Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: Precautionary Science and Conflicts of Interests
- Cite this article as:
- Myhr, A.I. & Traavik, T. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics (2003) 16: 227. doi:10.1023/A:1023686900879
Risk governance of GM plants and GMfood products is presently subject to heatedscientific and public controversies. Scientistsand representatives of the biotechnologyindustry have dominated debates concerningsafety issues. The public is suspicious withregard to the motives of scientists, companies,and political institutions involved. Thedilemmas posed are nested, embracing valuequestions, scientific uncertainty, andcontextual issues. The obvious lack of data andinsufficient information concerning ecologicaleffects call for application of thePrecautionary Principle (PP). There are,however, divergent opinions among scientistsabout the relevance of putative hazards,definition of potential ``adverse effects,'' andwhether actions should be taken to preventharm. The reliance on the concept ofsubstantial equivalence in safety evaluation ofGM food is equally controversial. Consequently,value assumptions embedded in a scientificframework may be a barrier for employment ofthe PP. One of our major conclusions is thatprecautionary GMP usage requires riskassessment criteria yet undeveloped, as well asbroader and more long-term conceptions of risk,uncertainty, and ignorance. Conflicts ofinterest and public participation are otherissues that need to be taken intoconsideration. GMP governance regimes that arejustifiable from a precautionary and ethicalpoint of view must transcend traditionalscientific boundaries to include alternativescientific perspectives as well as publicinvolvement.