst, um Malaria zu bekämpfen – wie auch viele andere Krankheiten, die Menschen in Armut gefangen halten und einen Teufelskreis schaffen.

Was fordert die Stop Gene Drives Kampagne?

In Anbetracht der enormen Bandbreite an bisher nicht erfassten Umwelt-, Gesundheits- und sozioökonomischer Gefahren, des wirtschaftlichen und politischen Konfliktpotenzials und einer Fülle sozialer, ethischer und kultureller Vorbehalte gegenüber dem Einsatz der Gene-Drive-Technologie in der Umwelt, fordert die Stop Gene Drive Kampagne ein weltweites Moratorium auf die Freisetzung von Gene-Drive-Organismen. Das bedeutet, dass kein Gene-Drive-Organismus in die Umwelt freigesetzt werden sollte – auch nicht für Feldversuche – solange nicht eine Reihe von Bedingungen erfüllt sind. Lesen Sie unsere politischen Empfehlungen hier.

In der Zwischenzeit empfehlen wir, die Finanzierungsmittel zur Bekämpfung der Malaria auf die Stärkung der lokalen Gesundheitssysteme, die Abwasserentsorgung und die Bildung zu konzentrieren, um den Kampf gegen Malaria zu einem übergreifenden Ansatz für die Bekämpfung von Armut und vernachlässigten Krankheiten im Allgemeinen zu machen.

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Weitere Ressourcen:

Lest mehr über potentielle Anwendungen von gene drives hier

Lest unsere  FAQ zu Gene Drives hier

Lest mehr zur Regulierung von Gene Drives hier

Lest unsere Interviews mit Expert:innen hier

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Quellen:

Connolly, J. B., Mumford, J. D., Fuchs, S., Turner, G., Beech, C., North, A. R., & Burt, A. (2021). Systematic identification of plausible pathways to potential harm via problem formulation for investigational releases of a population suppression gene drive to control the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae in West Africa. Malaria Journal 2021 20:1, 20(1), 1–69. https://doi.org/10.1186/S12936-021-03674-6

Czechowski, T., Rinaldi, M. A., Famodimu, M. T., Van Veelen, M., Larson, T. R., Winzer, T., … Graham, I. A. (2019). Flavonoid Versus Artemisinin Anti-malarial Activity in Artemisia annua Whole-Leaf Extracts. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10, 984. https://doi.org/10.3389/FPLS.2019.00984/BIBTEX

ENSSER, VDW, & Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS). (2019). Gene Drives. A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations. Retrieved from https://ensser.org/publications/2019-publications/gene-drives-a-report-on-their-science-applications-social-aspects-ethics-and-regulations/

Guidance on the environmental risk assessment of genetically modified animals. (2013). EFSA Journal, 11(5). https://doi.org/10.2903/J.EFSA.2013.3200

Landier, J., Parker, D. M., Thu, A. M., Carrara, V. I., Lwin, K. M., Bonnington, C. A., … Nosten, F. H. (2016). The role of early detection and treatment in malaria elimination. Malaria Journal, 15(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/S12936-016-1399-Y/TABLES/1

Laurens, M. B. (2020). RTS,S/AS01 vaccine (MosquirixTM): an overview. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 16(3), 480. https://doi.org/10.1080/21645515.2019.1669415

Malariaprophylaxe und Empfehlungen des Ständigen Ausschusses Reisemedizin (StAR) der DTG. (2021, August). Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.dtg.org/images/Startseite-Download-Box/2021_DTG_Empfehlungen_Malaria.pdf

Maskin, E., Monga, C., Thuilliez, J., & Berthélemy, J. C. (2019). The economics of malaria control in an age of declining aid. Nature Communications 2019 10:1, 10(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09991-4

Okumu, F. O., Govella, N. J., Moore, S. J., Chitnis, N., & Killeen, G. F. (2010). Potential Benefits, Limitations and Target Product-Profiles of Odor-Baited Mosquito Traps for Malaria Control in Africa. PLOS ONE, 5(7), e11573. https://doi.org/10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0011573

Prüss-Ustün, A., Wolf, J., Bartram, J., Clasen, T., Cumming, O., Freeman, M. C., … Johnston, R. (2019). Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene for selected adverse health outcomes: An updated analysis with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 222(5), 765–777. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.IJHEH.2019.05.004

Q&A on RTS,S malaria vaccine. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/q-a-on-rts-s-malaria-vaccine

Target Malaria. (n.d.). The Science: What is gene drive? Retrieved from www.targetmalaria.org/ourwork

Target Malaria | Together we can end malaria. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://targetmalaria.org/

The Nobel Prize | Women who changed science | Tu Youyou. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.nobelprize.org/womenwhochangedscience/stories/tu-youyou

WHO. (2019). The use of non-pharmaceutical forms of Artemisia. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news/item/10-10-2019-the-use-of-non-pharmaceutical-forms-of-artemisia

WHO. (2022). Countries and territories certified malaria-free by WHO. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.who.int/teams/global-malaria-programme/elimination/countries-and-territories-certified-malaria-free-by-who?msclkid=949a737cbf0711ec9474c0ab673942f3

Yang, D., He, Y., Wu, B., Deng, Y., Li, M., Yang, Q., … Liu, Y. (2020). Drinking water and sanitation conditions are associated with the risk of malaria among children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa: A logistic regression model analysis of national survey data. Journal of Advanced Research, 21, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JARE.2019.09.001

Yasri, S., & Wiwanitkit, V. (2021). Artemisinin resistance: an important emerging clinical problem in tropical medicine. International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, 13(6), 152. Retrieved from /pmc/articles/PMC8784654/


Interview with Dr. Sory

Gene Drives will most probably be released first to fight malaria. We therefore created this series of interviews with health care experts, researchers and civil society to amplify their voices and concerns around this technology.

