Gene Drives in Agriculture:
Risk Assessment and Research Prioritization

June 2, 3, & 17, 2022 via Zoom | USDA-NIFA Funded Workshop

Plant pests such as the spotted-wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) fruit flies are responsible for billions of dollars of crop losses worldwide. As such, the NASEM’s 2016 report Gene Drives on the Horizon recommends continued research into the potential benefits and risks of developing gene drive technologies to address the problem. 

The Gene Drives in Agriculture workshop featured seven speakers on various aspects of risk assessment in the context of gene drives for agricultural pests. The purpose of the workshop was to foster deliberative discussions among participants, resulting in the production of a white paper on research priorities for these technologies.

This workshop was hosted by the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center at NC State University and funded by the USDA-NIFA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant program (grant number 2020-33522-32269).

Workshop Report

Download: Gene Drives in Agriculture: Risk Assessment and Research Prioritization

Published: December 2022, online at

Authors: Jabeen Ahmad, Jennifer Baltzegar, Zachary Brown, Jason Delborne, Sumit Dhole, Johanna Elsensohn, Fred Gould, Khara Grieger, Andrew Hardwick, Jennifer Kuzma, Marce Lorenzen, Nick Loschin, Raul Medina, Bethany Mostert, Patti Mulligan, Kim Pepin, Dylan Spangle, Sharon Stauffer, Ruthie Stokes, Willy Wei, and Katie Barnhill-Dilling.

Participant Resources

Access to resource files for registered workshop participants and speakers, including speaker abstracts and articles

Gene Drive Workshop Resource Portal

Need help?

Registered for the workshop with a non Gmail/Google-based email address and having trouble accessing the workshop resource portal? Please complete this form.


Featured speakers for the Gene Drives in Agriculture workshop.

Fred GouldDr. Fred Gould is a Distinguished University Professor, Executive Director of the Genetics & Genomics Academy, and Co-Director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at NC State University. Dr. Gould conducts research on the application of evolutionary biology and population genetics to enable sustainable use of insect resistant crops and genetically engineered agricultural pests. He also does research on strategies for development and use of engineered mosquitoes to decrease human disease. In this regard, Dr. Gould and his colleagues have studied the field ecology of the mosquito, Aedes aegypti, that vectors dengue virus. They have also developed a range of mathematical models to assess current gene drive systems and to conceptualize novel gene drive mechanisms. Dr. Gould is on the steering committee for the GBIRd consortium that aims at rodent eradication on islands.
Johanna ElsensohnDr. Johanna Elsensohn is a Postdoctoral Research Entomologist for the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, stationed at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV conducting research on invasive insect species of fruit crops. She has worked on the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii (spotted-wing Drosophila, SWD) since it was first detected in her home state of Connecticut in 2011. Like her general research philosophy, her research interest on SWD is wide ranging, encompassing basic behavior, field management, landscape ecology, and exploring the appropriateness of using emerging technologies like gene drive to manage SWD populations. Her PhD experience allowed her to explore the value of interdisciplinary scholarship via an NSF-IGERT Fellowship in Genetic Pest Management. Dr. Elsensohn also gained significant experience in science policy as a Science Policy Fellow of the Entomological Society of America and through a policy fellowship with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems at NC State University. One of her current projects assesses the potential for UV-C light to sterilize SWD as a cheap and accessible technology for SWD pest management.
Lisa KnolhoffDr. Lisa Knolhoff is a Senior Biological Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Biotechnology Regulatory Services, within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. She has been in her current role at USDA since 2016, where she performs technical reviews and risk assessments of genetically engineered plants and insects. She obtained her PhD in entomology from the University of Illinois, after which she conducted postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. She has also worked in private industry conducting research on transgenic insecticidal crops. Her background includes insect behavior, genetics, host plant adaptation, and evolution of resistance.
John MumfordDr. John Mumford is a Professor of Natural Resource Management with the  Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London. His research addresses uncertainty in several areas of the environment, including GM insects, invasive species and fisheries management. He is responsible for risk analysis in the Target Malaria project.
Kim PepinDr. Kim Pepin is a quantitative ecologist at the National Wildlife Research Center (USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services). She develops analytical tools for surveillance design, risk assessment, strategic planning, and evaluation of wildlife damage and disease management programs that address wildlife-human conflict and protection of agriculture from a one health perspective. Dr. Pepin received a PhD in Zoology from University of Idaho, and a BSc in Ecology from University of British Columbia. She also completed postdoctoral research in epidemiological modeling and experimentation at New Mexico State University, Penn State University, and Fogarty International Center of NIH.
Tony SheltonDr. Anthony (Tony) Shelton is a Professor of Entomology at Cornell University. Dr. Shelton and his team created a research and extension program focused on developing sound insect management strategies for vegetables, with spin-offs for other crops, using an understanding of insect ecology, and social and economic factors. This broad approach allowed him to work simultaneously in basic and applied areas on important insects and crops in New York and other states, as well as internationally. During the last 30 years, Shelton has devoted considerable effort to risk assessment of insect-resistant, genetically engineered (GE) crops and GE insects. Shelton’s collaborations with molecular biologists have produced valuable information and tools for IPM. For example, Shelton has worked with molecular biologists at Oxitec on a genetically engineered diamondback moth and, in 2017, his program conducted the first release of an agricultural insect pest with a self-limiting gene. Since 2005, Shelton has worked on a USAID-funded project to bring Bt eggplant to Southeast Asia.

