Biodiversity convention fails in regulating new genetic engineering

At the conference of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity on November 29, 2018, 196 nations unfortunately only agreed to the lowest conceivable common denominator with regard to the research and release of so-called gene drive organisms. Instead of clear precautions and global control, the joint declaration contains only broadly interpretable, general appeals to governments.

„This means that the million-dollar lobbying of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the interest groups representing genetic engineering has largely prevailed,“ criticises Mareike Imken of Save Our Seeds. „This decision must become the beginning of a global campaign for a moratorium on this high-risk technology“.

Instead of adopting a moratorium on the release of gene drive organisms, as demanded by over 200 civil society organisations and some governments, the resolution now adopted is limited to an almost arbitrary appeal for precautionary measures regarding the release of gene drives into the environment. It offers governments and scientists the opportunity to design research and releases according to their own definition of the appropriateness of precautionary measures, risk assessment and the involvement of local and indigenous groups.

Thus, the only international forum for regulating global threats to biodiversity and the transboundary handling of genetically modified organisms has blatantly failed in regulating the most dangerous use of genetic engineering in the environment to date. The consideration and involvement of „potentially affected“ local and indigenous communities as called for by the CBD is to be welcomed. But the prior informed consent required only for these groups would first have to be made binding for all affected nations.

Gene drive organisms contain the programming for a genetic modification, which they pass on to all descendants in order to set off a genetic chain reaction in the environment. So far, there is no know way to apply any spatial or temporal restrictions and control. Spreading gene drive organisms globally will thus affect the entire human race. The use of this technology in nature therefore requires a consensus of the world community.

Save Our Seeds takes the decision of the CBD as an opportunity to launch a campaign with the aim of establishing a binding worldwide moratorium on the release of gene drives at the next CBD conference in Beijing in 2020.

Link to the decision of the CBD: