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Ethical Tensions from New Technology: The Case of Agricultural Biotechnology. CABI Biotechnology Series 6

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The introduction of new technologies can be controversial, especially when they create ethical tensions as well as winners and losers among stakeholders and interest groups. While ethical tensions resulting from the genetic modification of crops and plants and their supportive gene technologies have been apparent for decades, persistent challenges remain. This book explores the contemporary nature, type, extent and implications of ethical tensions resulting from agricultural biotechnology specifically and technology generally. There are four main arenas of ethical tensions: public opinion, policy and regulation, technology as solutions to problems, and older versus new technologies. Contributions focus on one or more of these arenas by identifying the ethical tensions technology creates and articulating emerging fault lines and, where possible, viable solutions. Key features include focusing on contemporary challenges created by new and emerging technologies, especially agricultural biotechnology. Identifying a unique perspective by considering the problem of ethical tensions created or enhanced by new technologies. Providing an interdisciplinary perspective by including perspectives from sociologists, economists, philosophers and other social scientists. This book will be of interest to academics in agricultural economics, sociology and philosophy and policymakers concerned with introducing new technology into agriculture.

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1 Ethical Tensions from a ‘Science Alone’ Approach in Communicating Genetic Engineering Science to Consumers

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1

Ethical Tensions from a

‘Science Alone’ Approach in Communicating Genetic

Engineering Science to Consumers

Jane Kolodinsky*

Department of Community Development and Applied Economics,

University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA

Introduction

Communication experts have known for years that top-down approaches to ‘teaching’ the public about the benefits of technological advances in agriculture, including genetic engineering (GE), do not change consumer opinions about these technologies (Wohl,

1998; Hails and Kinderlerer, 2003; Hansen et al., 2003; Landrum and Hallman, 2017).

Nevertheless, there remains a view that a focus on educating consumers about science will help gain public support for GE (Blancke et al., 2015). To this end, in 2017 the FDA allocated US$3,000,000 for a campaign to publish and distribute science-based educational materials to make sure that people understand the benefits of GE (Dewey,

2017). When the science of GE ignores the science of communication, it seems that science is at odds with itself. And when the science of GE ignores important ethical principles of communication, ethical tensions will arise.

 

2 Against the (GM) Grain: Ethical Tensions and Agrobiotechnology Activism in the USA

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Against the (GM) Grain: Ethical

Tensions and Agrobiotechnology

Activism in the USA

Bradley Martin Jones*

Department of Anthropology, Washington University in St Louis,

St Louis, Missouri, USA

Introduction

On Earth Day 2012, several dozen East Bay activists smashed through the gate of University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Gill

Tract, established a makeshift camp and began planting organic vegetables. Rallying behind such slogans as ‘We dig the farm’ and

‘Whose farm, our farm’, the guerilla gardeners sought to challenge both the continued corporate enclosure of commons and what they perceived as a nefarious alliance between profit-driven industry and a public land-grant university. At stake in the conflict was not only the future of this particular ten-acre property but also the role of engaged citizenry in deciding how public land should be put to use. The privileging of patent-oriented biotech research over more

‘natural’, more egalitarian agricultural experimentation was a critical flashpoint of the activists’ critique.

 

3 The Use and Abuse of the Term ‘GMO’ in the ‘Common Weal Rhetoric’ Against the Application of Modern Biotechnology in Agriculture

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The Use and Abuse of the Term

‘GMO’ in the ‘Common Weal

Rhetoric’ Against the Application of Modern Biotechnology in Agriculture

Philipp Aerni*

Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, University of

Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Introduction

Concerns about the risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture are often framed as an ethical rather than a scientific issue. The ethical issue revolves around the question ‘who are the winners and losers?’ In today’s debate the answer appears to be obvious: the winners are profit-seeking global companies such as Monsanto, while the losers are believed to be consumers, local farming communities and the environment that are exposed to an untested technology. Yet, after more than 20 years of experience with genetic engineering in commercial agriculture, the technology is hardly untested. In fact, new gene-editing techniques may become the next-generation breeding technologies that render the term

 

4 Collaborating with the Enemy? A View from Down Under on GM Research Partnerships

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Collaborating with the Enemy?

A View from Down Under on GM

Research Partnerships

Rachel A. Ankeny,* Heather J. Bray and Kelly A. McKinley

School of Humanities, University of Adelaide, Australia

Introduction

The introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops and food has generated long-running and often polarized public debate, and the fact that ethical tensions exist about GM agriculture is undeniable. Although many commentators have reflected on public concerns associated with ‘changing nature’, possible risks from GM technologies and the involvement of large multinational corporations (Thompson, 2007; Ankeny and Bray,

2018), there has been less attention in the scholarly literature on the role of public– private partnerships in GM research.

