Monday, February 11, 2008

Advancing the Second Decade of Biotechnology Discussion

Biotechnology has become an emotional topic. Rarely can you have a discussion without being accused of supporting one extreme or the other. If you voice concerns regarding environmental impact of biotechnology you are labeled as being against biotechnology, while at the same time, if you acknowledge anything positive to come from biotechnology you are aligned with industry. I think biotechnology is more complex than either extreme; therefore how can we create a forum where we can discuss the gray area? Has the topic gotten so emotional that we can’t have a scientific discussion? How do you propose we move forward with the biotechnology debate so individuals can discuss their views openly without getting placed on a “side”?

-Science Policy Intern

1 comment:

mbianchi said...

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology hosted a workshop on Peaceful Coexistence among Growers of: Genetically Engineered, Conventional and Organic Crops in Boulder CO in March 2006. This is an interesting read for anyone working in coexistence systems.
Buried within the text is a paraphrased comment by Nicholas Hether - 'At the same time, Hether said, it is unwise to justify a value position with science. Science cannot resolve value issues, he concluded, it can only give evidence.'
Our local community based organization has been working on coexistence methods for GE, conventional and organic crops for several years. One of the greatest challenges for the scientists involved with this group has been to separate their beliefs in their own evidence or data from the review, or valuation, of that evidence.
In the March 2008 issue of CSA News, V53 NO3 pg 14, William Wiebold notes that "facts gained from experimentation are empty and useless until submitted to peer and public review". The challenge for scientists is to maintain the integrity of the facts (or evidence) through the peer and public review process.
Perhaps the way to answer the question regarding the facilitation of discussion between opposing views regarding biotechnology is to begin with respectful acknowledgement of the strict adherence to scientific method (data collection and hypotheses testing) of all parties without evidence to the contrary. Thus, "science" is removed as the target, and discussion can move on to peer and public review. Although messy and noisy at times, it has worked for our community group.