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Ethics of dissent: a plea for restraint in the scientific debate about the safety of GM crops

By R. Mampuys, F. W. A. Brom

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Results of studies that cast doubt on the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops have been published since the first GM crop approval for commercial release. These 'alarming studies' challenge the dominant view about the adequacy of current risk assessment practice for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Subsequent debates follow a similar and recurring pattern, in which those involved cannot agree on the significance of the results and the attached consequences. The standard response from the government - a reassessment by scientific advisory bodies - seems insufficient to bring the debate to a satisfactory closure. The recurrence of the same debate every time an alarming study is published shows that science alone cannot solve the problem. We believe that further analysis is needed to investigate if and how we can prevent this repetitive cycle that creates frustration amongst all stakeholders. In this paper, we analyse the dynamics behind discussions which occur following alarming studies. We will use a selection of representative alarming GMO case studies to underpin our claim that it is likely that there will be a permanent difference in view of opinion that cannot be solved with more data or new facts. The current strategy of more research is a pitfall that is unlikely to solve this issue. Instead, the focus of the GM crop discussion should shift towards managing permanent different viewpoints and providing a platform for a broader conversation on agriculture and food production.

Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 28
Issue 5
Pages 903-924
ISBN/ISSN 0893-4282
DOI 10.1007/s10806-015-9564-9
Language English
Author Address Netherlands Commission On Genetic Modification, P.O. box 578, 3720 AN, Bilthoven,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Biotechnology
  3. Case Report
  4. Constraints
  5. Ethics
  6. Food production
  7. Genetically engineered organisms
  8. opinions
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Plants
  11. Risk Assessment
  12. safety
  13. transgenics
  1. peer-reviewed