Following a meeting of the Cartagena Protocol working group in Montreal as part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, documents have been published showing “that the US army is heavily involved in financing research into the gene drive  whilst Bill and Melinda Gates are financing the lobbying of various international agencies to facilitate the use of this highly controversial technique”.
This working party met from 5 to 8 December and the “gene drive” was the focal point of discussions. This technique, which has been made possible thanks to the CRISPR tool, “involves modifying the DNA of living creatures”, essentially to “eliminate invasive species decimating island wildlife” or even to “eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes”. It divides public opinion because, apart from these commendable objectives, there is a high “risk of ecological chaos”. Furthermore, its critics “suspect that health arguments are being used to conceal industrial and military objectives”.
In fact, the “gene drive” has “strong support, especially from the American army via its Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)”. The latter has already released a hundred million dollars to finance research in this area. One of the projects backed by this agency “involves genetically modifying rodents to eradicate these pests that have become extremely invasive in certain countries such as Australia”. Another grant has been awarded “to a team of British scientists working on mosquitoes to be released in Africa”. For its part, DARPA believes that it is responsible “for carrying out this research and developing technologies to afford protection against accidental or intentional misuse”. In this respect it is akin to the CIA, which included gene editing in the list of threats posed by “weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation”.
At the same time, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “supported the lobbying of various UN organisations to the tune of 1.6 million dollars”. These actions have been initiated whereas, “from 2016 onwards, at the request of many NGOs, scientists and politicians, the possibility of imposing a moratorium on the gene drive has been part of the Biodiversity Convention agenda”. This summer, the Gates Foundation paid the Emerging Act Company “to encourage scientists to take a stand against this draft moratorium”.
Following the meeting in Montreal, “a report must be issued to the 195 States in the Convention”.
For further reading:
UP magazine, Charles-Elie Guzman (5/12/2017); Inf’OGM, Christophe Noisette (4/12/2017); AFP (6/12/2017)