This chapter focuses on public–private funding patterns and partnerships in the development of GM crops and foods in the

Australian context over the past two decades.

GM research and development (R&D) processes have several ethical tensions associated with them: one key issue is who gains or profits from GM research and products. Many people who are not opposed to GM research in principle fear that when private entities are involved, particularly the large multinationals with which GM research is frequently associated, shortcuts will be taken in the name of profits, resulting in increased risks to human health and/or the environment associated with the work. Others question why such research is worth pursuing when the benefits are primarily associated with

 

5 Three Models of Public Opinion and Public Interest for Agricultural Biotechnology: Precautionary, Conventional and Accommodative

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Three Models of Public Opinion and Public Interest for Agricultural

Biotechnology: Precautionary,

Conventional and Accommodative

Duane Windsor*

Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University, Houston,

Texas, USA

Introduction

standard for selecting among these three value models.

The three-model framework reveals a

The normative research question addressed in this chapter is whether the public interest profound, unresolved ethical tension within means agricultural biotechnology should each model. Scientists and GMO-designer lead (and thus reshape) public opinion or businesses are pro-GMO. They can advance wait for public opinion to become sufficient- biotechnology faster than public opinion ly supportive. There is no single overall an- can adjust. Science and business can act first swer to the normative question, because and should attempt to shape public opinion agricultural biotechnology controversially and obtain government licensing; or science includes genetically modified organisms and business can and should wait for public

 

6 Genetically Modified Organisms in Food: Ethical Tensions and the Labeling Initiative

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Genetically Modified Organisms in Food: Ethical Tensions and the Labeling Initiative

Debra M. Strauss*

Charles F. Dolan School of Business, Fairfield University, Fairfield,

Connecticut, USA

Introduction

This chapter explores the ethical implications of genetically modified organisms

(GMOs) in food that originate from plants genetically altered through bioengineering.

The tensions between the proliferation of agricultural biotechnology and consumer concerns about potential harm to human health and the environment ultimately cause us to reflect on the current regulatory scheme in the USA. Does the failure to require adequate, meaningful labeling, and the preemption of grassroots efforts to do so, violate our right to informed consent by not allowing consumers a choice as to whether to knowingly and willingly assume the risks of ingesting GMOs?

Genetically modified (GM) plants involve a uniquely invasive application of agricultural biotechnology, unlike traditional plant breeding and hybrid methods used in the past. Through this novel process, the DNA of one organism is inserted into another, causing the target trait to be expressed in that non-related species at the cellular level throughout the plant, including the fruit or vegetable and the component ingredients that become part of a variety of food products. Most commonly, GM plants are engineered to withstand a weed-killing pesticide,

 

7 Ethical Tensions in Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology and their Impact on Policy Outcomes: Evidence from the USA and India

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Ethical Tensions in Regulation of

Agricultural Biotechnology and their Impact on Policy Outcomes:

Evidence from the USA and India

Deepthi E. Kolady1* and Shivendra Kumar Srivastava2

Department of Economics, South Dakota State University,

Brookings, South Dakota, USA; 2ICAR-National Institute of

Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi, India

1

Introduction

Currently, genetically engineered (GE) crops are grown in 28 countries by about 18 million farmers over 179.7 million hectares.

Globally, 83% of soybean area, 75% of cotton area, 29% of maize area and 24% of canola area are planted with GE varieties (James,

2015). In a recent report analyzing the available evidence on the impacts of adoption of GE crops, the US National Academy of

Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) concluded that GE crops generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers of all scales who have adopted these crops, but outcomes have been heterogeneous depending on pest abundance, farming practices and agricultural infrastructure, and the foods from GE crops are as safe as the foods from non-GE crops (NAS, 2016).