How did you get involved with Gene Drives as a burkinabé epidemiologist?

Dr. Sory is an epidemiologist with 10 years of experience. Among others he has been the director of quality of the biggest hospital in Burkina Faso from 2016-2018, the focal point for non-transmittable diseases, member of the COVID 19 epidemic response unit and part of the Atlanta Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

His focus has always been on the big questions around public health. He got involved with Gene Drives when he headed a group of civil societies raising questions about the research conducted by Target Malaria. He eventually dropped out when the Regional Director of the Bobo Dioulasso Health Science Research Institute informed them about the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes on a too short notice. Seen that this did not give them any chance to react, he decided to leave the organization so as to not raise the impression that his group was consulted and agreed on that - seen that this was not the case at all. His main concerns back then and still nowadays around gene drive mosquitoes are that it is an untested technology whose indirect or direct impacts on human health and the environmental equilibrium cannot be predicted. He was never categorically against the release of gene drive mosquitoes, but asked for a transparent and precautionary step-by-step approach in order to properly assess all impacts. 

How is the situation in Burkina Faso and what needs to be done?

Dr. Sory is positive about the existing malaria strategies in his country and the existing and upcoming measures to fight the disease. 

Key to the success of the strategies is access to information, education and a change in behavior. There are strategies in Burkina Faso that are targeted towards children between 3 and 5 or pregnant women, but hygiene and sanitation remains a big problem. The upcoming vaccines seem promising to him and could be a valuable addition to the existing strategies. Furthermore, research on the efficacy and use of the artemisia plant could open new doors. Drugs are accessible in Burkina Faso and the government is subsidizing it for children under 5 and pregnant women. 

What steps and approaches are needed?

A further game changer in the fight against malaria would be to involve sectors and ministries that are not dealing with health care, because malaria affects everything and in return is affected by malaria. Housing, education, agricultural practices, city planning, drainage systems, all these sectors should be involved in a holistique solution against malaria. The biggest obstacle for the disease still remains the “environmental hygiene” as Dr. Sory calls it. Everywhere the water stagnates, being it during rain or dry season. The grey water of households is flushed in the streets, there is no proper drainage system so water stagnates everywhere, which is the breeding ground for mosquitoes. When it rains the water remains literally everywhere. “We can invest billions of dollars in other measures, but if we do not resolve this issues, we won’t fight malaria.”, concludes Dr. Sory. This approach would also help in the fight against other diseases, seeing that other main mortality causes, such as diarrhea or lung diseases, result from low hygiene and sanitation standards. 

What do you think about Gene Drives to fight malaria?

In regard to Gene drives Dr. Sory believes that there is not much incentive to approve a technology that affects the very basis of organisms when we cannot measure its impact, especially if there are already other solutions at hand that we could increase and support.

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These are the interviews on the topic held so far with the following experts:

Andreas Wulf, physician and expert for global health policy at Medico International in the Berlin office, provides his views on the role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in international health policy and his outlook on necessary conditions for the implementation of the human right to health in Africa.
Click here for the interview

Ali Tapsoba de Goamma, human rights activist, and spokesman for an alliance in Burkina Faso against the release of Gene Drive mosquitoes in his home country, on the malaria control measures implemented so far and the attitude of the local population towards the planned field trials with Gene Drive mosquitoes.
Click here for the interview

Pamela J. Weathers, professor and researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, on the efficacy and controversial safety of Artemisia tea infusions for treating or preventing malaria.
Click here for the interview

Lucile Cornet-Vernet, founder of La Maison de L’Artémisia, and Arnaud Nouvion describe the potential benefits of the Artémisia plant and state that more funding is needed to conduct clinical studies, proving once and for all that the plant is a great tool in the fight against malaria.

Click here and here for the interviews

More interviews to follow.


Teapot with two steaming mugs of tea.

Interview with Lucile Cornet-Vernet

Gene Drives will most probably be released first to fight malaria. We therefore created this series of interviews with health care experts, researchers and civil society to amplify their voices and concerns around this technology.

How did you get to work on malaria and what are you doing?

Lucile Cornet-Vernet is the founder of “La Maison de l'Artemisia” (engl.: the house of artemisia) founded in 2012. After her friend, Alexandre Poussin, got severly sick from Malaria in Ethiopia and recovered due to a tea made from the artemisia plant she started on a one year research adventure, where she read through all the publications around artemisia and malaria, back then around 800, nowadays approximately 1500. She called doctors who worked with the plant and created a whole bibliography on the state of the art around artemisia curing malaria. She then decided to dedicate her entire work to that plant and created the first “Maison de l’Artémisia”, nowadays there are around 105 of them in 27 countries. They function as research and training centers, where especially vulnerable populations (low income or remote communities) get formations on how to grow, harvest and prepare the preventive or curative teas. 

What plants are you working with and what about emerging resistances to Artemisinin?

Before they achieved this, Lucile reached out to an agronomist and they worked on adapting the seeds that originally came from the high plateaus of China to the African regions. Artemisia has a high genetic diversity. Lucile managed well to adapt the seeds to different climates. 

Lucile works with two different plant varieties. The Artemisia afra and Artemisia annua. The second comes from China and has 23 different components against malaria. The first one is a bit less researched but has at least 10 components, contains no artemisinin and is a perennial bush, making it much easier for people to grow and sustain it. There has been some research published about the emergence of artemisinin resistance in south-east Asia. This does not threaten her project, says Lucile, seeing that artemisinin is only one component in the plant that fights the disease and that Artemisia afra for example does not even use that. Furthermore, this resistance has been observed for quite some time. Whereas in China, where Artemisia annua originally comes from and where the plant has been used over centuries (and is officially malaria-free since 2021) no resistance has been detected. Lucile furthermore describes the plants as “poli-therapeutical” due to their multiple anti-malarial components. That is more diverse than any drug on the market and makes it resistant to resistances. 

