Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 235–242

The factualization of uncertainty: Risk, politics, and genetically modified crops – a case of rape

  • Gitte Meyer
  • Anna Paldam Folker
  • Rikke Bagger Jørgensen
  • Martin Krayer von Krauss
  • Peter Sandøe
  • Geir Tveit
Article

Abstract.

Mandatory risk assessment is intended to reassure concerned citizens and introduce reason into the heated European controversies on genetically modified crops and food. The authors, examining a case of risk assessment of genetically modified oilseed rape, claim that the new European legislation on risk assessment does nothing of the sort and is not likely to present an escape from the international deadlock on the use of genetic modification in agriculture and food production. The new legislation is likely to stimulate the kind of emotive reactions it was intended to prevent. In risk assessment exercises, scientific uncertainty is turned into risk, expressed in facts and figures. Paradoxically, this conveys an impression of certainty, while value-disagreement and conflicts of interest remain hidden below the surface of factuality. Public dialogue and negotiation along these lines are rendered impossible. The only option left to critics is to resort to claims of fear and to call for new risk assessments to be performed, on and on again. Science is allowing itself to be abused by accepting the burden of proof in matters more suited to reflection and negotiation. The specific challenge to science would be to take care of itself – rethinking the role and the limitations of science in a social context, and, thereby gaining the strength to fulfill this role and to enter into dialogue with the rest of society. Scientific communities appear to be obvious candidates for prompting reflection and dialogue on this issue.

Keywords

Conflicts of interest European Union Genetically modified oilseed rape Public dialogue Risk assessment Scientific uncertainty Value-disagreement 

Abbreviations:

DKK

Danish Krone

EU

The European Union

GMO

Genetically Modified Organism

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Beck, U. 1986RisikogesellschaftAuf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne. [Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity]. Suhrkamp VerlagFrankfurt a.M., GermanyGoogle Scholar
  2. Bock, A.-K., Lheureux, K., Libeau–Dulos, M., Nilsagård, H., Rodriguez–Cerezo, E. 2002Scenarios for Co-existence of Genetically Modified, Conventional and Organic Crops in European AgricultureEuropean Commission, Joint Research Centre, IPTSSevilla, SpainGoogle Scholar
  3. ESRC Global Environment Change Programme1999The Politics of GM Food. Science and Public Trust. Special Briefing No. 5.University of SussexRiskGoogle Scholar
  4. European Union (2002). Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms and Repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC. CONSLEG:2001L0018. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  5. Gibbons, M. 1999“Science’s new social contract with society”Nature402C81C84PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Gliddon, C. J. (1999). “Gene flow and risk assessment.” In BCPC Proceedings. No. 72, Gene Flow and Agriculture: Relevance for Transgenic Crops. BCPC Symposium, April 12–14, 1999 (pp. 49–56). University of Keele, UK: British Crop Protection Council.Google Scholar
  7. Hall, L., Topinka, K., Huffman, J., Davis, L., Good, A. 2000“Pollen flow between herbicide-resistant Brassica napus is the cause of multiple-resistant B. napus volunteers”Weed Science48688694Google Scholar
  8. Hansen, L. B., Siegismund, H. R., Jørgensen, R. B. 2001“Introgression between oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) and its weedy relative B. rapa L. in a natural population”Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution48621627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Holtug, N. 2001“The harm principle and genetically modified food”Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics14169178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Holtug, N. 2002“The harm principle”Ethical Theory and Moral Practice5357389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jasanoff, S., Wynne, B. 1998

    “Science and decision-making”

    Rayner, S.Malone, E. L. eds. Human Choice and Climate Change: The Societal FrameworkBattelle PressColumbus, Ohio187Vol. 1
    Google Scholar
  12. Lassen, J., Madsen, K. H., Sandøe, P. 2002“Ethics and genetic engineering – lessons to be learned from GM foods”Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering24263271Google Scholar
  13. Latour, B. 1987Science in Action. How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through SocietyHarvard University PressCambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  14. Meyer, G. 2003“Scare Stories. Or some arguments for providing journalism with a licence to think”European Review115765CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Orson, J. (2002). Gene Stacking in Herbicide Tolerant Oilseed Rape: Lessons from the North American Experience. Peterborough, UK: English Nature Research Reports No. 443.Google Scholar
  16. Pertl, M., Hauser, T. P., Damgaard, C., Jørgensen, R. B. 2002“Male fitness of oilseed rape Brassica napus, weedy B. rapa and their F1 hybrids in mixed populations”Heredity89212218PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Popper, K. R. 1959The Logic of Scientific DiscoveryBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Rodricks, J. V. 1992Calculated Risks Understanding the Toxicity and Human Health Risks of Chemicals in Our EnvironmentCambridge University PressCambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  19. Simpson E. C., C. E. Norris, J. R. Law, J. E. Thomas, and J. B. Sweet (1999). “Gene flow in genetically modified herbicide tolerant oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in the UK.” In BCPC Proceedings. No. 72, Gene Flow and Agriculture: Relevance for Transgenic Crops. BCPC Symposium, April 12–14, 1999 (pp. 75–81). University of Keele, UK: British Crop Protection Council.Google Scholar
  20. Wynne, B. 2001“Creating public alienation: Expert cultures of risk and ethics on GMOs”Science as Culture10445481CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gitte Meyer
    • 1
  • Anna Paldam Folker
    • 2
  • Rikke Bagger Jørgensen
    • 3
  • Martin Krayer von Krauss
    • 4
  • Peter Sandøe
    • 1
    • 2
  • Geir Tveit
    • 2
  1. 1.Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Department of Large Animal ScienceRoyal Veterinary and Agricultural UniversityValbyDenmark
  2. 2.Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Food and Resource Economics InstituteRoyal Veterinary and Agricultural UniversityDenmark
  3. 3.Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Department of Plant ResearchRisø National LaboratoryDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Environment and ResourcesTechnical University of DenmarkDenmark

Personalised recommendations