Patrick Gower: Inbreeding putting 'human civilisation at risk'

We have a plague of pests in New Zealand, but controlling them has been a problem. We've been shooting them, trapping them, and poisoning them - but it hasn't been easy.

There's been a backlash from environmentalists and animal welfare activists who oppose the use of 1080.

So if we want to actually be pest-free by 2050, it's going to take something close to a miracle.

Introducing gene drive, a scientific technique where genes are manipulated to increase their prevalence in an animal population.

Scientists believe they can increase the amount of pests with genes for male children. These would be passed on through reproduction, leading to the species wiping itself out.

"Obviously they're genetically modified, but otherwise they live normal healthy lives," says University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell.

However Newshub political editor Patrick Gower warns that this may have potentially dire consequences.

"I'm gonna cut to the chase here - I'm don't like that 'voodoo science', because all of the evidence I've ever seen about inbreeding is that it's bad, and inbreeding on steroids is even worse," he told Three's The Project.

"We're not talking about a rat marrying its cousin though Paddy," replied host Jesse Mulligan. "We're actually talking about really specific wiping-out certain genes."

"Well, talking from family experience of cousin-on-cousin sort of stuff," Mr Gower said, to host Kanoa Lloyd's disgust.

"You know that when you watch these guys talking about that, that somewhere... there is a possum that is going to escape and put human civilisation at risk."