Genetic technologies could play a significant part in addressing growing global challenges.
The world's population is climbing towards nine billion and is exerting significant pressure on healthcare, food and nutrition security and the protection of wildlife. In addition, stresses from climate change mean that people, plants and animals need to be more resilient to extreme conditions such as drought and new diseases.
Genetic technologies offer the potential to produce higher-yielding, more resilient and more nutritious crops to feed a growing population. Medical applications are also showing great potential, for example in the treatment of leukaemia, and we could soon face the possibility of using gene drives to control the spread of diseases like malaria. In addition, biosynthetic materials are offering cleaner, more reliable and more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional production methods.
The Royal Society is looking at a range of genetic technologies; at how they can and might be applied in agriculture, in industry, to conserve biodiversity and to improve human health. We are also considering the consequences of these technologies for our security, our culture and for the regulatory environment.
Building on our previous work on genetically modified (GM) plants, human gene editing and synthetic biology, our President gave a speech at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in February 2017. This considered the range of technologies outlined above and provided a starting point for further debate.
The Royal Society has written to the Commons Science and Technology Committee in response to their inquiry into genomics and genome editing. Read the report.