The following is an edited excerpt.
In his paper, “The real and perceived risks of genetically modified organisms,” Helge Torgensen of the Institute of Technology Assessment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, somewhat acknowledges that risks of GMO’s are overblown but argues that “contrary to voices calling for risk-only-based regulations, the difficulties for GM products have been aggravated exactly because these debates, regulations and policies have concentrated solely on risk and have neglected other issues. He points out that risk perception is only one factor, and sometimes only a minimal or irrelivant factor, in general public constituency’s acceptance of a technology. Other factors include perception of societal benefits and their distribution, whether risks are avoidable or being imposed, i.e. socio-economic issues that have little to do with whether the technology actually presents a signficant or novel danger.
The author goes on to suggest that much of the theoretical and concocted research findings of human health, environmental and other harm due to biotechnology is because our regulatory system focuses primarily on risk assessment and ignores socio-economic issues and therefore the raising of any plausible health and other concerns is merely the proxy available to GMO skeptics to contest and resist the technology. This is particularly powerful in attacking transgenic improvements in that critics can manipulate and cultivate lay perceptions that the process results in multiple, unforeseen, novel and undetectable alterations of plants that we can never be certain do not introduce novel risks to human health.
Read the full post here: Risk analysis is only one element of public acceptance