Why isn't the plant the mainstream solution to malaria then?

The biggest obstacle to her work is that they lack funding to do large scale clinical tests with the plants, conducted by uncontestable doctors, so that the plant could be mainstreamed as a solution. Lucile has initiated a consortium with a dozen world-renowned research organizations, such as Institut Pasteur. This consortium evaluates the efficacy of artemisia and would conduct randomized tests, when funding comes in. 

What makes malaria worse than most other diseases?

Lucile talks about the alarming effect malaria has on the whole continent. Apart from thousands of deaths that mostly hit the poorest, pregnant women and children, the disease creates a vicious cycle of poverty. Malaria can weaken people for a long time, which prevents farmers from sowing their seeds at the right point in time, mothers from selling their surplus on markets to generate an income or children from going to school. The world has set its mind on producing very cheap medicine against malaria, but families still have to afford the treatment, which in many cases is even wrongly produced and does not cure the people. 

Lucile gives the example of the DRC, where 60% of the budget from the health ministry is spent on malaria control, keeping the country trapped. 

What do you think about Gene Drives?

Regarding gene drives, Lucile does not see them as a solution. She has a quite clear stance against GMOs. She managed to adapt the Artemisia seeds to a whole continent, with different climates and ecosystems, without knocking in a gene for heat resistance. “Before doing something complicated, why not do it easy?” We can’t know what the effects of GDOs are, therefore she’d propose to rather work on the solutions we have at hand. Like the artemisia plant, that would give back the power to the people to treat themselves. The solution is effective, cheap, with a low carbon footprint and local. 

____

Further videos: https://youtu.be/xI_dKFhojhM 

The book published by Lucile: Artemisia | Actes Sud (actes-sud.fr)

--

These are the interviews on the topic held so far with the following experts:

Andreas Wulf, physician and expert for global health policy at Medico International in the Berlin office, provides his views on the role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in international health policy and his outlook on necessary conditions for the implementation of the human right to health in Africa.
Click here for the interview

Ali Tapsoba de Goamma, human rights activist, and spokesman for an alliance in Burkina Faso against the release of Gene Drive mosquitoes in his home country, on the malaria control measures implemented so far and the attitude of the local population towards the planned field trials with Gene Drive mosquitoes.
Click here for the interview

Pamela J. Weathers, professor and researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, on the efficacy and controversial safety of Artemisia tea infusions for treating or preventing malaria.
Click here for the interview

Arnaud Nouvion, consultant La Maison de L’Artémisia, describes the potential benefits of the Artémisia plant and state that more funding is needed to conduct clinical studies, proving once and for all that the plant is a great tool in the fight against malaria.

Click here for the interview

More interviews to follow.


A green bush of the artemisia plant.

Interview with Arnaud Nouvion

Gene Drives will most probably be released first to fight malaria. We therefore created this series of interviews with health care experts, researchers and civil society to amplify their voices and concerns around this technology.

How is the financial situation around Malaria?

“It is great how much money is available these days to fight diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis or aids. The Global Fund has recently raised 14 billion dollars, from which a big chunk is dedicated to malaria. Most of the money is spent on nets, the newest medicine and the vaccin.”, says Arnaud Nouvion from the Maison de l’Artémisia (engl.: house of artemisia),

“I think that is great! Every money spent to fight malaria is well spent.”

What "solutions" are you working on?

He points out that there are also cheaper measures against the disease, such as the artemisia plant, that would “only” require 10 million dollars to proceed with clinical studies and prove once and for all if the plant works. This money would be needed to fulfill the requirements of the World Health Organization. There are a lot of renowned doctors and research institutes, such as l’Institut Pasteur or the University of Tübingen, that have joined forces in an international consortium to examine the benefits of the artemisia plant. But they still lack the funding to conduct their research. For pharmaceutical labs there is no incentive to work on the plant, because the main  idea is that the plant would be easily available and cheap. Economically speaking it makes sense that no for-profit-company works on this. Labs are made to develop highly complicated medication and artemisia is not. 

“Artemisia is the “praise of simplicity”, says Arnaud, “You simply boil a handful of the stem and the leaves for 10 minutes and you get your tea.”

This has been practiced in China for centuries. The nobel prize laureate Tu Youyou discovered in traditional medical books that artemisinin (an extract from the artemisia plant) could cure malaria.

Why have no philanthropists invested in that?

Arnaud Nouvion believes that this solution has not reached the philanthropes yet. Because if they’d discover that, it would be a “dream come true'' for them. This could have the biggest impact. It could save thousands of lives. Malaria is not the deadliest of the diseases, but it has the worst impact on the livelihoods of people. Nowadays there are thousands of hectares all over Africa where Artemisia is grown, in backyard gardens, by big companies or by farmers cooperatives. All are good, all work. “We have indications that it works, we just need the clinical studies to prove it once and for all and then maybe philanthropists might see it too.”, says Arnaud Nouvion, “when it comes to the correct dosing of artemisia, here again science would do its job. More research will lead to better treatment.”

He furthermore points out that Artemisia afra does not contain artemisinin, but does work against malaria, thereby even further decreasing the risk of creating resistances.

What do you think about Gene Drives?

Arnaud talks about Malaria as a really big wound, a blight, affecting many people. He sees a hierarchy of solutions. When comparing artemisia to gene drives it seems quite clear to him. On one hand he thinks, we have a cheap and easy solution that has been tested for hundreds of years and on the other hand we have an expensive, complicated and untested approach. He makes clear that he is not against novel solutions or that no money should be spent on research diversification, but that in this case the answer to the question: “which measure should be used first?”, is quite clear. 

