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Abstract

Gene Drive Organisms (GDOs) are a proposed biotechnological intervention that might generate significant benefits for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity while also raising critical biosafety issues. Despite their inevitable transboundary effects, their implications for international institutions remain undertheorized. This text develops a theoretical analysis of international GDO governance. First, it elaborates the problem-structural characteristics of GDOs that turn them into a novel and distinct governance challenge, focusing on leverage, cost-benefit distributions, irreversibility, as well as uncertainty and unpredictability. Second, it derives the implications of problem structure for institutional design by focusing on pre-release risk assessment and authorization, as well as post-release monitoring and liability. Third, it uses these institutional implications for benchmarking the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the focal point in international biotechnology regulation, for effective GDO governance. The text concludes that institutional reforms are required for folding GDOs into international biodiversity policy.

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