Tell your MEP to vote for a moratorium on gene drives

October 20, 2018 by Staff Reporter

The European Parliament will vote next week on a call for an international moratorium on a new biotechnology called ‘gene drive’, which has the potential to eradicate entire populations of living organisms.

Beyond GM is calling on all its supporters to contact their MEPs and ensure that they vote in support of the moratorium.

Proposed amendment 7a was tabled as a cross-party initiative led by the Greens/EFA group, and urges the European Commission to take a stand on this issue during the next Conference of the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14). It:

“Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote an international moratorium on the release in the environment of organisms modified by gene drive technology, given the lack of knowledge, data and understanding about its potential impacts on biological diversity, and considering the non-respect of prior informed consent, make it incompatible with the principles and aims of the Convention on Biological Diversity.”

Gene drives have the potential to spread genetically engineered genes through wild species causing massive ecological disruption and even “re-engineering” entire populations. Currently they are largely unregulated with no international framework governing their use or agreed procedures for risk assessment and monitoring.

International outcry

Throughout the world, those who support a continued Precautionary Principle approach to GMOs are actively campaigning for the exploitation of gene drives to be curtailed or banned.

A recent declaration of GMO Free Europe, a network GMO free regions in the EU, called on national governments and the European Union to commit themselves to enact a moratorium on gene drives in their territories.

The ETC Group has led the international charge with its report, Forcing the Farm, which exposes how gene drives further entrench us in an industrial agriculture system that threatens food sovereignty. It is also spearheading a call for an international moratorium which it believes is “necessary to affirm the precautionary principle, which is enshrined in international law, and to protect life on Earth as well as our food supply.” The call has been signed by 200 global food movement leaders and organisations representing hundreds of millions of farmers, food workers and NGOs.

An increasing number of scientists, too, are raising the alarm. Among them is Prof Kevin Esfelt of MIT, developer of the gene drive, who believes that early and irresponsible promotion of the technique means: “We are walking forwards blind. We are opening boxes without thinking about consequences. We are going to fall off the tightrope and lose the trust of the public.”

As the article, Deleting a Species, published in Pacific Standard goes on to say: “Not since Robert Oppenheimer has a scientist worked so hard against the proliferation of his own creation.”

A weapon of massive destruction

Like Professor Esfelt we are gravely concerned and you should be too.

Although it is still in its infancy, and the ramifications of its use are poorly understood, gene drive has already been appropriated by industry for all sorts of uses, for example the eradication of mosquitoes (GM mosquitoes have already been given a go ahead for ‘field trials’ in Florida) and for agricultural uses (e.g. to control invasive species).

Another worrying trend is the huge investment from DARPA, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is ostensibly for agricultural development but which, many fear, will hasten the use of gene drives as biological weapons.

Biotech companies with vested interests and seemingly unlimited lobbying power are now pushing hard for a total international deregulation of gene drives, opposing any restriction or assessment guidelines being proposed. Freedom of information documents, for instance, have shown that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid PR firm Emerging Ag $1.6 million to recruit a covert coalition of academics to manipulate a UN decision-making process over gene drives.

Urgent citizen action required

On October 16, a cross-party initiative led by MEPs from the Greens/EFA group tabled an amendment calling for a moratorium on gene drive to be inserted into the Parliament’s resolution on the 14th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The MEP vote on this amendment will take place on Thursday October 25.

This is an action that every citizen can take and we urge you to act now. Please contact your MEP today and let him or her know that you support a moratorium on the environmental release of organisms modified by gene drive technology.

If you don’t know who your MEP is or how to contact him or her contact details – including emails – are at these links:

When you do write, please:

  • Be polite, concise and to the point. If you abuse your MEP you devalue the cause and the access we all have to lobby MEPs.
  • Use your own words. Copied-and-pasted identical messages are often blocked or ignored.
  • Don’t write to MEPs other than your own. It’s a waste of time and your message will be ignored.

If you get a reply we would be grateful if you could pass it on to us!

Thank you for taking action.