And what about the vaccine?

A vaccine against malaria would be great too. At the same time some obstacles have to be overcome, such as keeping the refrigeration chain up until the very remote areas and guaranteeing that children between zero and two years get four doses. When it comes to artemisia Arnaud is precautious in advising it for babies. Here again he points to the lack of clinical studies. He simply doesn’t know how it would affect babies, therefore he takes a precautionary approach and advises it only for older children.  

La maison de l’Afrique  will be hosting a webinar on the 25th that is also under the umbrella of “the praise of simplicity”. Three different approaches to fighting malaria will be presented. One speaker will talk about the use of artemisia, the other one about a repellent to be applied on the skin  and the last one will present a trap to be placed around the house with an ecological insecticide. Three further “users” of these measures will talk about their experiences with it. 

A mug of artemisia tea every morning during the rainy season and nobody dies from malaria anymore. Sounds too easy? Maybe we should try this first before using complicated and expensive approaches such as Gene drives?

--

These are the interviews on the topic held so far with the following experts:

Andreas Wulf, physician and expert for global health policy at Medico International in the Berlin office, provides his views on the role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in international health policy and his outlook on necessary conditions for the implementation of the human right to health in Africa.
Click here for the interview

Ali Tapsoba de Goamma, human rights activist, and spokesman for an alliance in Burkina Faso against the release of Gene Drive mosquitoes in his home country, on the malaria control measures implemented so far and the attitude of the local population towards the planned field trials with Gene Drive mosquitoes.
Click here for the interview

Pamela J. Weathers, professor and researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, on the efficacy and controversial safety of Artemisia tea infusions for treating or preventing malaria.
Click here for the interview

Lucile Cornet-Vernet, founder of La Maison de L’Artémisia, describes the potential benefits of the Artémisia plant and state that more funding is needed to conduct clinical studies, proving once and for all that the plant is a great tool in the fight against malaria.

Click here for the interview

More interviews to follow.


Mosquito sitting on a yellow and white flower.

World Malaria Day 2022

What risks are we willing to take to (maybe) end malaria?

25.04.22 – After a tremendous decrease in malaria cases in the last two decades, malaria is on the rise again, having killed 677.000 people in 2020, among them 80% children under 5. Apart from being deadly, malaria is detrimental for the livelihoods of entire families, communities and countries: farmers not being able to sow their seeds on time, mothers not being able to sell surpluses on markets to earn a living or children not being able to go to school and benefit from education – a vicious cycle of poverty. While this disease affects one third of the world’s population, some scientists suggest that a new technology called gene drive could be a game-changer.

Gene Drives – manipulating the DNA of mosquitoes to pass down an extinction gene 

The research consortium Target Malaria, mostly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Philanthropy Fund, is developing genetically engineered mosquitoes in the lab that would either make all offspring male or all female offspring infertile. They use the Crispr-Cas methodology to implant a system into their DNA that would replicate when mosquitoes mate, ensuring that this gene spreads throughout the wild mosquito population. But while some hope that this would be the magic bullet to suppress mosquitoe populations and stop the malaria transmission cycle, this currently unproven high risk technology poses fundamental questions for humanity: How far are we willing to go, how high can the risks and uncertainties be in order to test a hypothesis?

The Risks of Gene Drive mosquitoes

The risks and consequences of genetic engineering are very hard to predict, especially when the organism is supposed to live and mate in the wild. This is because genes do not only affect the physical shape of animals but also their behavior, their interactions with other species and the way bacteria and parasites affect them. A suppression/eradication gene drive is going to have repercussions along the entire food web and would likely mean that their ecological niche will be occupied by another species, and that the plasmodium parasite (which causes malaria) would lack a host – with unknown consequences. In addition, there is a risk that the modified genes could be passed from the mosquitoes via ‘horizontal gene transfer’ to other species and suppress their population too. If this would affect so called “valued species”, the ecosystems could collapse or be severely damaged. 

At this point in research scientists do not know if the genes might be toxic for humans or create allergic reactions. Furthermore, the expected change in behavior of the mosquitoes could lead to increased biting and/or even increased malaria transmission. Also, if humans eat animals that ate the gene drive mosquitoes before they could suffer from secondary toxic effects. Last but not least, if the anopheles gambiae mosquito is eradicated, potentially another mosquito could take its spot, increasing the burden of other diseases.

Same as for humans, gene drive mosquitoes could be toxic for livestock, transmit new diseases or may even – counter-intuitively – increase the transmission of malaria.

Mosquito larvae play an important role in water bodies. Genetically modified larvae could be toxic and negatively impact drinking water and the flora and fauna of water bodies. 

As this technology is still very new, naturally studies and discussions on their risks, possible adverse consequences as well as the type of global governance and international regulation needed are only in their infancy. For example, guidance materials for risk assessment have not even been commissioned by the global community. In addition – a plethora of important political, socio-economic, cultural and ethical questions remain unaddressed and unanswered.  For example, who should be included in the decision making process and who should be consulted before any release?  Would it be enough that a national government such as the Burkinabe government allows such a release and that local village chiefs give their consent?  How would decision-making processes be designed to uphold the internationally enshrined rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities to say no to projects that could affect them and their territories? Who would be held responsible and who would have to pay for compensation if the gene drive mosquitoes crossed borders and had adverse impacts on ecosystems or farming in non-target environments?

At the same time there are measures at hand that have in the past been used to end malaria in countries such as, most recently, China and El Salvador, being officially declared malaria free in 2021, preceded by Algeria and Argentina in 2019.

What have been the most successful tools to fight malaria?

Research suggests that the number one tool for the decrease of malaria since 2000 are insecticide-treated bed nets. Approximately 65% of the progress achieved between 2000 and 2015 result from the use of these nets.

