Ethics in the societal debate on genetically modified organisms : a (re)quest for sense and sensibility
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics. - Guelph
, p. 29-61
Via a historical reconstruction, this paper primarily demonstrates how the societal debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) gradually extended in terms of actors involved and concerns reflected. It is argued that the implementation of recombinant DNA technology out of the laboratory and into civil society entailed a complex of concerns. In this complex, distinctions between environmental, agricultural, socio-economic, and ethical issues proved to be blurred. This fueled the confusion between the wider debate on genetic modification and the risk assessment of transgenic crops in the European Union. In this paper, the lasting skeptical and/or ambivalent attitude of Europeans towards agro-food biotechnology is interpreted as signaling an ongoing social request and even a quest for an evaluation of biotechnology with Sense and Sensibility. In this (re)quest, a broader-than-scientific dimension is sought for that allows addressing the GMO debate in a more sensible way, whilst making sense of the different stances taken in it. Here, the restyling of the European regulatory frame on transgenic agro-food products and of science communication models are discussed and taken to be indicative of the (re)quest to move from a merely scientific evaluation and risk-based policy towards a socially more robust evaluation that takes the non-scientific concerns at stake in the GMO debate seriously.