Biotech regulation: Are democracy and science in conflict?

stop gmo

In the last few weeks, Kenya and Peru issued blanket bans on the importation of GMOs, India’s regulatory system struggled with a backlash of popular opinion against GMOs, a march has been taking place across Costa Rica in opposition to Monsanto’s GM crops and in the United States the FDA’s overview of the so-called “Frankenfish” — a genetically modified Atlantic salmon that grows twice as fast as unmodified salmon — has stalled.

What all of these issues have in common is confusion about the benefits and potential dangers of GMOs. Why do GMOs fester in regulatory limbo for so long? Some of these debates have been ongoing for years.

Henry Miller, writing at Forbes, argues this confusion is all just a byproduct of political meddling, driven by a desire to pander and a disregard for science.

Democratic governments — and the regulatory agencies, politicians, and legislators within — are obligated to listen to their constituents. In the case of regulatory issues that affect health, safety, food supply for millions, we all seem to agree that policymakers should make decisions based on empirical evidence. The problem is that we don’t create reality by agreement; we uncover it through the process of science.

Any regulatory agency attempting to address both science and people’s fears is bound to come into internal conflict; many of our strongest fears are not based in science. Indeed, it’s an old argument that ignorance itself is the basis of fear.

One way around this conflict is the solution Miller proposes: our governments should ignore public opinion when it comes to regulatory decisions and make them based purely on fact — assuming the facts are not in dispute.

The other way around is to do a better job informing people, eliminating — or at least tempering — the conflict that impacts any and all biotech regulation by bringing public opinion on the science of genetic engineering and the reality of genetic engineering into closer accord.

Additional Resources:

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend