Gene Editing Divides UN Biodiversity Convention Members On Synthetic Biology Evaluation 28/11/2018 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — After informal closed consultations, a draft decision was issued yesterday on how the UN Convention on Biological Diversity should address potential impacts of synthetic biology, during the biennial conference of the parties taking place this week. The issue of the release of gene drive organisms into the environment was a contentious issue as civil society had been lobbying for a moratorium preventing the release into the wild of those organisms able to wipe out entire species. This morning consensus was still eluding delegates, particularly over the singling out of gene editing in the decision. The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the ninth meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the third meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol [pdf] on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, taking place from 13-29 November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The draft decision [pdf] issued yesterday by the chair of one of the working groups (Working Group II) of the conference calls for a precautionary approach concerning gene drives. “[A]s there could be potential adverse effects arising from organisms containing engineered gene drives, before these organisms are considered for release into the environment, research and analysis are needed, and specific guidance may be useful, to support case-by-case risk assessment;” the draft decision says. This morning, CBD members discussed the draft decision and approved most paragraphs. However, they could not get agreement on two bracketed parts (signalling disagreement), both related to gene editing. In paragraph 3, the text in brackets refers specifically to genome editing in the context of a request for a “broad and regular horizon scanning, monitoring and assessing of the most recent technological developments.” The other bracketed text is in the annex of the document, which are the terms of reference for the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology, whose mandate is renewed by the draft decision, with new members. The paragraph (b) contains two different options of bracketed text. Paragraph b of the annex asks for taking stock of new developments in synthetic biology. The first option includes consideration of whether specific organisms developed through genome editing should be included in that stock-taking. The second option asks that the stock-taking exercise may include some applications of genome editing. Some countries are resisting the specific mention of gene editing in the text. As a compromise, some of them agreed this morning that the mention in paragraph 3 could be deleted if kept in one of the alternatives of the terms of reference for the expert group, in the annex. African Group Against; Bolivia, EU For The most vigorous proponents of keeping language relating to gene editing this morning were Bolivia and the European Union members. Cuba and Venezuela also supported the mention of gene editing. Bolivia was also strong supporter of a moratorium preventing the release of gene drive organisms in the wild, according to sources (IPW, Biodiversity/Genetic Resources/ Biotech, 23 November 2018). Ghana, on behalf of the African Group said the group has an issue with an emphasis on gene editing in the draft decision. African governments, the delegate said, are taking a broad approach to the socio-economic development of the continent. Science and technology create jobs, he said, adding that in Africa, the poverty gap is a technology gap. The African Group, he said, is in favour of technology which would help the continent. The European Union delegate said that for European countries, a regular horizon scanning of the field of synthetic biology is important and needs to be broad and comprehensive. A reference to genome editing also is important, the delegate said, and it is an area of new scientific and technological development which has a key role in designing synthetic biology. The EU pasked that the reference be deleted in paragraph 3 and maintained in the annex. Ghana agreed with that proposal, as did Kenya, Grenada and Costa Rica. Brazil asked several times why gene editing needs to be singled out as it should naturally be included in a broad horizon scanning. This was supported by Colombia. Argentina, which opposed the mention of gene editing, said the lack of a specific mention of genome editing does not hinder the use of certain techniques of genome editing being considered as synthetic biology. Without agreement in the public session this morning, delegates will seek to smooth out their differences and the item will be discussed again late this afternoon to achieve consensus on the decision. Image Credits: Catherine Saez Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Gene Editing Divides UN Biodiversity Convention Members On Synthetic Biology Evaluation" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.