Island Conservation CEO, Karen Poiani, shares her thoughts on the need for innovation and use of gene drives in conservation.
Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald
The global decline of species is a serious concern, but on islands, this sharp drop in biodiversity is ever prevalent. One of the leading causes of biodiversity loss on islands is a result of invasive species through predation, the introduction of diseases, and changes in the ecosystem.
The methods that we have available today to remove invasive species and restore islands have been proven to help prevent extinctions of island wildlife, but these also have limitations. Overall these methods can only benefit approximately 15% of the islands where invasive species threaten native wildlife.
To continue saving species, we need new solutions including genetic modification. Gene drives are one of the many possible ways we can help prevent extinctions—introducing a genetically modified rodent with a gene that only produces male offspring can move through the population until they can no longer reproduce.
As with all new technologies, genetic modification needs to be approached with caution to ensure the highest standards of ethics are upheld and to protect against any potential risks. In order to do this, more research needs to be conducted to better understand both the benefits and risks the technology could pose.