Webinaires co-organisés par Sciences Citoyennes (en anglais) : Gene Drives Explained | What? Why? How?

lundi 25 mai 2020

The authors of the interdisciplinary Gene Drive Report (2019) are holding webinars on social, technological & scientific, environmental, ethical and legal questions of this new technique in June 2020 via Zoom – for free.

Some scientists are now developing techniques to genetically modify entire populations of animals or plants in the wild – at once. The DNA of plants or animals can be changed in such a way that once released into the wild the change will be passed on to all and every offspring, like a chain reaction. This technology is called ‘gene drives’. Although gene drives can be used to spread a desired trait through a population, their aim is more often to reduce a population or eradicate it altogether, e.g. disease-carrying insects or invasive animals. This technology is without doubt the most controversial offshoot of genetic modification and synthetic biology. Does it really work? Is it being applied? What problems do gene drives address? What problems can they cause? What side effects can they have? Who has an interest in this? Should we do it? Are gene drives regulated by law? Are they a wise solution to these problems? Who decides?
A series of five webinars is held for a lay audience about gene drives, to show what is known about each of these questions. The speakers have contributed to a scientific report about all these aspects. 1 No foreknowledge is expected of participants.
The webinars are held in English. They will be moderated by Diederick Sprangers, scientific coordinator of ENSSER. The webinars start at 15:00 Central European Summer Time with the exception of the talk on ethics and governance. Please always check the genedrives.ch/webinar-genedrives website in case there have been changes.
Tuesday 02 June 2020, 15:00 – 16:30
«What are gene drives? How do they work?»
Topic                      The Science & Technique 2
Speaker                  Ricarda Steinbrecher | EcoNexus, UK
Abstract                 The idea to alter species in the wild or to eradicate unwanted species is not new. Nor is the idea to genetically modify a species, to make it pass on these changes and traits to all its off-spring and to then release it into the wild. But until recently the technological capacity to do so was a mere fantasy, a dream. This has changed drastically with the arrival of the “genome editing” tool CRISPR/Cas. The first laboratory breakthrough – celebrated as a “mutagenic chain reaction” – showed its potential power as well as its problems and limitations. This webinar will explain gene drive technology and the science behind it, as well as looking at its shortcomings, hurdles, and risks. It will also give an up-to-date overview of current technology developments.
Thursday 4 June 2020, 15:00 – 16:30
«What problems are gene drives intended to solve, and what are some possible alternatives?»
Topic                      Applications 3
Speaker                 Doug Gurian-Sherman | Strategic Expansion and Training, USA
Abstract                 Unlike most previous GMOs, gene drive organisms (GDO) are intended to spread widely and are intended to substantially alter the environment, often by eliminating species or greatly altering their characteristics. But proponents claim they are needed to solve big health, agricultural or environmental problems. What are some of the important intended applications of GDOs in medicine, conservation and agriculture, and possible military uses? Do we adequately understand their risks? Are there safer alternatives?
Wednesday 10 June 2020, 15:00 – 16:30
«Gene drives in a social context: promises, precaution & public engagement»
Topic                      Social aspects 4
Speaker                 Tamara Lebrecht | GeneWatch UK
Abstract                 Gene drive research and development is still in its infancy and far from any field trials. Nevertheless, many claims about future beneficial applications are portrayed in the media, scientific publications, and patent applications. In this webinar, we explore how exaggerating effectiveness can lead to opportunity costs when alternative solutions are neglected, and how it can close down public debate about the best ways of developing knowledge to tackle societal problems.
Thursday 12 June 2020, 16:00 – 17:30 [note different time!]
«Ethical questions about gene drives»
Topic                      Ethics 5
Speaker                 Christopher J. Preston | University of Montana, USA
Abstract                 Gene drives raise numerous ethical questions about safety, environmental health, international justice, the rights of nature, proper use of technology, deliberate extinction, and human virtue. This webinar will introduce a number of these ethical concerns to show how much discussion and agreement would be required before concluding that a gene drive deployment would be ethically acceptable.
Tuesday 16 June 2020, 15:00 – 16:30:
«Are governments keeping an eye on gene drives?»
Topic                      Legal and regulatory issues 6
Speaker                  Lim Li Ching | Third World Network, UK
Abstract                 There is an urgent need for proper oversight of gene drives and gene drive organisms (GDOs). Existing biosafety rules, established for first generation genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are not fully equipped to manage the unique risks of GDOs. This webinar will discuss these issues, asking: What basic principles are needed to ensure GDOs are well regulated? And what conditions need to be in place before any GDO is released into the environment?
Please use the links above to register for the webinars. Registration is open until the day of each webinar. The webinars are being held with Zoom 7 and will be recorded and placed online. Upon registration you have to provide us with an email address. We will only use this email to send you information concerning the webinars. 8 If you have any questions, feel free to contact us: info[at]genedrives.ch
The webinars are jointly organised by four organisations of independent scientists:
The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS), Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler (VDW) and Sciences Citoyennes (SC).
Please find a description of the organizations on our webpage: https://genedrives.ch/about-us/
7 You will find information on how to participate in the webinars here: support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115004954946-Joining-and-participating-in-a-webinar-attendee  
8 See our privacy policy here genedrives.ch/data-protection