Poor Water and Sanitation conditions are associated with a number of diseases, among others with the occurrence of malaria. A better sanitation situation would be a holistic approach to fight malaria, while also fighting diarrhea and respiratory infections that kill millions of children every year. Further research shows that good sanitation and piped water are associated with a lower prevalence of malaria among the population. Dr. Sory shares this opinion and believes that correct drainage systems would heavily lower the burden of malaria.

Artemisinin was rediscovered by the Nobel Prize laureate Tu Youyou who found the cure for malaria in traditional books. It is a component from the Artemisia plant. Drugs against Malaria now often contain artemisinin and can cure all malaria strains present nowadays. Initial research suggests that a tea prepared with the Artemisia plant can have preventive and curative effects. It seems that another plant of the Artemisia family, Artemisia afra, could have similar effects, without containing artemisinin. Lucile Cornet-Vernet and Arnaud Nouvion said that more clinical studies are needed to prove once and for all that these plants work. Until now the WHO asks to not use the plant as tea to not cause resistance to artemisinin. Resistances to artemisinin have been discovered in South-East Asia, but not in Africa so far. Lucile Cornet-Vernet on the other hand points to the fact that in China, this plant has been used for about 2000 years and no resistance has been discovered there yet. Furthermore, the plant comes with a variety of components that could potentially cure malaria, thereby being a “poly-therapy”. Access to health care providers diagnosing malaria and prescribing the drug and the financial means to afford them are the limiting factor here. Or else access to seeds or the Artemisia leaves to cure oneself could be useful, if clinical studies can be conducted and no link to the creation of resistance can be drawn.

There is a multitude of repellents that can protect humans between 3-10 hours from mosquito bites. Seen that most mosquitoes bite in the evening/night, this protection is very helpful when going out late. Many of them have chemical ingredients and some have plant-based ingredients. Amongst those, the German society for tropical medicine, travel medicine and global health recommends only the ones with oil from the lemon eucalyptus and points out that for the other natural repellents too little studies have been conducted. This could be a path worth exploring.

Early detection helps people first to get the needed medicine as soon as possible, suffer the least impact of the disease, and second it helps to decrease the risk of a local outbreak in a community.

A new vaccine was recently approved by the WHO for children under 5 years old. A pilot phase was concluded in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya. Employed prior to high transmission periods of malaria this vaccine seems to have positive affects on immunization. It is recommended that children above 5 months get four doses of the vaccine. Over a 4 years follow-up the efficacy of the vaccine against malaria was 36%.

Why is there still malaria in the world then?

To fight malaria the whole toolbox of measures (as mentioned above) needs to be employed, ranging from prevention through nets and repellents, to access to rapid tests to break the infection chain and access to medicine a few hours after being bitten to cure humans. Adding to this; a holistic approach, including urban planning, education, drainage systems and access to health care is needed to fight malaria – as well as many other diseases that trap people in poverty and create a vicious cycle.

What is the Stop Gene Drives Campaign asking for?

In light of the huge variety of to date unassessed possible environmental, health and socio-economic hazards, the potential for economic and political conflict and a plethora of social, ethical and cultural caveats that the environmental use of gene drive technology would entail , the Stop Gene Drive Campaign demands a global moratorium on the release of gene drive organisms. This means that no gene drive organism should be allowed to be released into the environment – not even for field trials – unless a range of conditions have been fulfilled. Read our policy recommendations here.  

In the meantime we recommend that  malaria prevention funds should be directed  at strengthening local health care systems,  sanitation and education to turn the fight against malaria into an intersectional approach to fight poverty and neglected diseases in general.

__________

Further readings:

Read more about possible gene drive applications here

Read our FAQ about gene drives here

Read more about gene drive regulation here

Read our interviews with experts on malaria prevention here

_________

References:

Connolly, J. B., Mumford, J. D., Fuchs, S., Turner, G., Beech, C., North, A. R., & Burt, A. (2021). Systematic identification of plausible pathways to potential harm via problem formulation for investigational releases of a population suppression gene drive to control the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae in West Africa. Malaria Journal 2021 20:120(1), 1–69. https://doi.org/10.1186/S12936-021-03674-6

Czechowski, T., Rinaldi, M. A., Famodimu, M. T., Van Veelen, M., Larson, T. R., Winzer, T., … Graham, I. A. (2019). Flavonoid Versus Artemisinin Anti-malarial Activity in Artemisia annua Whole-Leaf Extracts. Frontiers in Plant Science10, 984. https://doi.org/10.3389/FPLS.2019.00984/BIBTEX

ENSSER, VDW, & Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS). (2019). Gene Drives. A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations. Retrieved from https://ensser.org/publications/2019-publications/gene-drives-a-report-on-their-science-applications-social-aspects-ethics-and-regulations/

Guidance on the environmental risk assessment of genetically modified animals. (2013). EFSA Journal11(5). https://doi.org/10.2903/J.EFSA.2013.3200

Landier, J., Parker, D. M., Thu, A. M., Carrara, V. I., Lwin, K. M., Bonnington, C. A., … Nosten, F. H. (2016). The role of early detection and treatment in malaria elimination. Malaria Journal15(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/S12936-016-1399-Y/TABLES/1

Laurens, M. B. (2020). RTS,S/AS01 vaccine (MosquirixTM): an overview. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics16(3), 480. https://doi.org/10.1080/21645515.2019.1669415

Malariaprophylaxe und Empfehlungen des Ständigen Ausschusses Reisemedizin (StAR) der DTG. (2021, August). Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.dtg.org/images/Startseite-Download-Box/2021_DTG_Empfehlungen_Malaria.pdf

Maskin, E., Monga, C., Thuilliez, J., & Berthélemy, J. C. (2019). The economics of malaria control in an age of declining aid. Nature Communications 2019 10:110(1), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09991-4