Workshop Organizers

  • Dr. Katie Barnhill-Dilling (PI), Senior Research Scholar at the GES Center, NC State
  • Dr. Khara Grieger (Co-PI), Assistant Professor in Environmental Health and Risk Assessment at NC State
  • Dr. Jennifer Kuzma (Co-PI), Goodnight-NC GSK Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences, Co-Director of the GES Center, NC State
  • Dr. Jason Delborne (Co-PI), Professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources and Director of Science, Technology, and Society at NC State
  • Dr. Danesha Seth Carley (Co-PI), Director of the NSF Center for Integrated Pest Management, and Director of the Center of Excellence for Regulatory Science in Agriculture (CERSA) at NC State
  • Dr. Zack Brown (Co-PI), Associate Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at NC State
  • Patti Mulligan, Communications Director at the GES Center, NC State
  • Sharon Stauffer, Center Program Manager at the GES Center, NC State
  • Ilaria Cimadori, PhD Student in Environmental and Animal Law at  Yale School of the Environment
  • Nick Loschin, PhD Student in Biology and AgBioFEWS Fellow at NC State
  • Sihui Ni, PhD Student in Horticultural Science at NC State

Related Publications

  • Kokotovich, A.E., Barnhill-Dilling, S.K., Elsensohn, J.E., Li, R., Delborne, J.A., Burrack, H. Stakeholder engagement to inform the risk assessment and governance of gene drive technology to manage spotted-wing drosophila. Journal of Environmental Management (2022). doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114480. Download
  • Kanya C. Long, Luke Alphey, George J. Annas, Cinnamon S. Bloss, Karl J. Campbell, George M. Church, James P. Collins, Kimberly L. Cooper, Jason A. Delborne, Kevin Esvelt, Sam Weiss Evans, Fred Gould, Sarah Hartley, Jennifer Kuzma, Marce Lorenzen, Jeantine E. Lunshof, Megan J. Palmer, J. Royden Saah, Maxwell J. Scott, et. al. 2020. Core commitments for field trials of gene drive organisms. Science, 18 Dec 2020, Vol. 370, Issue 6523, pp. 1417-1419. doi: 10.1126/science.abd1908 Download
  • Kuzma, J. (2020). Engineered Gene Drives: Ecological, Environmental, and Societal Concerns. In: Chaurasia, A., Hawksworth, D.L., Pessoa de Miranda, M. (eds) GMOs. Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation, vol 19. Springer, Cham. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-53183-6_17
  • Dalton R. George, Todd Kuiken, and Jason A. Delborne. Articulating ‘free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC) for engineered gene drives. Proc. Royal Soc. B. Vol. 286, Issue 1917. Published: 18 December 2019. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1484
  • Gregory A Backus, Jason A Delborne. Threshold-Dependent Gene Drives in the Wild: Spread, Controllability, and Ecological Uncertainty. BioScience, biz098, doi: 10.1093/biosci/biz098. Published: 18 September 2019. Download
  • Michael S. Jones, Jason. A. Delborne, Johanna Elsensohn, Paul D. Mitchell, Zachary S. Brown. Does the U.S. public support using gene drives in agriculture? And what do they want to know?. Science Advances 11 Sep 2019; Vol. 5, no. 9, eaau8462. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau8462Download
  • Jennifer Kuzma (2019). Procedurally Robust Risk Assessment Framework for Novel Genetically Engineered Organisms and Gene Drives. Regulation and Governance doi: 10.1111/rego.12245Download
  • Dominique Brossard, Pam Belluck, Fred Gould, Christopher D. Wirz. Promises and Perils of Gene Drives: Navigating the Communication of Complex, Post-Normal Science Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1805874115 Download
  • Jason Delborne, Jennifer Kuzma, Fred Gould, Emma Frow, Caroline Leitschuh and Jayce Sudweeks. 2018. Mapping research and governance needs for gene drives. Journal of Responsible Innovation. Vol. 5, Iss. sup1, 2018. doi: 10.1080/23299460.2017.1419413. Introduction to Special Issue: Roadmap to Gene Drives: Research and Governance Needs in Social, Political, and Ecological Context. Download
  • J. Kuzma, F. Gould, Z. Brown, J. Collins, J. Delborne, E. Frow, K. Esvelt, D. Guston, C. Leitschuh, K. Oye and S. Stauffer. 2017. A roadmap for gene drives: using institutional analysis and development to frame research needs and governance in a systems context. Journal of Responsible Innovation. Vol. 5, Iss. sup1, 2018. doi: 10.1080/23299460.2017.1410344. [Special Issue: Roadmap to Gene Drives: Research and Governance Needs in Social, Political, and Ecological Context. Download
  • Jennifer Baltzegar, Jessica Cavin Barnes, Johanna E. Elsensohn, Nicole Gutzmann, Michael S. Jones, Sheron King, and Jayce Sudweeks. 2017. Anticipating complexity in the deployment of gene drive insects in agriculture. Journal of Responsible Innovation. Vol. 5, Iss. sup1, 2018. doi: 10.1080/23299460.2017.1407910Download
  • Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. [Jason Delborne, committee member]. doi: 10.17226/23405. Download