Developments around CRISPR have made it possible to tackle some interesting practical problems such as making NZ pest-free by using gene drive.
What is CRISPR? Watch the TED Talk below.
What is gene drive? An explanation of CRISPR and gene drive have been previously posted. It is a natural system used by bacteria to protect themselves against viruses and is now being used routinely in genetics as a tool in research.
Recently the Department of Conservation has set a target for New Zealand to become pest free by 2050. This includes mice, rats, stoats, rabbits and possums. This is very unlikely to be achieved using the conventional methods of poisons, diseases, traps, shooting or other such methods as pointed out by Professor John Knight in the article in the ODT 10/10/2016.
Gene drive is our best hope or worst fear? Part of the fear comes from the unknown. What is required is a very extensive public education effort to explain to people what gene drive is, how CRISPR works and what are the ethical issues. For pest control the objective would be to produce only male offsprings and thereby control the population.
Being an island nation, we are ideally situated to use this method — we have been bold with innovation before — here is our chance again.