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Information Resource
Record information and status
Record ID
Date of creation
2019-06-07 04:35 UTC (jack.heinemann@canterbury.ac.nz)
Date of publication
2019-07-04 19:28 UTC (austein.mcloughlin@cbd.int)

General Information
Should dsRNA treatments applied in outdoor environments be regulated?
Jack A Heinemann
Author’s contact information
Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety
University of Canterbury
Christchurch, New Zealand
  • English
Publication date
Summary, abstract or table of contents
The New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) issued a Decision that makes the use of externally applied double-stranded (ds)RNA molecules on eukaryotic cells or organisms technically out of scope of legislation on new organisms, making risk assessments of such treatments in the open environment unnecessary. The Decision was based on its view that the treatment does not create new or genetically modified organisms and rests on the EPA's conclusions that dsRNA is not heritable and is not a mutagen. For these reasons EPA decided that treatments using dsRNA do not modify genes or other genetic material. I found from an independent review of the literature on the topic indicated, however, that each of the major scientific justifications relied upon by the EPA was based on either an inaccurate interpretation of evidence or failure to consult the research literature pertaining to additional types of eukaryotes. The Decision also did not take into account the unknown and unique eukaryotic biodiversity of New Zealand. The safe use of RNA-based technology holds promise for addressing complex and persistent challenges in public health, agriculture and conservation. However, by failing to restrict the source or means of modifying the dsRNA, the EPA removed regulatory oversight that could prevent unintended consequences of this new technology such as suppression of genes other than those selected for suppression or the release of viral genes or genomes by failing to restrict the source or means of modifying the dsRNA.

Thematic areas
  • Biosafety policy and regulation
  • Scientific and technical issues
Additional Information
Type of resource
  • Article (journal / magazine / newspaper)
ISSN 0160-4120
Publisher and its location
Environment International
United Kingdom
open access
original document
Keywords and any other relevant information

Double-stranded RNA for gene silencing is a promising new biotechnology.

The New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency has deregulateds its use outside.

The science used was flawed or misinterpreted, leading to mistakes.

Use may cause unintended adverse effects, including release of viruses.

Its use should be regulated.