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Should we use gene drive technology to control grey squirrels?

  • by JW

Premiere of the film exploring the issues at Exeter Phoenix on Wednesday 9 November.


Can we reduce grey squirrel numbers through genetic means?

UK scientists have proposed gene drive as a management tool to control grey squirrels. Now is a good time to talk about this emerging technology because the hopes and concerns of experts, stakeholders and the public can help to determine if or how it might be developed.

To help foster this debate, we made a short research film on gene drive grey squirrels. The film draws on our social science research to show the complexity of the problem of grey squirrel control and invites you to think about whether scientists should develop gene drive squirrels or not.

The film will be available to view in full on 9th November 2022. In the meantime, please watch the trailer!

Gene drive squirrels in the UK — Gene Drive Governance

And this film will be on show in Exeter on 9th November – and will feature Clinton Devon Estates’ head of forestry John Wilding MBE:

Would the best way of controlling the UK’s rampant grey squirrel population be to spread genetic changes throughout the species? A new research film, to be shown next month at Exeter Phoenix, sees scientists, conservation and wildlife experts debate the use of emergent ‘gene-drive’ technology in grey squirrels.

The film presents the views of a full range of experts

The film “Should we create gene drive grey squirrels?”, written and produced by Sarah Hartley, a Professor in Technology Governance at the University of Exeter Business School, and independent film-maker Tom Law, documents the introduction into the UK of grey squirrels at the turn of the 20th Century and how their burgeoning population has contributed to the demise of the UK’s native red squirrel, which is now mainly found in Scotland...

The film doesn’t take sides, but presents the views of a full range of experts working in different fields on the scale of the ‘problem’, the potential effectiveness of gene drive, as well as exploring the ethical dimensions. These experts include the ecologist Dr Jason Gilchrist from Edinburgh Napier University, John Wilding MBE from Clinton Devon Estates and Charles Dutton from Independent Woodland Management...

The film, part of the 2022 Festival of Social Science, will be available online after its premiere at Exeter Phoenix on Wednesday 9 November 2022, 5-7pm. The event will consist of a 20-minute film screening, audience discussion with filmmakers and stakeholders, and informal drinks. Register here.

Research news – Why we need to talk about ‘gene-drive’ grey squirrels – University of Exeter

Articles | Business School | University of Exeter

Here is that trailer:

Gene drive grey squirrels on Vimeo

And here is further debate about the technology from the last year or so – as there is by no means a scientific consensus:

expert reaction to a paper suggesting that gene drives could be used to help control grey squirrel numbers in the UK | Science Media Centre

Grey squirrel could be gene-driven to the edge of extinction | Forestry Journal

Why the UK could end up deploying risky gene drives while ignoring natural biological control