New Zealand has taken a strict stance on gene edited organisms, including gene drives, by deciding to regulate all gene editing techniques as genetic modification, even though no genes are inserted from other (e.g. foreign) species. Although gene editing is highly regulated, there is significant interest in gene drive technology to control invasive species and New Zealand could be one of the first countries in the world to implement a gene drive, possibly by as early as 2025.
- Daughterless mice: Researchers from Australia and the US, in conjunction with the non-profit organization Island Conservation, are developing mice with a gene drive that only allows them to have male offspring, which could drive down the mice population in New Zealand quickly.
- Rat genome sequencing: As part of Predator Free 2050 (a program to protect native species and eliminate invasive predators), researchers have outlined a research strategy that includes exploratory steps to prepare for possible gene drives, including sequencing the genomes of local rats, talking to international experts, and running mathematical simulations.
2016: A clarification to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 was approved, stating that all gene editing techniques would be considered genetic modification and regulated as such.
2001: The New Zealand government established the Royal Commision on Genetic Modification and published the Report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which concluded that genetic modification, rather than posing a threat to biodiversity, could possibly provide some solutions to difficult problems associated with the management of natural resources and the environment.
1996: The Environmental Protection Authority released the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, establishing regulations for the creation and release of non-native (including genetically modified) organisms into New Zealand.
Gene drives face intense opposition because of their ability to spread across borders and the possibility of unforeseen consequences to the environment. During the 2016 World Conservation Congress, NGOs, government representatives and scientific and academic institutions voted to adopt a moratorium on supporting or endorsing research into gene drives. In addition, a group of conservationists, including Dr. Jane Goodall, signed an open letter calling for a halt to gene drive proposals.
- Genetic Literacy Project’s FAQ on gene editing
- Library of Congress summary of New Zealand’s gene regulations includes detailed analysis of the country’s evolving biosafety laws and liabilities
- Royal Society of New Zealand: Gene Editing: Legal and Regulatory Implications