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Genetically modified crops : science and the precautionary principle

Francis, JR 2009 , 'Genetically modified crops : science and the precautionary principle', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Francis, JR
Keywords: Transgenic plants, Precautionary principle, Democracy and science
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 2009 the author

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

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