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Global Forum on Scientific Advances Important to the BWC and BWC Meeting of States Parties 2-6 December 2019

There was a day-long forum on December 2 on the scientific advances important to the BWC organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. One of the panels was named “Gene Drives and Engineered Ecology: What can we expect from these advancing capabilities and what are their implications for the BWC?”

Despite the critical question in the title of the event, the introduction “Biotechnology is ancient, we use it for thousands of years, we started by turning a wolf into a dog.” made it clear that there would be hardly any critical statements on gene drive technology. The panel, was composed of a gene drive developer, an entomologist and a spokesperson from the National Institute of Health and hosted by a university that is funded by the Open Philanthropy Project (which incidentally also funds Target Malaria).

Therefore, the panel scheduled for the following day by the GD conflict committee with the title “Conflict Potentials from the Release of Gene Drives” had the opportunity to serve as a more balanced counterpoint. Two presentations by the researchers from the GDkonflikt project and the subsequent discussion with and questions from the audience delivered a broad but intricate overview on the planned applications for both gene drive and horizontal environmental genetic alteration agents and legal, political, regulatory, ethical, social, and economic conflict potentials that may arise from them. Despite being a parallel session and being scheduled directly before the start of the annual Bioweapons Convention Meeting of States Parties the panel was well received and praised by attendees.