Gene Drive Applications
to Agriculture in Texas
The Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy (ISTPP) team of Dr. Ki Eun Kang, Dr. Arnold Vedlitz, Carol Goldsmith, and Ian Seavey have published their research article, “Optimism and pessimism toward science: A new way to look at the public’s evaluations of science and technology discoveries and recommendations” in Politics and the Life Sciences.
Dr. William West, Dr. Raul Medina, and Dr. Leah Buchman, all ISTPP Research Fellows at the Bush School of Government & Public Service, have recently published a paper based on a project funded by USDA-NIFA in Science and Public Policy.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Texas A&M’s Institute for Science Technology and Public Policy (ISTPP) and AgriLife Research and from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have published their research, “Stakeholder Views on Engagement, Trust, Performance, and Risk Considerations About the Use for Gene Drive Technology in Agricultural Pest Management” in Health Security.
Leah Buchman, a PhD candidate in the Department of Entomology and a Predoctoral Research Associate in the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy (ISTPP) at the Bush School, was one of five people selected as a Science Policy Fellow for the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Class of 2021. This honor offers Ms. Buchman professional development while she completes her doctorate at Texas A&M University. Her commitment to translate science into policy is evident in her work with ISTPP and the USDA-funded gene drive project research team.
Dr. Medina Leads Hot Topic Session titled “Gene Drive-Engineering a Seismic Shift in Disease Risk”
Drs. Raul Medina (Texas A&M) and David O’Brochta (FINH) led a Hot Topic Session titled “Gene Drive-Engineering a Seismic Shift in Disease Risk” at the American Phytopathological Society annual meeting (Plant Health 2021) on August 4th. In this session, moderated by Dr. Nicole Donofrio (University of Delaware), attendants learned about different types of gene drive and their potential uses in agriculture, conservation, and public health and discussed risk assessment issues as well the ethical, legal, and societal implications of this technology.
- Medina, Raul and O’Brochta. 2021. “Gene Drive-Engineering a Seismic Shift in Disease Risk.” Hot Topic Session at the annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society, August 4th.
Dr. Medina Presents Research on the Importance of Understanding the Effects of Societal Views and Biotechnology Framing on Agricultural Innovation and Policymaking
Dr. Raul F. Medina, one of the collaborating investigators of the Gene Drive Applications to Agriculture Project, spoke at three seminars on the social obstacles to using biotechnology to mitigate agricultural problems caused by pests. He explained that natural scientists and academics tend to establish these barriers inadvertently when they regard societal issues and perceptions as insignificant, irrelevant, or inessential.
He argued that natural science researchers require the expertise and cooperation of social scientists to explore the use of modern biotechnology in agriculture. Social scientists research the influences that risk perceptions, differences in worldviews, and groupthink have in explaining public opinions about biotechnology in agriculture. Yet, the scientific community has only recently started to understand the complexities of how public perceptions are formed, the difficulties in changing these viewpoints, and the role of factual information in influencing how groups think. He asserted that global and local regulatory agencies will need to evolve rapidly to embrace revolutionary science-based policies in order for biotechnology to be part of the solution to address dire agricultural issues.
- Medina, Raul. 2019. “The Importance of Understanding Misunderstandings: Societal Views and Agricultural Innovation.” Presentation delivered at the IV Phytus Seminar and Elevagro Experience, Porto Alegre, Brazil, July 3.
- Medina, Raul. 2019. “The Societal-Problems/Biotech-Solutions Framing: The Importance of Understanding Misunderstandings.” Presentation delivered at the BASF Seminar Series, Morrisville, NC, October 2019.
- Medina, Raul. 2020. “The Societal-Problems/Biotech-Solutions Framing: The Importance of Understanding Misunderstandings.” Presentation delivered at a Departmental Seminar, Colorado State University, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Fort Collins, CO, February 19.
Dr. Heitman Presents on Ethical Considerations and Responsible Science Techniques in Gene Drive Research
Dr. Elizabeth Heitman, one of the collaborating project directors of the Gene Drive Applications to Agriculture Project, participated in a workshop on gene drive for science journalists sponsored by SciLine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, IL. She spoke on the need to incorporate the evaluation of social, environmental, regulatory, and ethical aspects of research and development of new technologies such as gene drive into our understanding of responsible science.
Dr. Heitman maintained that the only way to settle doubts and arguments concerning complex scientific questions related to field research on gene-drive modified organisms is through education and cautious critical assessment of scientific evidence. She explained that, in order to evaluate and make recommendations about the ethical use of new scientific developments, ethicists must rely on researchers’ insights and reports about their potential and actual impacts. Examples of principles necessary to promote quality science include commitment to public safety and good governance, transparency and accountability, meaningful engagement with communities and stakeholders, and opportunities to advance education.
- Heitman, Elizabeth. 2019. “Ethical Considerations in Gene Drive Research.” Presentation delivered at a workshop for journalists on the topic of genomics sponsored by SciLine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, IL, March 26.
Dr. Heitman Presents the Case of Gene Drive in the Responsible Development, Leadership, and Ethics of New Science and Technology
Dr. Elizabeth Heitman, one of the collaborating project directors of the Gene Drive Applications to Agriculture Project, addressed the Graduate Student Leadership Conference of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) in San Antonio, Texas. She presented on the basics of gene drive research and the societal, environmental, and ethical issues associated with its potential use for agricultural pest management.
Dr. Heitman explained that risk assessments typically focus on research with the potential to cause serious social and environmental threats, where it is essential to obtain public trust, acceptance, and confidence in both the scientific innovation and the integrity of research. Hence, researchers’ skilled communication about their science is vital to assist public understanding of gene drive research, risk assessment, and governance. She recommended that legislative bodies, government regulators, and research institutions and benefactors devise coherent strategies for how public engagement will affect gene drive research, risk evaluations, and policy decisions.
- Heitman, Elizabeth. 2019. “Leadership and Ethics in the Responsible Development of Disruptive Science and Technology: The Case of Gene Drive.” Presentation delivered at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA Graduate Student Leadership Conference, San Antonio, TX, November 9.