Okumu, F. O., Govella, N. J., Moore, S. J., Chitnis, N., & Killeen, G. F. (2010). Potential Benefits, Limitations and Target Product-Profiles of Odor-Baited Mosquito Traps for Malaria Control in Africa. PLOS ONE5(7), e11573. https://doi.org/10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0011573

Prüss-Ustün, A., Wolf, J., Bartram, J., Clasen, T., Cumming, O., Freeman, M. C., … Johnston, R. (2019). Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene for selected adverse health outcomes: An updated analysis with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health222(5), 765–777. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.IJHEH.2019.05.004

Q&A on RTS,S malaria vaccine. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/q-a-on-rts-s-malaria-vaccine

Target Malaria. (n.d.). The Science: What is gene drive? Retrieved from www.targetmalaria.org/ourwork

Target Malaria | Together we can end malaria. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://targetmalaria.org/

The Nobel Prize | Women who changed science | Tu Youyou. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.nobelprize.org/womenwhochangedscience/stories/tu-youyou

WHO. (2019). The use of non-pharmaceutical forms of Artemisia. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news/item/10-10-2019-the-use-of-non-pharmaceutical-forms-of-artemisia

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UN Logo auf blauem Grund

Internationale Verhandlungen zu Gene Drives nehmen Fahrt auf

Die UN-Konvention über die biologische Vielfalt (UN CBD) und ihre Unterprotokolle sind die weltweit wichtigsten Foren zur Festlegung international verbindlicher Regelungen für die Gene-Drive-Technologie. Zum ersten Mal seit Beginn der COVID-Pandemie - nach mehr als zwei Jahren wiederholter Verschiebungen und Online-Sitzungen - trafen sich Regierungsvertreter:innen, Vertreter:innen der Zivilgesellschaft, Wissenschaftler:innen und Wirtschaftslobbyisten wieder in Persona, um die internationalen Verhandlungen vom 14. bis 29. März 2022 in Genf (Schweiz) aufzunehmen.

Während der zweieinhalb wöchigen Konferenz wurde in drei verschiedenen Gremien eine Reihe von Themen diskutiert, die zuvor in mehreren Online-Sitzungen erörtert worden waren.

Im Mittelpunkt der Genfer Treffen standen die Verhandlungen über das so genannte Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), mit dem der globale Biodiversitätsverlust bis 2050 durch ein ganzheitliches Paket von Zielen und Maßnahmen gebremst und umgekehrt werden soll. Diese Vereinbarung wird auf der 15. Tagung der Vertragsparteien (COP 15) der UN-Biodiversitätskonvention (CBD), die im August 2022 in Kunming, China, stattfinden soll, abgeschlossen und zur Abstimmung gestellt.

Globaler Rahmen für die biologische Vielfalt, Ziel 17 - Verhinderung von Schäden durch Biotechnologien

Im Hinblick auf die Regulierung von Biotechnologien wie Gene Drives waren die Diskussionen um Ziel 17 von besonderer Bedeutung. Mit diesem Ziel sollen Schutz-Maßnahmen für die biologische Vielfalt vor den Auswirkungen von Biotechnologien verstärkt werden. Die Stop Gene Drive Kampagne, als Teil der CBD Alliance - einem Zusammenschluss gleichgesinnter, zivilgesellschaftlicher Organisationen -  forderte die Einführung eines Prozesses zur Antizipierung, Überwachung und Regulierung neuartiger Biotechnologien, sodass negative Auswirkungen auf die Biodiversität vermieden werden können. Die CBD Alliance betonte in diesem Zusammenhang auch die Notwendigkeit, die Rechte potenziell betroffener indigener Völker und lokaler Gemeinschaften zu wahren - insbesondere deren Recht, sich gegen den Einsatz von Biotechnologien auszusprechen, die sich negativ auf ihre Territorien und ihre Gewässer auswirken könnten. Im Ziel 17 sollte weiterhin festgelegt werden, auf welche Weise Schäden, die trotz Vorkehrungen entstehen, zu entschädigen sind.

Während CBD-Vertragsparteien wie Bolivien, Äthiopien und Mexiko die Aufnahme dieser Elemente in den Text forderten, versuchten andere Vertragsparteien, allen voran Brasilien, den Zweck dieses Ziels zu untergraben, indem sie einen Absatz über den potenziellen positiven Nutzen der Biotechnologien für die biologische Vielfalt einfügten. Während die CBD-Alliance dazu aufrief, ein breites Spektrum von Technologien im Rahmen dieses Ziels zu erfassen, versuchten einige Parteien durch spezifische Definitionen die Arten von Technologien, die überwacht werden sollten, einzuschränken. Dies ist der Textentwurf, der das Resultat dieser Diskussionsbeiträge auch aus vergangenen Treffen widerspiegelt.

SBSTTA - Tagesordnungspunkte 4 und 5: Bewertung der Gene-Drive-Technologie

Während die Diskussionen rund um das GBF hauptsächlich von einem Gremium namens "Open Ended Working Group" geführt wurden, fand in Genf auch die Sitzung eines beratenden Gremiums der CBD, dem "Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical Technological Advice" (SBSTTA) statt, welches allgemeine und langjährige Fragen im Rahmen des Übereinkommens über die biologische Vielfalt erörtert und Texte zur Annahme durch die COP vorbereitet. Einige davon sind im Hinblick auf die Regulierung der Gene Drive Technologie von besonderem Interesse:

SBSTTA  Punkt 4 befasst sich mit dem Thema der synthetischen Biologie, einem aufstrebenden Bereich der Biotechnologie, der darauf abzielt, neue lebende Organismen im Labor zu gestalten oder zu erschaffen, die in der Natur nicht vorkommen.

