Is framing the GMO regulation debate around ‘product vs process’ unscientific?

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Genetically engineered, disease resistant Sunset papaya

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One issue that has dominated the [GMO] debate is whether the focus of regulation should be the process by which GE organisms are made or the GE products themselves. . .

. . . .

But framing the debate around ‘product versus process’ is neither logical nor scientific. It is stalling productive dialogue on the development of appropriate oversight in the face of rapid advances in GE.

. . . .

GE developers and some regulators have been inconsistent in their product-versus-process arguments for good reason. The dichotomy doesn’t work, in practice or in theory. In fact, product-based arguments lead to one of two conclusions: if all products (GE or otherwise) are to be treated the same, then either all products — GE and conventionally bred — should be regulated, or neither should be. The first option is impractical and the second inadvisable given that some products could be harmful.

. . . .

It is time to reset the debate. Product-versus-process arguments reflect world views about the desired level of regulation for GE organisms. These underlying viewpoints should be made explicit, and the idea that product-based regulation is the only science-based approach rejected.

In reality, it is impossible to be completely ‘science based’ in a regulatory system. Value judgements are embedded in all risk and safety assessments. . . .

Empirical evidence matters, but human interpretation brings meaning to that evidence, and multiple perspectives can strengthen understanding. . . . In practice, regulators and other stakeholders will need to consider a mix of product and process issues. . .

. . . .


. . . [S]takeholders could do away with polarizing product-versus-process and science-versus-values framings, and help to establish a governance system that is both informed by the science and guided by the concerns and values of citizens.

Read full, original post: Policy: Reboot the debate on genetic engineering

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