Parties in favor of a gene drive moratorium

In the forefront of the European elections, the SPD, Die LINKE and Die Grünen are calling for a gene drive moratorium. The CDU wants to examine the necessity of a moratorium.
In a poll of the top candidates for the European elections on their attitudes towards new genetic engineering and gene drives, the majority of the major German parties are concerned about the risks that could result from the release of gene drive organisms into nature.

The SPD considers a release of gene drive organisms to be "not compatible with the principles and objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity".
The CDU/CSU points to "considerable risks" posed by transgenic gene drive organisms, particularly with regard to the potential to spread.
In its response, the Left Party emphasised the difficulty of risk assessment and the lack of retrieval options.
Bündnis90/Die Grünen write that it is "not responsible to release genetically modified populations with such a depth of intervention into the environment". The consequences cannot be estimated and a sensible fight against diseases must not change entire ecosystems. A release would be "uncontrollable and irreversible".

Regarding the requested gene drive moratorium the parties write:
CDU/CSU: "In the EU, there are no applications for field trials with organisms that have been modified using gene drives. There are also no known plans in this direction. Nevertheless, the CDU and CSU are in favor of additional regulations or even the necessity of a moratorium being examined".

SPD: "We advocate an international moratorium on gene drives because of the lack of knowledge, data and understanding with regard to their potential impact on biodiversity".

Bündnis90/Die Grünen: "We advocate a worldwide moratorium on the use of gene drives. This is necessary to comply with the precautionary principle and protect ecosystems."

DIE LINKE: "DIE LINKE therefore advocates an immediate moratorium against the release of GMOs in general and GMOs with gene drives in particular".
Unfortunately, the FDP did not answer our question.

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:

Call for a global moratorium on gene drives

Gene drives could change the world. If what is currently being developed and tested in various genetic engineering laboratories around the world actually works, this technology could be used to create organisms that are genetically manipulated in such a way that they can change their entire species, or even eradicate it. Together with 200 initial signatories, Save Our Seeds is calling for a moratorium on this technology.
A ghastly new form of genetic engineering: it is not individual strains of organisms that are modified and then prevented from passing on their genetic engineering properties to natural relatives to the greatest possible extent, but entire populations in nature become the object of genetic engineering. Gene drive organisms inherit 100 percent of their new properties, including a genetic engineering search mechanism that will also be used to manipulate the genome of subsequent generations.

We believe that this must be stopped before it is too late and therefore, on World Food Day, we launched an international appeal for a moratorium on gene drives in Berlin and Rome, together with the ETC Group, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and over 200 other first signatories.

Joint press release in German
The appeal in English
ETC Group study on Gene Drives in agriculture