Der aktuelle Stand der Verhandlungen zu diesem Punkt spiegelt sich in Empfehlungsentwürfen zur synthetischen Biologie wider und ist das Ergebnis von Online-Verhandlungen, die im April und Mai 2021 stattfanden. Die Diskussionen konzentrierten sich auf die Einrichtung eines Prozesses im Rahmen der CBD, um neue technologische Entwicklungen im Bereich der synthetischen Biologie (wie Gene Drives) und ihre potenziellen Auswirkungen auf die biologische Vielfalt zu antizipieren, zu überwachen und zu bewerten. Die Stop Gene Drive-Kampagne begrüßt die Einrichtung eines langfristigen Überwachungsprozesses und befürwortet die Bildung einer multidisziplinären technischen Expertengruppe (MTEG). Um die möglichen Auswirkungen dieser Technologien zu bewerten sollten dieser Gruppe Expert*innen aus vielen wissenschaftlichen Disziplinien angehören und die ein breites Spektrum an Wissenssystemen repräsentieren. Die Stop Gene Drive Kampagne betont, dass der von dieser Gruppe geleitete Bewertungsprozess sozioökonomische, kulturelle, ethische und gesundheitliche Fragen berücksichtigen muss. Die Stop Gene Drive Kampagne fordert außerdem, dass die Freisetzung von Gene-Drive-Organismen in die Natur das Vorsorgeprinzip umsetzen  muss und dass zu diesem Zweck weitere Bedingungen festgelegt und erfüllt werden müssen, bevor eine Freisetzung in die Umwelt überhaupt in Betracht gezogen werden sollte. Aus Zeitgründen wurde dieser Tagesordnungspunkt in Genf nicht diskutiert, sondern zur weiteren Erörterung auf der COP vertagt.

SBSTTA Punkt 5 befasst sich mit der Risikobewertung von gentechnisch veränderten Organismen (lebenden, modifizierten Organismen, LMO). Dieser spezielle Bereich ist Gegenstand eines rechtsverbindlichen Unterprotokolls der Biodiversitätskonvention, des so genannten Cartagena-Protokolls, das nur von einem Teil der Vertragsparteien unterzeichnet wurde.

Der aktuelle Verhandlungsstand des Entwurfs der Empfehlungen zur Risikobewertung ist das Ergebnis virtueller Online-Verhandlungen, die im April und Mai 2021 stattfanden. Im Mittelpunkt der Diskussionen stand die Frage, ob (zusätzliche) unverbindliche Leitfäden zur Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung von Gene Drive Organismen erstellt werden sollen. Strittige Punkte bei der Diskussion darum waren der Umfang dieser Leitfäden und die Zusammensetzung der Redaktionsgruppe. Die Stop Gene Drive Kampagne begrüßt die Erstellung solcher Leitfäden. Sie sollten sich mit den spezifischen Risiken von Gene-Drive-Organismen im Allgemeinen befassen (im Gegensatz zu Leitlinien, die nur Gene-Drive-Mücken abdecken). Die Empfehlungen sollten von einer heterogenen und transdisziplinären Gruppe von Experten, einschließlich Organisationen der Zivilgesellschaft und indigener Völker, ausgearbeitet werden und das Vorsorgeprinzip umsetzen. Aus Zeitgründen wurde dieser Tagesordnungspunkt in Genf nicht diskutiert, sondern zur weiteren Erörterung auf der COP vertagt.

SBSTTA Punkt 6 befasst sich mit dem Thema invasiver (gebietsfremder) Arten, die als einer der drei Hauptgründe für den Verlust der biologischen Vielfalt gelten. Gene Drives werden von einigen zur Bekämpfung invasiver Arten ins Gespräch gebracht.

Während der Diskussionen zu diesem Tagesordnungspunkt in Genf wurden Gene Drives in den Empfehlungsentwurf zu invasiven Arten aufgenommen, der nun fordert, dass bei der Erwägung von Gene Drives zur Bekämpfung invasiver Arten das Vorsorgeprinzip angewandt werden sollte. Weitere Diskussionen zu diesem Thema werden bei der COP stattfinden.

Nächste Schritte

Die Tagesordnung in Genf war sehr eng gestrickt, dennoch konnten die Vertragsparteien ihre Diskussionen über die meisten Texte für das GBF nicht abschließen. Daher hat das CBD-Sekretariat angekündigt, weitere Sitzungen abzuhalten. Die 'Open Ended Working Group' (OEWG) wird daher vom 21. bis 26. Juni in Nairobi, Kenia, weiter über die Ziele (z.B. Ziel 17) des GBF diskutieren. Ein weiteres Treffen wird vom 29. Juni bis 1. Juli 2022 in Bonn für den 'Subsidiary Body on Implementation' (SBI) stattfinden, um Indikatoren zu diskutieren, mit denen überwacht werden kann, ob die neuen GBF-Ziele richtig umgesetzt werden.

Deutliche Fortschritte bei beiden Treffen werden entscheidend dafür sein, ob der GBF von allen Vertragsparteien auf der COP, die im August in Kunming stattfinden wird, angenommen werden kann.

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Links und Ressourcen


The Logo of the United Nations on a blue background.

International negotiations on Gene Drives resume in person

15.04.22, Berlin -The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) and its sub-protocols are the world's most important forums for establishing internationally binding regulations for Gene Drive technology. For the first time since the beginning of the COVID pandemic - after more than two years of repeated postponements and online meetings - government officials, civil society, scientists and business lobbyists met in person to resume international negotiations in Geneva (Switzerland) between 14-29 March 2022.

During the two and a half conference weeks  three different committees discussed a broad range of issues that had previously only been discussed in several online meetings.

