University Of Tasmania
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Genetically modified crops : science and the precautionary principle

posted on 2023-05-27, 14:32 authored by Francis, JR
The development of biotechnological solutions to previously insurmountable problems associated with agricultural production has led to the modification of the genomes of various crop species with genes taken from often quite different organisms. This technology is popularly lmown as genetic modification or GM. Opposition to the introduction of GM technology to mainstream agriculture has emanated primarily from environmental organisations, but has been strongly supported by groups and individuals with concerns about the biosafety of these crops or their possible effects on trade. In Australia, the States have used precautionary moratoriums to prevent the introduction of varieties that have been licensed for commercial production after scientific assessment by the Commonwealth's Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. This has led to a regulatory stalemate and the breakdown of the working relationship between the biotechnology sector and most of the States. This thesis examines the rise of the concept of precaution as a response to the perceived inability of western democracies to satisfactorily deal with escalating risks associated with the rapid advancement of science and technology. It also considers the merits of science and precaution as influences in the GM regulatory system and the fundamental incompatibility of their basic ideas. The argument of the thesis is that a sound basis of scientific understanding is necessary to effective regulation and that precautionary approaches inhibit science. A research design involving the application of a comprehensive framework of outcomes to the cases of four GM crop plants is used to compare the effectiveness of precautionary GM regulation with that of science-based regulation. The analysis shows that precaution, applied by the States since 2000 has been a less effective regulatory approach than the entirely science-based system that previously operated. Precautionary regulation is associated with loss of industry competitiveness, diminished research capabilities, inferior environmental outcomes and the entrenchment of political discord. Sciencebased regulation has had positive outcomes in all these respects. The conclusion of this thesis is that while precautionary measures are capable of tt.~mporarily settling community concerns about biosafety, they cannot provide more than short-term regulatory solutions.


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Copyright 2009 the author No access or viewing until 12/June 2011. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references

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