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Developing the ethical matrix as a decision support framework: GM fish as a case study


The Ethical Matrix was developed to help decision-makers explore the ethical issues raised by agri-food biotechnologies. Over the decade since its inception the Ethical Matrix has been used by a number of organizations and the philosophical basis of the framework has been discussed and analyzed extensively. The role of tools such as the Ethical Matrix in public policy decision-making has received increasing attention. In order to further develop the methodological aspects of the Ethical Matrix method, work was carried out to study the potential role of the Ethical Matrix as a decision support framework. When considering which frameworks to apply when analyzing the ethical dimensions of the application of agri-food biotechnologies, it is important to clarify the substantive nature of any prospective framework. In order to further investigate this issue, reflections on the neologism “ethical soundness” of an ethical framework are presented here. This concept is introduced in order to provide more structured evaluations of a range of ethical tools, including ethical frameworks such as the Ethical Matrix. As well as examining the philosophical dimensions of the method, theoretical analysis and literature studies were combined with stakeholder engagement exercises and consultations in order to review the Ethical Matrix from a user perspective. This work resulted in the development of an Ethical Matrix Manual, which is intended to act as a guide for potential user groups.

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This work was conducted as part of the EC funded project under DG Research, FP5, Quality of Life program, “Ethical Bio TA tools,” (QLG6-CT-2002-02594). The funding and the inspiring collaboration of all other consortium members are gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Matthias Kaiser.

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Kaiser, M., Millar, K., Thorstensen, E. et al. Developing the ethical matrix as a decision support framework: GM fish as a case study. J Agric Environ Ethics 20, 65–80 (2007).

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  • biotechnology
  • decision support
  • Ethical frameworks
  • Ethical Matrix
  • GM fish