At the centre  of the Geneva meetings were negotiations of the so-called Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to stop and reverse global biodiversity loss through a shared set of goals and measures by 2050. This agreement will be finalized and voted on at the 15th meeting of the Parties (COP 15) of the UN CBD now scheduled to be held in Kunming, China, in August 2022.

Global Biodiversity Framework, Target 17 - Preventing harm from biotechnologies

With regard to the regulation of biotechnologies such as Gene Drives, discussions around Target 17 were of particular relevance. This target is meant to strengthen measures to protect biodiversity from risks and negative impacts emerging from the use of biotechnologies. The Stop Gene Drive Campaign, as part of a group of like-minded civil society organizations named the CBD Alliance, called for a process to anticipate future technological developments, monitor emerging (bio-)technologies and enable the regulation of these biotechnologies to prevent any harmful impacts. The group also stressed the need to uphold the rights of potentially affected indigenous peoples and local communities - especially the right to say no to the use of biotechnologies that could negatively affect their lands, territories and waters. These rules should also stipulate how damage that nonetheless occurs should be compensated for.

While parties  such as Bolivia, Ethiopia and Mexico asked for these elements to be included in the text, other parties, most prominently  Brazil, tried to undermine the purpose of this target by including text on the potential benefits that biotechnologies could have for biodiversity. While the CBD Alliance called to monitor a broad range of technologies under this target - some parties wanted to narrow down the types of technologies to be covered by including very specific definitions. This is the report of co-leads of contact group 4 that reflects among other these diverse inputs to the discussion.

SBSTTA - Agenda items 4 and 5: Assessing Gene Drive technology

While discussions around the GBF were mostly held by a committee called the ‘Open Ended Working Group’ Geneva also hosted the meeting of an advisory body to the CBD called ‘Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical Technological Advice’ (SBSTTA) that discusses general and long-standing issues under the Convention on Biological Diversity and prepares texts to be adopted by the COP.  Some of them are of particular interest with regard to regulating Gene Drive technology:

  • Agenda item 4 deals with the topic of synthetic biology, which is an emerging field of biotechnology that seeks to redesign or create new living organisms not existing in nature.

The current state of negotiations on this agenda item are reflected in the draft recommendations on synthetic biology and are the results of online negotiations held in April and May 2021. Discussions focused on the establishment of a process under the CBD to anticipate (i.e. ‘horizon scan’), monitor and assess new technological developments in the field of synthetic biology (such as Gene Drives) and their potential impacts for the protection of biodiversity. The Stop Gene Drive Campaign welcomes the establishment of such a long-term process and encourages the formation of a multidisciplinary technical expert group (MTEG), including transdisciplinary experts that represent a broad range of knowledge systems, in order to assess the potential impacts of these technologies. The Stop Gene Drive Campaign stresses that the assessment process needs to take into account socio-economic, cultural, ethical and health questions. The Stop Gene Drive Campaign also demands to reaffirm the need for a highly precautionary approach regarding the release of Gene Drive organisms into nature and to establish further conditions to be met before any environmental release should even be considered. Due to time constraints this agenda item has not been discussed in Geneva but passed over for further discussion at COP.

  • Agenda item 5 deals with the risk assessment of genetically engineered  organisms (referred to as living modified organisms, (LMOs)). This particular field is subject to a legally binding sub-protocol of the Convention called the ‘Cartagena Protocol’ signed  by most but not all of the parties to the Convention.

The current state of negotiations in the draft recommendations on risk assessment is  the result of virtual online negotiations held in April and May 2021. Discussions focused on the question whether (additional) voluntary guidance materials on the environmental risk assessment of Gene Drive organisms should be drawn up. Contentious issues were the scope of these guidance materials and the composition of the drafting group. The Stop Gene Drive Campaign welcomes the establishment of such guidance materials. They  should address the specific risks of Gene Drive Organisms in general (as opposed to guidance covering only Gene Drive Mosquitoes). The recommendations should be drafted by a diverse and transdisciplinary group of experts, including civil society and indigenous peoples organizations and operationalize the precautionary principle. Due to time constraints this agenda item has not been discussed in Geneva but passed over for further discussion at COP.

  • Agenda Item 6 deals with the topic of invasive alien species, which are considered one of the three major reasons for biodiversity loss. In this context Gene Drives have been proposed by some as a technology to combat invasive alien species.

During discussions on this agenda item in  Geneva, Gene Drives have been included in the draft recommendations on invasive species which now demands that when considering Gene Drives to fight invasive species, the precautionary approach should be applied. Further discussions on this will be held at COP.

Next steps

The agenda in Geneva was very dense and parties did not manage to finalize their discussions on most of the texts for the GBF. Therefore the CBD Secretariat has announced to hold further meetings. The ‘Open Ended Working Group’ (OEWG) will therefore continue to discuss the targets (such as target 17) of the GBF from the 21st to the 26th of June in Nairobi, Kenya. Another meeting will be held in Bonn from 29 June to 1 July 2022 for the so called ‘Subsidiary Body on Implementation’ (SBI)  to discuss indicators to monitor if the new GBF targets are being properly implemented.

Progress in both meetings will be key so that the framework can be accepted by all parties at the COP to be held in Kunming around August and guarantee a robust agenda to halt and reverse biodiversity loss for the upcoming years.


Links and Resources

  • Draft recommendation on synthetic biology (CBD/SBSTTA/24/L.5)
  • Draft recommendation on risk assessment (CBD/SBSTTA/24/L.6)
  • Draft recommendation on invasive alien species (CBD/SBSTTA/24/L.8)
  • Co-leads’ proposals on target 17 of the global biodiversity framework: tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming, contact group 4; Non-paper of 23-03-2022; Report by the co-leads of contact group 4, including consolidated text on Target 17, reflecting discussions until 2.09.2021 (CBD/WG2020/3/CG/4/REPORT)