 

8 Technological Pragmatism: Navigating the Ethical Tensions Created by Agricultural Biotechnology

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Technological Pragmatism:

Navigating the Ethical Tensions

Created by Agricultural

Biotechnology

Dane Scott*

Mansfield Center, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA

Introduction

Many critics of genetically engineered (GE) crops and livestock often label them ‘techno-fixes’. ‘Technological fix’ criticisms brand innovations as superficial solutions that do not get at the root of problems but rather create new ones. The rotten roots of problems, which technological fixes fail to address, are identified as social and political in nature. The typical use of a ‘technological fix’ criticism against GE crops is illustrated in

Greenpeace International’s campaign against

Golden Rice. Golden Rice is a biofortified strain of GE rice designed to address vitamin-A deficiency (VAD), which is widespread among poor populations who get most of their calories from rice. Greenpeace.org’s special report on Golden Rice states: ‘GE

“Golden” rice does not address the primary causes of VAD, which are poverty and lack of access to a healthy and varied diet. Thousands of children die or go blind each year because of Vitamin A deficiency diseases

 

9 Absolute Hogwash: Assemblage and the New Breed of Animal Biotechnology

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Absolute Hogwash: Assemblage and the New Breed of Animal

Biotechnology

Katie M. MacDonald*

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph,

Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Introduction

Intensive animal agriculture production sites present a number of logistical challenges. One of the most pressing issues surrounding these sites is the sheer amount of feces and liquid waste produced by large herds. Swine production in particular has been at the receiving end of much criticism surrounding the social and environmental risk of concentrated hog waste. Aside from being extremely odorous, hog excrement from commercial operations contains excess phosphorus. While phosphorus is needed to promote normal growth and function in hogs, a majority of the phosphorus available in commercial corn and soy-based feed contains a form of phosphorus called phytate-p.

Hogs lack the enzyme phytase needed to digest phytate-p. As a result, phosphorus begins to build up in the digestive system, which is subsequently excreted.

 

10 Nature-identical Outcomes, Artificial Processes: Governance of CRISPR/Cas Genome Editing as an Ethical Challenge

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Nature-identical Outcomes,

Artificial Processes: Governance of CRISPR/Cas Genome Editing as an Ethical Challenge

Frauke Pirscher,1 Bartosz Bartkowski,2*

Insa Theesfeld1 and Johannes Timaeus3

Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences, Martin Luther

University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, Germany; 2Department of

Economics, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental

Research, Leipzig, Germany; 3Department of Ecological Plant

Protection, University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany

1

Introduction

CRISPR/Cas is a newly developed genome editing technique that is viewed as revolutionary to crop breeding.1 It allows for modifications of genes by adding, cutting out or suppressing certain gene sequences of the

DNA. Compared with former genetic modification (GM) techniques, this system is considered relatively easy to apply, more precise, quicker and much cheaper (Baker, 2014).

For example, according to Ledford (2015), the cost difference between applying CRISPR/Cas vs zinc finger nucleases (ZFN), another common genome editing technique, is in the range of two orders of magnitude (US$30 vs US$5000). Therefore, CRISPR/Cas is expected to have great innovative potential in agriculture by speeding up breeding, increasing yields and allowing plant production under less favorable conditions

 

11 New Technology, Cognitive Bias and Ethical Tensions in Entrepreneurial Commercialization: The Case of CRISPR

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11

New Technology, Cognitive

Bias and Ethical Tensions in Entrepreneurial

Commercialization: The Case of CRISPR

Desmond Ng1* and Harvey S. James, Jr.2

Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University,

College Station, Texas, USA; 2Division of Applied Social

Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA

1

Introduction

The identification and exploitation of external opportunities are widely recognized as central functions of entrepreneurship. Identification refers to the creation of new inventions or technologies and exploitation refers to efforts to bring them to market. However, both the development of technologies and efforts to commercialize them depend on the resources and expertise of others. For instance, a study of randomly selected drugs from ten pharmaceutical firms revealed the average cost of bringing a new drug through the approval process to market was nearly

US$2.6 billion (2013 dollars) (DiMasi et al.,

 

12 New Technology, Ethical Tensions and the Mediating Role of Translational Research

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New Technology, Ethical

Tensions and the Mediating Role of Translational Research

Corinne Valdivia,1* Harvey S. James, Jr.1 and Roberto Quiroz2

Division of Applied Social Sciences, University of Missouri,

Columbia, Missouri, USA; 2Crop and Systems Sciences

Division, International Potato Center, Lima, Peru

1

Introduction

Ethical tensions surface as a result of conflicting interests of the different actors, different value systems and rights of various stakeholders, and differences in power and access. All of these often are present simultaneously in smallholder farming communities in developing countries. The interests may appear to be similar between scientists and smallholder farmers because both may care about food security and development.

But the way each group thinks about these problems and their solutions can be very different. Both groups make decisions informed by very different experiences, knowledge and positions of power. The values, ideals and the circumstances of smallholder farmers may be securing food and wellbeing in a context of uncertainty and possible risks. Scientists may be aiming to increase productivity or efficiency in the production of a given food crop that can contribute to food security in the context of lab or field experiments where there is no uncertainty and risk of insecurity is measurable and defined.

 

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