Genetic biocontrol for invasive species

Invasive species are increasingly affecting agriculture, food, fisheries, and forestry resources throughout the world. As a result of global trade, invasive species are often introduced into new environments where they become established and cause harm to human health, agriculture, and the environment. Prevention of new introductions is a high priority for addressing the harm caused by invasive species, but unfortunately efforts to prevent new introductions do not address the economic harm that is presently manifested where invasive species have already become established. Genetic biocontrol can be defined as the release of organisms with genetic methods designed to disrupt the reproduction of invasive populations. While these methods offer the potential to control or even eradicate invasive species, there is a need to ensure that genetic biocontrol methods can be deployed in a way that minimizes potential harm to the environment. This review provides an overview of the state of genetic biocontrol, focusing on several approaches that were the subject of presentations at the Genetic Biocontrol for Invasive Species Workshop in Tarragona, Spain, March 31st, 2019, a workshop sponsored by the OECD’s Co-operative Research Program on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems. The review considers four different approaches to genetic biocontrol for invasive species; sterile-release, YY Males, Trojan Female Technique, and gene drive. The different approaches will be compared with respect to the efficiency each affords as a genetic biocontrol tool, the practical utility and cost/benefits associated with implementation of the approach, and the regulatory considerations that will need to be addressed for each. The opinions expressed and arguments employed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the OECD or of the governments of its Member countries.

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