Who should decide whether, when, and how to alter the environment? These are hard questions, especially when the decisions will impact people in many different communities or nations. Daisy drive systems may help by empowering local communities to make decisions concerning their local environments without imposing them on anyone else.
The problem with current CRISPR-based gene drive systems is that they can spread indefinitely—potentially affecting every population of the target species throughout the world. It's unclear how such "global" drives can be safely tested, much less whether nations will ever agree to use them. To return power to the hands of local communities, we devised a new form of drive system called a "daisy drive" that can only affect local environments. The trick was to teach DNA to count and limit gene drive spreading to a pre-programmed number of generations. We hope that daisy drives will simplify decision-making and promote responsible use by allowing local communities to decide how to solve their own ecological problems.