3 Questions: Kenneth Oye on the regulation of genetic engineering

July 17, 2014

Political scientist discusses regulatory gaps in assessing the impact of “gene drives.”

Imagine a scientific technique that would alter the genes of mosquitos to render them unable to transmit malaria. Some day, you may not need to: Scientists have made notable progress in recent years in editing the genomes of organisms, substituting in variants of certain genes; these variants could then propagate throughout a population. While such changes could have benefits — such as limiting malaria transmission — it’s also possible to imagine unintended negative consequences. Kenneth Oye, an associate professor of political science and engineering systems who studies government regulation and directs MIT’s Program on Emerging Technologies, is lead author of an article in Science today making the case that the U.S. government, and international groups, need to adapt their procedures to enable more robust discussion and evaluation in this field. MIT News asked him to discuss the topic.

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